I am Rob Gleen and not another.
I’m getting a new friend today. I get to go to the best place ever. There are always new friends waiting. The sun is shining bright, but not as bright as where I’m going. Everything else is so dim and bland, compared. Everyone is polite to me. People always step out of my way. They all like giving me space. These trips are so much fun-
Oops. Someone bumped into me. I ask how they are, but they just scurry away like a mouse. It is what mice do, mice scurry like rats. What do you do with rats? Lure them in to have their spines snapped by a hungry metal bar on the execution block. I would be more upset, but Lilly is accompanying me today. She can always cheer me up. She is so pretty with her button eyes, red locks, and her warm smile. Lilly has been a good and dear friend for 31 years, so hand in hand we continue. That fellow isn’t the only rude one though. I have caught others staring at me. I check my reflection in a store front window to see if something is amiss. Let’s see my bow tie is angled to the left, the patchwork is holding up my jacket, orange shoe for left foot, and red shoe for right foot. My hair is combed over nicely, my black hair like burnt toast. Everything is in order including my smile. Mom said to be polite and smile. She said the more stretched it is the more polite it is. My smile is taut. Then I feel Lilly tugging at my hand.
“Sorry Lilly. I was making sure I look nice,” I say to her. This trip goes by so fast, almost like all I do is take one step from my home and there I am. The sign is smiling down at me as I arrive at Wauggie’s Toys. I could hear my friends beckoning to me inside. I enter and am welcomed by the homely jingle. Wauggie’s Toys is so bright. The floor shines, the toys gleam, and even the workers have sparkling smiles. The toys are the things that truly illuminate. It’s all so clean, clean and bright. Wauggie’s is a rainbow of joy. The colors are everywhere, too many to count, too many to name. They mix and match stripes with polka dots and swirls entangling them all. Wauggie’s is so spacious and there is much to choose from. I got my first tricycle here, now they have speedy scooters too, then there is the pen with all sorts of exotic stuffed pets; cool buzzing cars racing around and my favorite area is the collectibles section where my new friends are always waiting. There are smiles of all kinds greeting me, and the air conditioning gives me chills. There are so many friends here, so many. I can always have more friends. The more the merrier, but Mom and Dad would say different, they would say-
Mom and Dad had other opinions. They used to fight me on how many friends I could have. They said my friends were just play things and I couldn’t have so many. It’s funny, because they chose then to speak up, to talk to me. I managed to persuade them otherwise. Now mom and dad are so agreeable I can have enough friends to fill up the whole house. Oopsy I’m spacing off again, Lilly is nudging me to move on.
“Thanks Lilly.” Well it is time to meet my new friend. I zip over to them. The aisle seems narrow like the shelves are leaning in. All the dolls scooted to the edge. It’s like they are reaching out to me. I would caress them, but my hands are full. They are all so beautiful and dressed up with frills, ribbons, hats, ruffles, and accessories. The ladies in makeup and the gentlemen polished. They are so clean too. The eyes are the best part; it’s where the magic shines. Eyes truly are the windows to the soul. I get to see who they really are. It would be like cutting someone open and seeing what lies beneath. The thought gives me chills. Ooooooooo, there she is and she is gorgeous. She has a lovely light blue dress with ruffles and she has an adorable raffia garden hat with a white ribbon. She has curly black locks. I would pat her cute hair but my hands are full. I lean in and look into her eyes. It is astounding what you can find in a doll’s eyes. In her eyes I found myself gazing back; a smaller me smiling back at me, how wonderful. Then I look to Lilly for approval and she nods yes. I about squeal with joy, but remember I am in public and keep my composure. Besides I can’t pick up my new friend for my hands are full. This is such a dilemma and I don’t see any workers to help me. They are never around when I need them and if I do see one, they always seem occupied. There is no way I can leave Lilly. I can’t leave my scissors either; I never know when I need to cut. What to do?
“What’s that? Oh Lilly you’re very generous.” Now with Lilly holding my scissors I can take Gina, my new friend. I gilded straight to the cash worker.
“Hi,” I say. “Isn’t she lovely?” I make direct eye contact. The cash worker just looks down and mumbles something. So very rude, it’s unseemly and unfit! I’m gonna… Oh! He hands over Gina and now she is mine. Then I catch something in Gina’s eye. There is a stain on my shirt, a dark stain. Hmmmm, what else did I do today?
I have finally arrived at my home sweet home, my majestic castle. My home for 34 years, I have finally returned with my dear friend Lilly and my brand new friend Gina in tow. Oh my Lilly is so lovely with her red strands of hair as smooth as Play-Doh and a smile stitched together with pretty. I can’t keep my eyes off of Gina, she is so cute.
So refreshing taking that first breathe inside, smells like plastic, clean plastic. I show Gina around the house the kitchen being to my left and to my right is the living room. I see my parents sitting on the couch like they always are, never moving. I notice my humble neighbor Jerry sitting in the chair. Oh! That explains-
“Yes Lilly I know. Stop being so pushy,” I say. Now where was I? Oh, that’s how I got that stain on my shirt and my scissors dirtied when Jerry visited earlier today to pester me, silly Jerry. Well, now Jerry has joined my parents for their sit. I turn to Gina.
“Gina it’s time to meet the rest of my friends.” I take quick long strides to my room. Eager as a beaver I am. When I enter my room all of my friends rejoice, a grand applause for my return. Oh my room, a place of sleep, so peaceful. The walls covered in very stylish wallpaper with its flower pattern, like it is my own personal garden. I have my faithful steed by the bed always protecting me from shadows. I see my other castle where my friends get to be royalty of their own. I introduce Gina to everyone. The friend I just bought today! Finally I bought a new doll. Last time I needed one was a week ago…
I used to wonder how much my parents cared about me. The answer was very little. I grew up with nobody and next to barely nothing. A childhood passed, not a thing learned and nothing gained. I am on my own now, but un-alone. Oh Gina, so glad you could join me.
Then I make my proper introduction to Gina. I can’t be rude. “Hello. I am Rob Gleen. Welcome home.” Gina blushes, that shy minx. I leave Gina to mingle and get acquainted, while I go wash up. Let’s see, my black soot hair is still neatly combed. Oh, my green eyes just sparkle and my smile is stretched ever so politely. This stain on my shirt is a problem. I try scrubbing it out, but it won’t go away. So a new shirt is in order.
Now for the scissors cause they’re dirty too. I can’t have that. I never know when I need to cut. Oh these scissors! The extraordinary blue handles. I really like blue. How the blades shine and reflect sunlight, among other things. I need to make them shine again, to make them gleam. It’s quite a task that must be done. No worries though, simple cleaning like this is done in a jiff.
I hear Lilly calling, it’s time to eat. I check the clock in the hall way. Oh my, yes it is time to eat. How time flies when cleaning. My stomach is practically roaring. Lilly and Gina join me at the table. The others have already eaten so they keep playing in my room. In the kitchen I get out the bread and my favorite peanut butter, Skippy. Good ole Skippy makes the best peanut butter in town. Now which type of jam? I have all kinds. Let’s see there are grape, red raspberry, blue berry, cherry, mango, pineapple, and peach. Which one? Oh darn, I can’t choose.
“Lilly what do you want? No. We had mango for lunch. Oh, I know, Gina why don’t you decide. That is wonderful Gina. Good choice.” Red raspberry for tonight’s PB&J. Yay! Gina is going to fit in just fine. “You take two slices of bread, spread the peanut butter first, and smoosh on the jam.”
Wait. What was that? Was it a bell or the phone? It couldn’t be the phone because no one calls. What would a bell be doing here? Oh well, I hear someone knocking on the door. It’s very rude to interrupt a meal. I was just about to take the first bite. Such indecency, but it would be impolite not to answer. I excuse myself and go open the door. And who do I find? An old crone, but I put on my smile. I have to be polite as mother use to say. Her eyes are cold and stabbing, reminds me of icicles. She has crusty, wispy brown hair she tries to hide in a bundle behind her head, but I see it. Her face is unkempt and crinkled like a mistreated scarecrow. Her arms and hands are thin and brittle. She is definitely an old crone. I have to be polite.
“Hi,” I greet.
“Uh, hello. Rob isn’t it?”
“Aren’t you kind of old to still be living with Ronald and Sue?” asks the crone.
“They don’t mind. Did you know you were interrupting my meal? Quite rude. I have it all prepared and made,” I state.
“Um, no I didn’t. Anyway I believe my husband had come over here earlier and I haven’t seen him since.” She fidgets with that bundle on are her head.
“Come now Rob, my husband Jerry,” says the crone. I don’t get it, so I stay silent.
“Jerry Wesh and I am Martha Wesh. Your neighbors. Come on Rob we used to baby sit you.”
“Oh.” I remember now and Lilly does too. Those dullards watching over me when I was seven. I don’t get that either. My parents didn’t notice me so why bother having others do it for them. Now my used to be baby sitters are responsible for spoiling my play time and my meal time, and I hear Lilly pleading to me to hurry up.
“I’m going back to my dinner which you interrupted.”
“Wait! Have you seen Jerry?” Maybe I should let her join Jerry. I have. I have? Yes. I should show her, I should. Where are their manners? These constant interruptions aren’t good for the health, definitely not good for the Weshes. I need to show her to him. I flex one hand as I eye her neck and on my other hand reaches for my scissors. My scissors! So shortly after a cleaning and I’m hungry.
“Look! I’m starting to worry. Have you seen him?” she pleads. I shouldn’t or should I? It would be easy. Why can’t I have my way? Why can’t people leave me alone these days? Lilly and Gina are waiting, but such rudeness is unforgivable. I know I’ll sleep on it.
“No. Maybe tomorrow you will. Visit again, tomorrow.” The crone huffs and puffs as she shuffles back to her house. Some people have such nerve. No apology for disrupting me or interfering with my dinner. The sandwich is probably cold now.
I make my way back, happy to be with Gina and Lilly again. As I think of tomorrow I watch the red jam ooze out.
What a droll day.
“Good golly Martha I blame you.”
“What’s wrong Martha, mouth sewn shut?” Oh Martha how I hate you. Thinking of stench smells like mom and dad need to be scrubbed. They seem soggy. Stupid parents.
“Lilly be a good girl and clean them up.” Lilly simply smiles, such a good girl. Even Gina, who is new, is no fun anymore. New friends usually last longer. The old crone upset Gina’s attitude I bet. I need out. Oh I know I’ll go for a walk. As always need to be dressed neat. Neat is polite. A yellow shirt, dress pants, the crisscross bow tie looks splendid, my blue jacket with stitches in the sleeves, a yellow shoe for left, and a blue shoe for right. All set. This is weird I don’t normally go for walks, but the house feels so stuffy. Oh before I leave I check my scissors are in my pocket cause I never know when I need to cut. The outside doesn’t seem bad.
A bright sun makes a sparkly day. Such a neat and clean neighborhood this is. The houses here are so swell, and well groomed. Huh, not much to do but walk on a walk. Except for that house, a real eye drawer with the nice moon blue. I need a closer look, really a nice shade. I go up to the window to look through. Are those dolls I see? I could use a new friend, someone fresh. Okay, remember what mother taught. Remember your manners. I knock and stretch out my smile. Behind the door a woman answers. Oh my is she different, blond hair with blue streaks sparkling through, sparkling blue in her eyes, and even her lips sparkle blue. There is no neatness in how she dresses. A t-shirt with garble written on and a skirt that reveals tender looking legs. I’m admiring her blues when she speaks up.
“Do you want something?” she asks. Her tone a bit gruff.
“I was admiring your collection. I would like to get closer.” I point to her marvelous friends. She glances behind her.
“Okay.” She simply stares at me with a baffled look. Then I get it.
“How rude. I’m Rob Gleen.” I hold out my hand. She looks at my hand and shuts the door. The audacity. I was a little late on my introduction. I peer through the window again. Curtains close in my face. Fine, I don’t need her dolls. I have my own. I have my friends! They are all I need for they are all I have. I have to remember that. I wonder if Lilly is done cleaning. I hope Martha is fitting in. I would hate for things to be awkward at home. I go back home quickly.
“Oh Lilly. I’m back.” Something is wrong. It reeks in here. The stench is in the living room. My parents look horrendous. Lilly didn’t clean either of them. Martha and Jerry are ripening too. They all stink. Stink. Filth. Dirty. Dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty! My hand goes to my pocket. Something clean. Scissors. My scissors. Clean, cleansing, fresh. Yes, I need freshness. Those dolls. Her collection… New friends. I have to go back. New friends are what I need. Clean and friends equal happy. I return to her house. Do I knock or ring the doorbell? Is the door locked? She is opening the door. Be polite.
“Hello. How are you?” I say. She gently opens the door wider. This is not happening.
“Real nice of you to invite me in.” She nods. I enter. She is more, pleasant. This is happening.
“I agree,” I say.
She curtseys. That is so polite of her. I do admire her blues.
“Such a lovely collection.” I inspect my potential new friends. I see one has the name Tracy etched in the foot. Tracy? Who could that be? Oh well.
Her demeanor is very different from earlier, more still. Speaking of earlier, want to hear a bitter story? Good. I’m reminded of school, specifically the other kids. They would smile at me and I tried to smile back. Difficult to smile after being pushed to the ground, shoved into walls, bounced off lockers, I found it very difficult to hold my smile, to stay polite. I thought having Lilly’s warm smile would help, but she only helped the other kids smile. The others were real nice. They gave me many things I didn’t ask for. They gave me gum for my hair, baths in the toilet, extra flavoring in my lunch, new names, gave me more gum for my clothes, and even gave Lilly some gum. They gave and gave. Until Johnny wanted to give me glue up my nose, but I had scissors when Johnny tried. I cut into his cheek. The others stayed away with their smiles so mine grew. The school was so full of smiles and so full of lies.
Now my new friends have gentle smiles. I stroke one with my thumb. Wait, this smile is wrong. What’s wrong? A smudge is covering it. A smudge? Where- there is a smudge on my hand too. On my scissors. When did I take these out?
“Tracy when did I…” She must be tired. She is lying on the floor. All smeared. Well I should leave her to her nap. Nap off the smears. Oh she twitches when she dreams, that’s cute. I need to wash up. I’m a real mess.
“I’m going home now.” I scamper home. I seem to be trembling. Smears everywhere, all over my clothes, hands, and scissors. I feel woozy. I feel sick. The bathroom, need to clean up. Not washing off, but my smile is still there. Still smiling. Still true.
All dead. My friends are dead. They don’t talk to me anymore. No one talks in this house. Even Lilly is giving me the silent treatment. Rudeness, rudeness to the max. Since they wouldn’t talk, I cut them. Their heads rolled clean off. I cut everyone! Nothing else has been clean since, so sullied. The blood doesn’t wash off now. Not Tracy’s, not my neighbors, not my parents. Big stains, all of them. Smudges are permanent. No scrubbing them out, they stick around to judge me, tell me I’m wrong, when I have been wronged. The spots, specks, spatters, splatters, splotches, blotches, smudges, and smears. They don’t speak, only stare. Those hollow stares. Stains cover the sparkles of life. Slurs-splurrs rot the mind. If I can’t clean then I cut, cut them out, but cutting caused the stains, made the specks. Cutting had got them to leave me be! Lilly. Oh Lilly speak to me. Are you missing an eye or are you hungry? Huh, what was that, my scissors agree Lilly, they said, they said?
“Scissors can’t talk. Scissors talking is silly. Right Lilly?”
I hate you Lilly. I cut open that mouth of hers. Silence. Silence is all I hear. See. Do you see? Good. I can’t afford to have my scissors dirtied cause I never… I never know when I need to cut. Lilly is tainted, oh my friend. No, not friend. A doll. Doll? No friends, no dolls. Where did everything go? I was a good boy, polite and clean. I learned from nothing. I only cut a little. Why were my parents so mean? The neighbors became snoopy and the rude woman. Never supposed to be this messy!
I hear loud noises. Sirens? Where, where are they? Flashing lights. Outside? Wait I am outside so the lights are flashing inside. I can’t see my room. Ow! My side hurts. Where did I put my scissors? Somewhere nearby. I can feel them. They all left me. All left me, but the stains are permanent. I don’t feel so good. Who? Who’s crying? Martha? The crone. Jerry? The idiot. Tracy? So blue. Sue and Ronald? Aren’t I Ronald? No.
I am Rob Gleen and not another.