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February 1, 2010 Fiction


Lydia Ship

Puppeteers photo

Unfortunately, Chin fed her sock puppets too many vegetables. She didn't always feed them in front of me, but the smell of steamed broccoli and half-empty bowls of it greeted me in our dorm suite when I came back from class, and Chin's newest sock puppet, a gray-faced monkey with blonde pigtails, lay wilted on our communal table. All of Chin's sock puppets featured blonde pigtails and red lips. Feed it Lucky Charms or candy, I told her, but no: everyone had to eat vegetables, and everyone had to exercise, and everyone had to study, and everyone had to tidy up, including the sock puppets, and I guess I don't have to mention that her sock puppet died — the face turned black and the inside slimed Chin's hand. I knew her sock puppets had short life spans, but I'd never actually seen one die, dark face like negative energy, invisible eyes. It looked stained, a defiled beauty contestant. Your life is supposed to mean something! she screamed in its black drooping face, and I stepped back. How long had she been shouting at it? You're just lazy, and you always were! Chin shook it. Chin, wait, I said, but then she called me lazy, threw the sock puppet away, washed her hands, and slammed her door. The next day, I took the trash out and stood by the dumpster long after I'd swung the bag in, listening to the echo and echo and echo. I walked to a children's boutique and bought a large pair of socks made from rainbow whale and heart print. I ran my fingers lightly over the soft fabric, and then with a permanent marker, I drew eyes on one of the playful socks, and suddenly I had a tiny sock puppet. What's your purpose? I prattled. Are you working hard? I petted it. Eat your lima beans.I gave it a gumdrop. I hugged it. One day, Chin caught me playing with my puppet. I didn't know you liked sock puppets. She stared. Its name is Tickle, I told her, and she reached out and tickled its belly. This is a different kind of sock puppet, she said. No, I said. But it disgusts me, she said.

image: Valerie Molloy