Karl brought home a dismembered mannequin one day after work. He had a habit of bringing home strange artifacts, mostly things he’d found at second hand stores and pawn shops. He fancied himself rescuing this crap. He found this in a dumpster outside the mall in Lincolnwood. It was missing both of its hands and one of its legs. The other leg was speckled with mildew. I had to wonder how a mannequin could go through so much trauma. He propped it up in the living room using one of the crutches I got when I crashed my bike last summer. He dressed her up in some of my old chef clothes I hadn’t gotten around to throwing out and gave her an eye patch. He painted in her other eye, giving her a purple iris.
“I’m going to name her Lucy,” he said. “After the Australopithecus. “Each day, Karl set her up in a different part of the house. He put her near the window like a forlorn widow staring out at the sea. He hid her behind the shower curtain to scare me. He even attached salad tongs to the end of her arms so she had hands. I thought it was all funny at first, but then he started talking to her. He brought her over to sit with him when he ate dinner. He brought it to bed with him just to sleep next to, I hoped.
After a week, I suggested that maybe we should get rid of her since she was starting to stink, and he suggested that I should mind my own beeswax.
I came home the next day and the mannequin’s mouth was stained with spaghetti sauce. Karl had been trying to feed her. He was out, so I disrobed the mannequin, dragged her through our alley and threw it in another building’s dumpster because I was sure he would just pull her out of ours.
He came home, holding a brown paper bag with two plastic hands sticking out like baguettes. “Where’s Lucy?” Inexplicably afraid of telling him the truth, I said, “She left this morning. She wasn’t happy. She had to move on.”
“Oh.” His shoulders slumped and he nearly dropped the bag. He went into his room and locked the door. He spent a long while after that, perched at the window, waiting for Lucy to come back, but of course she never did.
Eventually, he planted the two hands into a large clay pot like sprouting potatoes. He watered them until one day, I came home to see sitting on the couch, naked and caked in soil, Lucy, her body made flesh.
Kenneth Kelly received an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago, and his stories have appeared in Joyland Magazine, Toad Suck Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, and elsewhere.