Wednesday, March 9, 2011


The topic this time was a really tough one for me. We were supposed to focus on a character's defense mechanism. There are so many different ways, some extreme, in which people put up walls around themselves. I decided to create two characters that seem quite naturally suited to each other, if for no other reason than because of their oddities. But, then, we each do march to a different drummer, right? Please enjoy.


Wilbur Monenofski was worried. His girlfriend was outside the door to his apartment and she was begging him to let her in. He couldn’t believe she was behaving in this manner--she had always seemed quiet and refined. He also couldn’t figure out how she found out where he lived because he certainly hadn’t told her. Mother had always told him never to tell. He even had a post office box so none of his mail would come there. He couldn’t afford to have any letters or packages delivered there since the delivery person might need to come in, and Wilbur could not allow that. Why was this happening? He wished Mother was here right now so she could advise him.

He had been surprised when she asked him to join her for a cocktail after work one evening. He had seen Sylvia Schloopner around the coffee station at the office and knew she worked in the typing pool, but they had never spoken before. He worked in the mailroom at the other end of the building and never had cause to interact with her. On the few occasions that he had seen her getting coffee, he had felt something. He wouldn’t have been able to explain it to anyone else, but it was a kind of fluttering that he felt. He wondered if he was beginning to like her because she might be the one. Mother had told him there wouldn’t be anyone special for him, but he had to wonder. Mother had always been right about everything, but what if that one time she had misread the cards?

She had come to the mailroom and asked if she could speak with him for just one moment. She was carrying that handbag of hers, holding it close in her way, and introduced herself. She was blushing crimson, and Wilbur thought she was the most beautiful person in the whole world. She informed him that she normally did not behave in such a brazen manner and didn’t want him to think she was a person of low morality, but when she first saw him, he seemed like such a nice person and she wondered if he would join her for a cocktail. He told her his name, and said he just knew her to be a person of very strong principles, and he would very much enjoy a cocktail with her after work. That was how it all began.

That first encounter could not have been more pleasant. After punching out, they had walked together to the tavern at the corner where they had a couple of highballs, pretzels and wonderful conversation. The time flew by, and Wilbur walked Sylvia back to her car. He was so touched by her sweet disposition and the adorable way she always clutched that handbag of hers. Sylvia was his first date, so he wasn’t at all familiar with what women did about their purses. He noticed at the tavern that other women had put theirs down on their tables, but not Sylvia. Hers never left her lap. Wilbur knew that was because she was responsible. He wondered if he loved her, but he wasn’t sure how to tell. They shook hands and he waited until she drove off to make sure she was safe, and then he went to his car and drove home. He didn’t have long to wait until midnight, and then he would be safe too. From everything bad. Mother had been right about that.

What had begun as cocktails had blossomed into dinners, plays, and long walks though the park. All their conversations were pleasant and Wilbur couldn’t have been happier until Sylvia brought up the subject of his coming to her apartment for dinner and maybe staying over. She had again blushed crimson, which he found just too precious for words, but he knew that could never happen. He skirted around the issue and the conversation took another direction. Before long, however, it came back around to their spending the night together. She suggested that she cook the meal at his place and they could rent some movies and then could spend the night there. Wilbur sensed a panic attack coming on, and hurriedly told Sylvia he was feeling ill and had to go home. Alone. He practically dragged her back to the car, apologizing all the way, drove to her place, dropped her off at the curb and sped off. He was terrified of what she must think of him, and it broke his heart that she may never again speak to him, but what else could he do? He couldn’t be anywhere but home from midnight to six and if she were home with him during that time, she would never understand what he had to do. How he wished Mother were here. She always knew what to do.

Here it was, two days later, and she was outside his door, pleading with him to let her in. She was saying she didn’t care about anything but him, and to just give her a chance and they could work it out. If there was someone else, just tell her and she would leave. Was it her fault? He knew he no longer had a choice. This poor darling was blaming herself and she was saying she would understand. He knew that wasn’t possible, but at least he could see her one last time before she screamed and ran out, as he knew she would. He removed the chain and opened the door.

When Sylvia entered Wilbur’s apartment, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She had never seen so many different types of string before in her life. There was thick string, thin string, long string, short string, red string, yellow string, all hanging from the ceiling and taped to all the walls, the pieces no more than an inch apart. She looked at Wilbur, who was sweating profusely, and tears were beginning to form in his eyes. He closed the door quietly and reached out to her.

“Sylvia, please let me explain. I know this may seem strange, but Mother told me this was the only way I could keep bad stuff away. That’s why I never could stay the night with you. I sleep under my string comforter from midnight to six every night because that gets rid of the bad thoughts. But now it’s not working. I’m here, but I’m feeling scared that you won’t like me anymore and I won’t ever find out if I love you.”

Wilbur collapsed on the couch and began to cry. Sylvia sat down next to him, put her arm around his shoulders and told him everything was going to work out just fine.

“Wilbur,” she said quietly, “I don’t want you to be confused. You don’t need all this to keep you safe because I‘m going to take care of you. You see, I do love you, and I want us to always be together.”

Wilbur looked into Sylvia’s eyes and knew he had found true love. I’m sorry, Mother, he thought, but you were wrong. There was someone out there for me. Wilbur suddenly questioned the need for the string. He and Sylvia could take it all down together, but he decided to keep just his string comforter. You could never be too careful…

“Wilbur, darling, once all this string is gone, we’ll brighten up the place. It will be wonderful and you’ll never have to be afraid again. Besides, I happen to have in my bag all the protection we will ever need, and that’s why I carry it with me everywhere. Wilbur, I want you to meet Miranda.”

Sylvia proceeded to remove from her bag a doll’s head, about the size of a fist, with short dark hair, black eyes, a small round nose, and no mouth. It wasn’t that her mouth was covered with anything, there had never been a mouth formed on the face at all. Wilbur felt a chill, but had to ask.

“You named it--I mean, her, Miranda? What happened to her mouth?”

Sylvia sat back and smiled. “The name just suits her, don’t you think? I used to work in a doll factory and I found her one day tossed in the trash. Something had gone wrong and her head had slipped through without a mouth so they threw her away. But, I knew she was meant to be mine, so I took her. I moved to a new town, got a new job, met you, and I am happier than I have ever been, and it’s all because of Miranda. Isn’t she wonderful?”

Wilbur wasn’t quite sure what to make of all this, but he figured if Sylvia was willing to sleep under his string comforter, he could learn to wake up to a mouthless doll’s head. Mother had told him love was strange, and he knew for sure she was right about that.


  1. This was incredible! Creepy and touching at the same time. I really felt for Wilbur and could not not read on to figure out what was going. I loved the string idea also, each string one inch from the next. Don't get me started on doll's...especially dolls with no mouths...

    Nice work!

  2. Joyce you use the situation brilliantly here to render the defence mechanisms of your characters whose names I love. The string is excellent as is your slow unveiling the story.

  3. Great story!
    You know I have met couples like that, each with their own strange behavior but seemingly made for each other. Love is blind and maybe that's as close to perfection we will get to in this life.

  4. Way to go dear! I'm with Beach. I've known some people who operated outside the norm but managed to let their quirks compliment each other. A beautiful tale of love found, even if it is of the "irregulars" rack.


  5. Wow, creepy! But how imaginative... a string comforter and a mouthless doll! They're made for each other... I wonder how it will go? But the creepiest part of this story is Mother. She frightens me for some reason. There is a much longer story here.

  6. There is this great line from Night Of The Iguana: "Nothing human disgusts me." Tennessee Williams would understand completely this story of love transcending in a graveyard of hope. And I believe that that old playwright would be tossing roses and shouting Bravo! at the end of this tear making tale of love conquering the scary dark. Bravo, Joyce, bravo!

  7. Ray, Glad you liked it. I wanted to make the reader's skin crawl and bring a tear to the eye at the same time. Looks like I pulled them both off! Thanks.

  8. Richard, Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. The names really made me smile. I'm glad it built up slowly as I had planned. That's best. I didn't want to give away too much too soon. Keep 'em guessing!

  9. Beach, Glad you enjoyed it. Isn't life funny? No matter how seemingly odd someone may be, there's always a someone for them who is just as odd, or even odder. Strange attracts, I guess, and it is a good thing love is blind or we'd have been extinct as a species long ago!

  10. Doc, Thanks so much. "Irregulars' need love too. I'm glad they found each other too. Actually, I'm really glad they found each other and that neither of them found me!

  11. Ingrid, Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, these two are a perfect fit. I believe Mother's role should be pursued. Another F3 someday perhaps?

  12. AJ, Thanks so much for your comments. You really captured the lesson here. Love can be found in the peak of the Heavens, in the fiery depths of Hell, or anywhere in between. You just have to be willing to look, but perhaps not too deeply at what you find...