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The Dressmakers Dummy

There's something special about the relationship between a boy and his mother. Especially when he's her living doll.

The Dressmakers Dummy by James Shaffer

Harold had always wanted some brothers and sisters, ever since he was little.
“Little!” His mother laughed. “You were never little, Harold. You were the biggest baby the hospital ever delivered, and they had a rough time of it. I tell you. It ain't no lie. The doctor had to put his foot up on the edge of the delivery table just to yank you out. Why you think you got that pointy head? You can thank your daddy, God rest his soul, for those jug ears.” She paused. Reflected. “My God you hurt me! Mark my word. You ain't never been little, Harold.” She looked up at him. “But you're still my big dummy.” She laughed again at her own joke. All her jokes were at Harold's expense.
Harold's mother, Helen, was a seamstress, a dressmaker. She taught him everything she knew, how to best use a pair of scissors, the various stitches, darts and hems, sleeves and collars, the works. He learned it all. But in the end, he was just her dummy.
They were set up in the archway that separated the living and dining rooms.
“Can't you hold still?” She jerked Harold around to face her. “Stand up straight, dummy. How am I ever going to get this shitty hem even if you keep turning?” She had five steel pins jammed between her lips. When she spoke, she sounded like she had a gag in her mouth. 
The hemming was a quick-fix job for the cleaning woman's daughter, Cheryl. She was coming by later to pick up the finished dress. Harold liked Cheryl. He wished she was his sister. Then they'd have a family. She was almost as big as he was, so though a little tight, the dress still fit Harold, the reason he was the dummy today, his mother had told him.
“I don't have time to drag out the dressmakers dummy and do all the adjustments required for Cheryl's build. You're close enough. You'll do.”
She wrapped an oversized padded bra around his chest. He looked down at the substantial D-cups. A Shania Twain song flitted through his head.
“I need that extra bulk in the chest. When Cheryl squeezes her big boobs into the dress, the front hem will come up about four inches.” Guffaw. Snort.
He didn't find it funny at all. In fact, Harold was sick of it, the constant ridicule, the snide remarks. He'd about had it.
Harold, trying to stand straight, glanced over at Stanley, sitting on the living room couch sucking on a bottle of Bud, his fifth. Stanley was ogling his mother, who squatted under the hem of Harold's dress. Harold looked down at his mother. She was concentrating on her work. She circled behind him, hunkered down, legs open, a sly, lopsided smile working her lips between the pins. She knew what she was doing. Harold didn't know what Stanley could see, but from his vantage point, Stanley knew for sure.
Stanley, his mother's boyfriend, leered up at Harold and grinned, his lips stretching over yellow teeth, looking him up and down, sizing him up. Harold hated Stanley.
“I don't know, Harold.” He took a slug from the bottle. “You're lookin' good in that dress. I like full-breasted women. I really do.” He tipped his head to confirm, his watery eyes twinkling. “May have to trade in Helen for a dummy.” 
Stanley broke into a big belly laugh, fell sideways on the couch then tipped onto the floor. The five beers helped. Joining Stanley, Helen squawked and snorted her laughter. Rocking back on her heels, she lost her balance and sat hard on the floor, falling back out of sight, sprawled, banging into the dining room's corner armchair with a thud. She laughed harder, loud cawing and croaking non-stop, almost crying. Stanley, still shaking and sobbing with laughter, curled up on the floor. Harold stared at both of them. It was a carnival fun house.
“The fun is over,” Harold murmured.
They were laughing hard, matching each other's hilarity, paying him no mind. Harold grabbed the long-bladed tailor shears off the sewing table next to him.
He slapped a big hand over Stanley's yellow teeth, snipped his windpipe, then stabbed the point of the shears deep in his heart. It only took a few seconds. Harold, the dummy, was a professional with shears. 
Harold couldn't see his mother around the wall of the archway but he could still hear her high-pitched, crowing laugh. It was all he could hear. He rounded the corner and stomped over to where she sat on the floor, leaning back against the armchair, her arms draped up over its arms, her head tipped back on its seat cushion, eyes closed, her exposed white neck like an offering. She looked like a laughing Jesus. His capable, trained hands made quick work of her delicate neck, cutting away the laughter one snip at a time.
He completely severed both their heads and lined them up on the couch. He stood up from his work, stepped back, and listened. Only silence. Finally.
He left the darkened room and headed for the storeroom where his mother kept her other dummies. Carrying two and returning to retrieve a third, he placed them all in the large entrance hallway where the light was just right, two Judys and one James, the familiar names for female and male dummies. He then brought in the two severed heads, jamming his mother's head down on the knob of one of the Judys, securing it to the neck plate. He did the same for James with Stanley's head. After removing Cheryl's bloody dress and the push-up bra, he slipped them over and on the second Judy until they fit just right. He stepped back. The family was taking shape, the family he'd always wanted, the quiet family, the one that didn't mock, didn't ridicule. Now they were the dummies.
Harold sat in the silent hallway. A primitive coppery aroma drifted in from the darkened room next door.
All that was left for them to do was wait for Cheryl to arrive and the family would be complete.


Born in the USA, James Shaffer has spent almost half his life in Europe. He currently lives in the Southeast of England where he writes, reads lots of books, and watches lots of movies. He's had thirty-some short stories published in online magazines such as Near to the Knuckle and Bewildering Stories. He's a serious fan of noir fiction. He hopes the stories he writes bring to life some of these noir creatures that live on its dark, wet streets.