"No, I didn't.. I didn't think.. well, he didn't see me -", he interrupted her then with two fingers gently held against her lips, knowing she would simply stutter and ramble on incoherently for some time if allowed. Time.. he was running short of it, he always was, perpetually trying to beat the clock. She looked a bit hurt, so he continued..

"I don't have to know, no one needs to know where it came from. If you want it, it's yours.. just don't let your mother see it when she comes home. You know how she is about your little treasures.."

She nodded silently and affirmed with her eyes that she understood, this was his preferred means of communication with her given that he was too impatient to wait on the words she always had to work for. In his mind, they were so different the two of them, he went as far as to tell himself they'd never once shared the same thought. She was only like that around him, though he was too busy in his own little life to see it, ever oblivious that man. Oddly, she didn't care, and still loved him despite the way he brushed her off so often. He wouldn't deny that he should spend more time with his family but he also never made the effort to do so. They didn't care.

The young girl clutched her little toy, one bronze coloured arm dangling, ready to fall off of the mechanical "Sebastien", from The Little Mermaid happy meal toy series. She'd seen it in the lost and found at school and had taken it when the teacher's eyes were averted. She was never afraid of consequence, probably because she never had to deal with it. Everyone felt sorry for the girl with the heroin addict for a mother, and a father who worked incessantly.

She wound up the little mechanism on the toy and set it down, watching it flail its arms and legs haphazardly but never moving. She thought of how it seemed quite like herself.. the little toy that wanted so badly to move but was stuck there, frantically trying to escape. The whole world assumed her depression, that underneath the smiling exterior was torment over a torn family life, but it wasn't true. She was happier than most children, because she knew that things would not always be this way, and she placed her faith in the stars she watched from her window most evenings.

She picked the toy up and smiled at it, before she placed it in the worn little wooden box, the one her mother had used for her needles and drugs before going into rehab a few weeks beforehand. She used it for the little treasures she found now, the little things that reminded her of the life she had now and the one she hoped to live some day. Every night she'd lay them out on her bed and look at each one, caress them with the tip of her finger and then put them carefully back into the box covering them with a dishcloth. She would crawl into bed after closing her door, but for a tiny slit to allow some of the hallway light in, pull the blanket snugly around herself, and smile at the printed wallpaper of her own little box.

He'd wander in some time later as she slept and smile at her closed eyelids and soft breathing.. he always placed the little blue teddy bear next to her these times, and she'd wake up and know he'd been there. When she thought about it, this is how she knew he still cared, and it was comforting. She liked to lose herself in the thought of him placing the little bear next to her and then slipping out of the room oh so quietly as to not disturb the sleeping occupant.

This night, though, he went to the little box on her dresser and opened it enough to retrieve the mechanical toy which he brought to the kitchen and proceeded to repair, he was adept at such things. He placed it back in the little box afterwards and re-covered it with the dishcloth. It had reminded him of her, the toy, and so he had vowed to fix it, as he had to try and fix his broken family somehow. Her mother would be home for a visit this weekend, and he wasn't sure how anything would be, but he had seen her playing with the toy earlier, watching its failed attempts to move with weary but ever hopeful eyes. "I love you..", he whispered to her as he kissed her forehead softly, she turned her head up and looked at him with sleepy eyes and a grin, "I love you too daddy". They exchanged a brief smile as he placed the little bear beside her, then walked slowly out of the room to the window in the dining room, where he would stare at the stars in which he placed his faith for a few hours before wandering off to sleep.
-so, like I was saying, she wanted to take it back. Which is goofy of course. I mean who wants it. But this is my sister, she's eight and really into this doing the right thing idea, she tells my mom that we have to take it back and that some kid is missing it and all that jazz. (She talks like that all the time, I mean she's a kid and she talks like 'kids' and all that!) So anyway, she talks my Mom into this and says we have to take it back to the McDonalds today, on the way back from the pool. I tell her ok, although I had sorta planned on adding it to the collage I had made in Art -you know the one with all the animals of Africa- but anyhow- we were gonna take this stupid sign she made on a little note card and so we put the card in her dumb powerpuff girls backpack and go to the pool. We walked across Broad street to donalds and went inside and she put the card up on their bulletin board next to the pictures of raffle winners and old people who drink coffee there.

Found: one slightly damaged happy meal toy

and then we go home and she says they will call us. Im like Im sure. But my mom says "youllneverknow" but I laugh. Later today the phone rings and its my cousin and answer the phone with "toy rescue line" and he laughs and I laugh and my sister goes and squeels. So at dinner shes all sad and everything and then the phone rings and I run and beat her there (shes slow) and I say "toy dump" and its this old lady and she says her grandson lost a toy and do we have it? Im like OH and give it to my mom and then my sister is jumping up and down. So they come over and the little kid has these thick glasses and seems happy to have his dumb three legged Simba and my Mom and my sister hug and she comes inside and sings "I Told You- La La " like that, so I chase her into her room and give her hard noogies until my mom comes.

So thats why Im in my room sending you this email and not watching Survivor . Write back and tell me what happened when its over.

Brad

If I could offer only one piece of evidence for the ultimate stupidity of the human race, this would be it. This, or one of the many things just like it.

I walk into the store, and as I pass by, I look at the board.

I stop. I stare.

found: one slightly damaged happy meal toy — call 555-5412 to claim

wanted: lid for beige tupperware crockpot — 555-2304

will work in gardens, weekends or weekdays — 555-2850

I think to myself, as I continue my shopping, that these people cannot possibly be serious. Can they? Of course, they are, and that absolutely puzzles me. How do these people survive? This is not like saying something stupid, I mean, I do that myself all the time. It just happens, too quickly to be stopped. But this? This is completely different. These people paid to place those ads. What were they thinking?

As I round the freezer racks, my thoughts come back at me like a boomerang. What about some of the 'idiotic' things I have done? Who was it who took apart his watch to reverse the buttons? Was it a stupid person who tried overpowering a crystal diode? I had thought about these things beforehand, and they had all seemed like good ideas. Yet I am sure some outside observer would look at me and laugh at my idiocy. Was there something different in this?

Yes, I decided, I am most definitely different from them. Somehow. Maybe I should just try not to think about it. And so I continued, oblivious to the possibility lying in that line of thought.

Had I taken it further, perhaps I would have recognized the true potential behind some of the simpler ideas. Too late now, many opportunities already missed. I can only pick up with the wisdom that I have now, and strive to expand it as far as it will go.

Dear Diary,

I swear there are cycles in pop culture.. The giants who rule our collective consciousness run out of ideas from time to time and try to sneak old ideas into the mainstream as new ones. And corporate culture keeps its secrets well, but does not keep public records, so we notice these resurgences and can feel nothing more tangible than overwhelming deja vu.

It was like a ghost kissing me on the lips. Children don't come here. It was inexplicable.

I should start at the beginning..

I lost an earring in one of the upper rooms last night. Wealthy client, but not quite wealthy enough for the penthouse. I don't work in the penthouse, anyway. Not yet. It's high profile, noticable. You have to be 21 to work the penthouse. It was about four, nice evening, and I went back up while the maids were cleaning. Before the seraglio was as big as it is, these were the girls' quarters. When I first came here, we lived and ate here, most of us half-starved and high and scared. We've all cleaned up since then, or died, or been thrown out. Not me. I know how to take care of myself. This is a good job, safe, nearly respectable.. I'll keep it as long as I can.

The earring wasn't on the bed, or the floor, or the nightstand. One of the maids yelled at me, because Chloe was coming up with a customer, and told me to hurry up. I was looking underneath the bed. And there was a bump in the rug, against the wall. Too large to be my earring, but incongruous and it caught my attention. I reached under the rug and pulled out a tiny plastic doll, a cheap, two inch Barbie with plastic clothing. And it hit me, the sense of being here before.

Her synthetic blond hair was matted, sticking out at a bizarre angle. I tried to push it down, but it refused to stay. And her smooth candy brown skin was dirty, covered with stains I couldn't wipe away. Some of the paint had chipped from the features of her face. She bore the mark of the hamburger gods, the empire of epicurean complacency.

And then the maid was yelling again that Chloe was coming up the stairs with her customer, so I pocketed the toy and left the room.

I found my earring in the lost and found.


..

Dear Diary,

I saw a picture today, from a long time ago, of the girls. Divinity is leaving, because she's too old and no one will pay, so we threw her a party, in secret. We couldn't get alcohol, so we got glue. And she showed us her pictures.

There was a little girl, no older than thirteen. Dirty and skinny with dim, feral eyes. Emerging from the top of her fist I could just make out the grimy blond plastic hair, and the purple heels on once smooth legs poking out the bottom.

I wonder who she was. I have her doll.

I looked in the mirror, and we could have been sisters. Our features are similar, though I have a difficult time remembering exactly what I looked like before I got my face fixed. They didn't do much. Cheekbones, nose, lips, similar. Same color eyes. And her hair would be nearly the same color as mine, if it were clean. I'd have to be the older sister.. Or maybe not. I'm not sure how old I am. I still get the pedophiles, so not too old. But she looked like a kid, and I don't. Not my eyes, at least, unless I'm working.

She's probably dead now, or gone.

Children don't last here.

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