A small girl meets some unlikely shirt thieves at the back of her parents laundromat in this comic short fiction by Rebecca McDowell.
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A Comic Short Fiction
by Rebecca McDowell
For the SHIRT STORY Short Story Contest
“All my dolls are naked.”
Anna stood at her mother’s back, holding her Teeny Weeny Teena doll, hands on her hips, accusatory.
Anna’s mother was speaking to a customer at the counter of the dry cleaner. The customer was annoyed, something about an ink stain on his suit jacket. Anna’s mother, trying to placate the customer, ignored Anna.
“Mom,” Anna said, more insistently. “My dolls are all naked.”
“Excuse me for one second,” Anna’s mother said to the customer. She turned to Anna. “Anna, I’m busy. Go play.”
Anna held up Teeny Weeny Teena, who was wearing nothing but a pair of pink shorts. “But someone took all the shirts off my dolls,” she said. “See?”
Her mother scowled and leaned closer to Anna. Between clenched teeth, she said, “Listen to me. I’m busy. I’m with someone. You’re interrupting. Go play.” She stood back up straight, put her hands on Anna’s shoulders, turned her around and gave her a little shove. Then she turned back to the customer and began talking to him again.
Anna scowled. She had no idea why her parents had opened a dry cleaner. It was so boring.
Sulking, she headed back to the office, where her dolls were piled into a cardboard banker’s box, all without their shirts on. She tossed Teeny Weeny Teena in amongst them. The day before, she had placed all the dolls carefully in the box, fully dressed. Now, they were all topless, and Anna wanted to find the culprit (and the shirts).
As she opened a file drawer on the opposite side of the office and dug through some papers, a rustling sound came from the box.
Anna halted, her hands on the drawer.
Someone was talking.
“Hurry up,” a tiny voice said in a whisper that wasn’t really a whisper.
“There aren’t any here,” another tiny voice replied, slightly deeper, irritated.
“But we need more,” the first voice said.
“I know that,” the second voice snapped. “That doesn’t mean there are any more in here, does it?” More rustling. “I mean, we need more food, too, but saying it out loud doesn’t make a load of sandwiches appear.”
The first voice sounded hurt. “You don’t need to be a prick about it, David.”
Anna slowly knelt and began to crawl to the box as quietly as possible.
“I’m not being a prick, Harriet, I’m just… you’re harping on me and there aren’t any more damn shirts and I don’t know what you want me to do about it.”
Anna looked into the box.
Teena Weeny Teena and her best friend, Itty Bitty Kitty, were at the top of the pile. Below them were Bambi the fashion model and her friends, as well as a few baby dolls Anna had outgrown. They were all shirtless.
The dolls suddenly moved. Anna ducked behind the box, heart pounding. After a moment, she peered back over the edge.
A small, brown, furry head popped up from between Itty Bitty Kitty and a very naked Rockstar Bambi.
“Our idiot neighbors ruin everything,” the mouse said. It was the one called David. “Pass out a bunch of clothes to them, and apparently, they chew on them and then wonder why it’s drafty.”
Another little head popped up, grey. “They don’t know any better,” Harriet said. “We’ve only just started wearing clothes, after all. And besides, I…” She noticed Anna and gasped. David followed her gaze and froze, small black eyes unblinking.
Anna swallowed. “Hi,” she said. She felt shy.
The mice didn’t move. David whispered, “Stay still. Maybe it won’t see us.”
“Too right,” Harriet whispered back.
Anna stifled a laugh. “I can see you,” she said. “Have you been stealing my dolls’ clothes?”
“What’s a dolls?” David whispered.
“Don’t know,” Harriet replied.
“I can get you more,” Anna said. “More shirts, I mean.” Spending her allowance on shirts for talking mice sounded much more interesting than spending it on clothes for dolls.
David blinked again. “Really?” He no longer whispered.
“Sure,” Anna said. “How many do you need?”
“Twelve,” Harriet said cautiously. “I like red.”
“Okay,” Anna said. “I get my allowance tomorrow. I can give them to you then.”
The mice glanced at each other. “Well…” Harriet said. “Well… that’s quite nice of you, thank you.”
“Okay, good.” Anna stood. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yes. Thanks again,” David said. “We’ll come back to this box.”
“Okay.” Not sure how to end the conversation less abruptly, Anna turned and walked out of the office.
As she left, she heard Harriet say, “Do you think she’d get me a hat?”
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