Robin Wyatt Dunn lives in southern California and is the author of three novels. He was born in Wyoming in the Carter Administration.
The Plastic Woman
The plastic woman next to me is highly communicative:
“I mean, if you don’t go with the blue, you could go with the red, which would accent your eyes, but it depends what look you’re going for! Are you looking to rearrange people’s perceptions? Or do you want to slip easily into a common trend? What about mauve?”
I detach her arm so it will stop its elaborate gesturing, although it takes a few seconds for it to stop.
Meanwhile, she keeps talking: “Are you ready for a new version of you?”
“Yes, honey,” I say. “I’m ready for it. Who is the new me going to be?”
“Oh, it all depends! You have to give me some input! Do you want to be cool, but accessible? Or do you want to be greedy, right under the surface, mixed with an insouciance that’s irresistible?”
“I just want to be normal. Just kidding. I don’t know, I want it all, darling, give me the full package!”
The plastic woman, who has not been deterred in the slightest by my removal of her right arm, is a little overwhelming, to be honest. I think about removing her head but I know this would be rude, and that it wouldn’t shut her up, either. Across the sales floor in other artfully lit alcoves, other customers gab away with their plastic attendants.
“Tell me,” my attendant is saying, “do you feel . . . fulfilled?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Oh, wonderful,” she says, sounding disappointed. “Are you feeling . . . magnified?”
“Yes. Do you feel that the real you is being made into someone people can know and appreciate in a big way?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe. What do you think?”
“You have a very confident demeanor. And some natural style. I would recommend some natural hair gels and some larger collars.”
Despite my natural aversion to capitalism, the magic of the committed salesperson is beginning to work on me; I’m enjoying the attention despite myself.
“Larger collars? Like 1970s collars?”
“For your skin tone I would suggest collars smaller than your average 1970s collar but with even more distinctive flanges.”
“Hmm. Is that legal?”
“I can assure you it is, and we can provide you with a realistic visualization of the final look if you’ll just step over here!”
“Wait, wait a minute. Here, here’s your arm back,” and I stick it back on her.
“Thank you,” she says.
“Would these collars help me to be seen as sexy?”
“Eligible women know that a man’s collar reflects his psyche: is he nuanced? Does he understand how to be noticed, and appreciated? Is he unafraid? Collars say a lot about a man’s personality.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Just step right over here.”
I do, and see the hologram of me, only better looking, and better dressed.
“I’ll take it,” I say.
“Will that be mauve, or petroleum in shade?”
“Titanium or alloy cufflinks?”
“Cash, charge, or indenture?”
“You’re welcome to come back any time, Mr. Donne, if anything is not to your liking. Just ask for Julie.”
“Thank you, Julie. Thank you.”
I’ve been sold.
You’d think it was a mine but it’s more of a tragedy. Huddling and burning below, running rucksacks down into it, we can’t go fast enough; the earth sucks us down.
I hear them knocking, knocking at my door. Right through the wall.
This is more than a mine, although it is a hole in the earth. It is my last life and my first gift to you, the people above:
Down into the old corridors.
We do not speak but only move, deeper, all fifteen of us men―is it a communion with the knockers?
Our jerkins run with sweat, not all of it our own; the place seems to be weeping too.
I know it is foolish to be believe such things, that the mouths deep in the earth can be a deliverance, not only from this life but into the next. But then, you have not run down in as we have. You have not heard the music of their cheers, roaring in our skulls like a symphony untellable, or seen the round full gaze of their eyes in the dark.
Knocker, knock slow, for I shall listen! Me and all of my brethren.
And in the deepest hole to which we are allowed, the thunderclap of music storms our faces with light and tears:
We kneel before the men, like us, drawn deep and drawn low, drawn faces drawing water for the time we know and have written, we, us, the down below afar from your old skypers and cold-aways, your beauteous bilious things you threw into the air in the sky above, and what came down after you.
You come here to us? No, we send for you.
And with our stone rhythms we shall rock the wind right out of your hellish sails, to stop the planet itself; this is what we believe.
To huddle in the dark is beautiful, for we have our music. Right on the other side of your pick.
Dance, aubshtarkitz, beat the rhythm with your feet, cut, cut, cut in, and through, the yawning maw and the last hope are for you, only reach in, through the hole, and let us pull you down.
This is not a situation. This is a gloaming; wrought wild mad low.
And you say you will come with your swords! Our whirl shakes all such metal weapons into dust. Come, invaders, what do you say?
Yes, yes, come up! Come up with us into the light. It’s been so long.
And we emerge out from our hole, bodies tight like the wind and we are after all a sail, our tribe of tribes, we hundred, I call you by your cousin, and I give you the watchword primeval, brother, drop your skyscraper and listen free, to the word:
would you synch the syncopate?
Knocker knows you ain’t got it, not yet, so let us show you with your devices:
(News at 11, where the afternoon light reveals the cave dwellers, unregistered nationals, apparently playing stone drums in a chanting march into the city . . .)
You cannot synch the syncopate, dear child, so let us tear your cities down.
Call us gnomes or madmen. Tap your foot. Shake your hair and tap your foot.
Our cry is old and new.