Thursday, 1 July 2010

In The Nursery - #fridayflash






The nursery is full of toys. Toys that like many all over the world lie shunned and unloved. Empty-armed huggable animals, with their faux fur bleached by the fierce embrace of the sun; pedal cars slew parked and collecting dust rather than imaginary tickets; games gutted for their batteries so as to muzzle their dissonant blare. But in this particular rumpus room, it isn't because the tots have grown weary of them.

The walls are brightly, nay gaily decorated with jungle beasts in primary colours. The hues of hope and innocence, somehow swallowed by the pall of malevolent gloom that hangs in the air.

Sucking in its walls like cheeks holding breath, the Wendy house, ideally a place of nesting, furnishing, empire building, has now become a bolt-hole. A place to disappear from view. To fold up on oneself or to begin the covert tunnel to freedom. Collapsed through unyielding concrete.

And overseeing it all, me. A giant, life-size (to a child) cuddly panda bear. Doleful black eyes by stitched design and in flayed tissue; being a constant locus of stubby-fingered gouges and small-fisted punches. One of my ears has been torn off and cannibalised to thwart restoration or any semblance of wholeness. My white pelt has been dulled by blood transference. Not from within, since I'm laced only with cotton padding, but from the multifarious child protagonists who assault themselves with one hand, even as they slam and cuff my fluffy abdomen with the other.

For I preside over a nursery for troubled children. Children observed in their behaviour behind one-way mirrors. Children who have to be taught how to play. Boy, could I tell the Docs a thing or two. Since behind their glass partition, they can't hear what's whispered into both my good and my missing ear. The inner tormentors of these biddable kids, who let slip their visors and announce themselves to me with persecutory menace. The child's identity bartered away for beans at the slave auction that is this therapy room. So it remains my burden to bear all the stigmata of these benighted young souls, just like the priest in his Confessional.

Save the panda. Save the children.


45 comments:

ganymeder said...

Very emotionally stirring piece. Troubled toys for troubled children. Well done.

ThomG said...

Wow, what a tragic, but powerful piece. Save the panda, save the children, indeed.

Tony Noland said...

Man, you don't kid around, do you?

This was 151 proof, straight up.

Laura Eno said...

Chilling piece...if only the panda could talk.

Karen from Mentor said...

GAh. The poor bear. The poor children. Poor me for reading about it and not having anyone to hug. *sniffle*

Gonna go warn folks.
*ONLY READ if loved ones are close enough to appear in the mirror"

Oh wait, that visual opens up a whole nother set of creepy ideas.

Ok, I'll stop meandering all about my cobwebby mind [it's been a long day..lol] and say:

Vividly done and riveting.
:0)

PS Teddy Ruxpin always freaked me out.

Eric J. Krause said...

Wow, very powerful story. All the stories that panda has. Well done!

Carrie said...

This gives a lot of thought, especially in light of the Toy Story 3 phenomena that's been floating around the internet. I always noticed that toys are the closest confidant for any child. Terrific as always.

David G Shrock said...

Well written thoughtful story, and the pics are cute.

Marisa Birns said...

When I was a child, a monkey was my little stuffed animal. Of course, I did not torture him at all.

The heartbreak of children who know not the joys of childhood.

Very moving story, told in matter of fact language that adds more to the sadness of the tale.

Gail Hart said...

Wow, this is powerful!

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Whoa, that is stark and edgy. It is true that there are kids with unimaginable pain and cold places that watch kids like lab experiments - the two together = pain.

Very intense and well-written (as always). Wow!

Yes, save them both!!

Linda said...

Intense stuff, marc. But so well-said. Puts a whole 'nother dimension on Toy Story 3 (which I just saw today with my kiddos). Your last line is enviably killer. Peace...

Michelle said...

emotion filled - wow!

Diandra said...

I like how, right at the beginning, you create the idea that something is not right here.

Maria A. Kelly said...

Wow! This story punches you right in the guts, just like that poor panda. Nice job!

Michael Solender said...

i love the word: "doleful" - very pensive, heady piece, i'm still pondering..

Jen Brubacher said...

Oh, wow. I almost choke on this piece, it's so difficult to swallow such realistic tragedy. How did you click with the idea of the panda's black eyes? It's brilliant. So well done.

Anonymous said...

I knew from the first sentence that this was going to be dark. It is, in fact, a killer. My mostest sentence - the beans of identity for therapy. Eek.
Befor I read this, i was thinking how very much I'd adore to read a love story by you. I don't suppose it'll be happening any time soon :)

Penny G

Anonymous said...

I knew from the first sentence that this was going to be dark. It is, in fact, a killer. My mostest sentence - the beans of identity for therapy. Eek.
Befor I read this, i was thinking how very much I'd adore to read a love story by you. I don't suppose it'll be happening any time soon :)

Penny

Sulci Collective said...

Pen, I've got a sort of love story novel. If by love you'd accept internet grooming under the guise of love, but is actually terrorist recruitment?

Marc x

alisonwells said...

Disturbing but very very good. Love story - didn't you write the script for Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet? Should have been you anyway.

Rebecca said...

Wow! That is chilling. It really makes you think as well. I enjoyed it very much.

G.P. Ching said...

This is brilliant. I agree with the others, chilling, disturbing, but also I think a good representation of the feelings of a troubled child through the eyes of his or her toys. Loved it.

John Wiswell said...

I don't see what's so dark about this story. So you've got damaged children. It's not like they were just invented. This toy tries to help out a few of them. That's optimistic - which is what the kids need.

Heather Lloyd said...

Interesting - to start with I expected the panda to have a more malicious character rather than being sympathetic to it's charges. I found the final line quite amusing - not sure if this was intentional or just my slightly sick mind!

Pamila Payne said...

This was deep, and very cleanly written. It makes me wonder if anyone has tried putting recording devices in a child's toy... but then, I think like that. I liked your flash.

Gracie said...

Stunning story. Troubled toys for troubled kids, indeed. Beautiful writing as always.

Louise Broadbent said...

You've punched me round the face like a child punching a panda. In a good way.

David Masters said...

Good story. I'd love to see you experiment with some different voices sometime that reflect the character of your narrator. Would a panda narrate in this style?

Danielle La Paglia said...

Powerful. Excellent writing. Great job! (I'm practically speechless)

Sulci Collective said...

David I'm a little unclear as to what style a toy panda might narrate in.

One is always led by the precision-seeking words.

Deanna Schrayer said...

This brought tears Marc. Very well done!

Nettie Thomson said...

Great flash fiction. Wonderfully creepy. I loved it!

Aislinn O'Connor said...

Deanna's not the only one with wet eyes after reading this. What comes over very strongly here is how much it must take out of those who try to deal with troubled people, children or adults - their help and understanding have to cost them dearly.

Powerful story, Marc, and brilliantly told.

Icy Sedgwick said...

It probably says a lot about me that the character I feel most for is the panda, rather than the children he tries to help, but it's a wonderful piece. Brilliantly written, excellent description, and..well...powerful.

shannon said...

Who are these children? What are their stories? Inquiry minds want to know :-) Wow. Were they born this way? I'm going to have to have a talk with my son's bear. (As you can see, I deal with pain with humor)
Strong writing, as always.

Mark Kerstetter said...

"pedal cars slew parked" - I'm a sucker for language like that.

What'samatter, you can't talk like a toy panda? C'mon, give us some toy panda talk.

Sulci Collective said...

Bam-bam boo?

M x

pegjet said...

"The child's identity bartered away for beans at the slave auction that is this therapy room."

That line leapt off the page at me. I'm with John; this panda gives comfort, if not hope.

Bukowski's Basement said...

So very gripping and heartfelt... Tugs at the heart. Strong piece.

Sam said...

I can't help it, I feel really sorry for the panda. Powerful tale.

KjM said...

Powerfully written. It opens up in such a quiet way but quickly all our usual feelings about toys and brightly-colored walls are turned upside down.

And I am left with such a terrible and clear image of the room and its inhabitants.

"Sucking in its walls like cheeks holding breath, the Wendy house..." Just one of many masterful images.

Excellently done.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Gorgeous in its simplicity, Marc. And it made tears well up in my eyes.
So incredibly well done.

Laurita said...

My daughter in her time out chair would whisper to her bear that she would run away and take him with her. I hate to think what these children whispered to the Panda. Really liked the angle, the thoughts of the one who cannot betray confidences.

Maggie said...

Using the battered toy panda gives an interesting perspective into the world of troubled children. I felt the introduction of the narrator was a little late in the piece, possibly because I was surprised to be viewing from this unusual pov. The opening description gives a sense of the untoward. The suggestion that the children have to be taught to play is both sad in that something so natural has to be taught to these unfortunates, but also hopeful in that caring adults may be able to help to them. I used to work with troubled children, older than described here, and find it difficult to use these experiences in my writing.