Playing House

Millicent walked–or rather hopped–with a noticeable limp. Before she headed out the door forever, she wanted to make sure her pink chiffon dress strategically hid her missing leg. As she was slightly tippy, she leaned on the doorframe, gazing through the acetate window as she adjusted her crinoline.

“Millicent,” Reginald said in alarm, his voice both high-pitched and manly, “You’re leaving me? Without a word?”

Reginald’s skull fracture had healed nicely, but little globs of white glue marred his perfect black helmet of hair. A piece of his skull had never been found–“a war injury,” Reginald always pointed out–and the skull was repaired askew, leaving him with a jagged but heroic-looking scar across his missing eye.

“Yes,” Millicent said a bit too dramatically. She composed herself, and said something she knew she would probably regret. “Why of course, you idiot!”

She did regret those words, because they were far too blasé when the situation called for hysterics.

She threw herself onto the rosewood settee, the one where Janey had laid her lime-green lollypop. The lollypop stuck to Millicent’s best–and–only dress, its gloppy syrup instantly gluing her to the settee. She was stuck, and that was the last thing she wanted Reginald to know.

She calmly smoothed out her dress, once again strategically positioning it over her missing leg. She casually leaned one stiff arm on the settee, thinking her blurry reflection in the tinfoil mirror quite handsome.

“What shall I tell the children?” Reginald whispered in a quavering voice, his glass eye shining with unshed tears.

Six-year-old Maisie quietly played inside of the closed refrigerator, while the babies, Max and Mitzi, sat unattended in the bathtub on the second floor, unaware of the drama unfolding between their parents.

Frederick, the toddler, dangled on the outside of the house, clinging to the attic windowsill with his one good hand.

“I don’t have the foggiest clue, Reginald,” Janey said in disgusted tones for Millicent. “You’re on your own.”

Suddenly, rumbling sounded from beyond the kitchen window. A moment later, the entire house began to shake, the fine china flying out of the balsa wood buffet, the pantry springing open and strewing its contents everywhere.

Frederick fell from the window. Maisie’s refrigerator tumbled off the roof. The tub capsized, spilling the twins onto the bedroom floor.

Reginald and Millicent were thrown into an awkward and not terribly passionate embrace.

A ferocious beast snapped up Max and Mitzi and ran out of the room, spurring Janey into action.

“Nugget!” she shouted as her beagle ran away with the babies in his jaws. Nugget disappeared through the dog door, and Janey scrambled through, close behind.

She knew exactly where he was headed. The raspberry bushes.

“Nugget! Stop!”

It was too late. Nugget dove under the scratchy raspberry bushes and Janey steeled herself. She crept in, the thorns pricking her skinny arms and poking her face. She dragged the dog out by his collar, grabbed his skull and shook the twins loose.

They were a slobbery mess, but still intact. Mitzi had new chew marks on her tiny arm. Max’s head wasn’t any worse than it was the last time Nugget ran off with him.

Janey returned triumphantly to her bedroom, one plastic baby in each hand. Reginald and Millicent were still clinging to each other, their dollhouse in shambles.

Janey licked her lollypop free of the settee, and set off to find the white glue.

Front page image by Maxwell Hamilton.

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Susan Koefod

About the Author

Susan Koefod’s debut novel, Washed Up, was praised by Library Journal and made Library Journal’s debut novel list in October 2011. Her second book, Broken Down was released September 2012 and a third in her mystery series is due out this fall. Her short story “Boys will be Boys” recently appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Her latest project is ‘big, cheesy novel’. You can read the first chapter on her website, www.susankoefod.com.
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