Barbie hadn’t decided what she was going to do with her life. She had tried a number of professions; flight attendant, rocket scientist, fashion designer, babysitter. Most recently she had worked as a computer engineer. Barbie had 20/20 vision, but the computer company made her wear little pink glasses anyway. By the second day on the job she had a headache bigger than the RV she kept in the back yard. She’d quit that job in a hurry.
“What are you going to do with yourself?” her boss at the computer company had asked her. He was angry that she was leaving. She was a good face for the company. She made them look inclusive and a lot prettier.
Barbie shrugged. She Could Be anything (except Not Barbie). She would try something else tomorrow.
“You can’t just keep job hopping,” he said to her, ripping her ID badge from her shirt collar, “you’ll be unemployable soon.”
Barbie knew that just wasn’t true. She flashed him a fake smile and took off her high heels for the walk to the subway.
Really, her name was Barbara, but everyone called her Barbie. She kind of hated it but not enough to insist she be called something else. She had always wanted to be a “Babs” or a “Danika” or a “Gretel.” Anything but the sweet, upturned sound that was Barbie.
Barbie loved to learn and she prided herself on being able to cook her own food, fix her own car and change her own light bulbs. She had a friend called Ken who came over and flexed his muscles at her a lot but she refused to take the hint. She changed her own damn light bulbs. He was just a friend, Ken, no matter how much he angled for her bedroom.
The night she quit her job, she called Ken to come over for some drinks.
“Sure,” Ken said, “I just have to change my shirt.”
“Wear whatever,” Barbie said. “I don’t care what you wear. As long as you get your ass over here soon. You know I won’t drink alone.”
“I have a new plaid one,” Ken went on, as if she hadn’t spoken. “It has pearl buttons.”
Barbie hung up.
“I’ll bring you a surprise,” Ken said, sadly, to the dial tone. “You’ll love it.”
Ken arrived with a big cardboard box balanced on his thick arms. He rang the doorbell of Barbie’s townhouse with his shoulder.
“Yeah,” Barbie called from upstairs. “Just a sec.”
She ran down the stairs and opened the door for Ken. Her heart sank when she saw him bearing a gift. She knew there was something idiotic in the cardboard box. Ken was always bringing her idiotic things. She suspected Ken might actually be an idiot but she wasn’t sure. Maybe tomorrow she Could Be a psychologist and figure it out once and for all.
“What’s in the box, Ken?” she asked through gritted teeth.
Ken grinned at her. His own teeth were always on display. They looked like piranha teeth.
“Let me in and I’ll show you.”
Barbie moved out of the way and Ken slowly eased his way into her foyer. With a foot, he cleared the bench of her trench coat and umbrella. He lowered the box slowly onto the bench and brushed his hands against his tight jeans.
Barbie looked at his shirt. One of the pearl buttons was missing. She decided not to tell him.
The box made a scratching noise. Barbie jumped.
“What the –”
No longer able to contain himself, Ken pulled the lid from the box and said,
“Yes! Three sweet puppies!”
Barbie stared at Ken. She didn’t move a muscle. She would not look in the box, she refused to look in the box. Barbie hated dogs and Ken knew it. Barbie was a goddamn cat person and KEN KNEW IT.
Ken kept smiling. Barbie thought in a minute she would smack his face. Just for fun, not because it would do any good.
“Take them out of here,” she said, in a low voice.
“But Barbie –”
“Take. Them. Out,” she said. She growled it. One — or all? — of the puppies whimpered. Good she thought, be afraid, you little bastards.
Ken’s smile shrank. Without it, he really was an unattractive man, Barbie realized.
“I thought you needed something to cheer you up. I thought you needed –”
“I fucking hate dogs,” Barbie said. “I asked you over for a drink.”
Ken hung his head. He saw something dripping from the bench onto Barbie’s exotic wood floor.
“Oh,” he said. “Oh no.”
Barbie looked where he was looking.
“Is that PEE? IS THAT PEE?” Barbie was shouting at Ken, at the box, at the ceiling, at the world. At her pink, perfect, horrible world. Barbie’s face burned and her eyes bulged.
It was pee.
Ken frantically grabbed her trench coat from the floor and knelt on the floor, trying to mop the trickle of pee as it dripped from the sodden cardboard box. A pitiful whining noise came from within the box.
Barbie stood perfectly still. She counted to ten, like she had learned in her babysitter training. At the end of ten she was still enraged. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes, she was still enraged. She considered the philosophy and ethics she had studied when she had worked at The University. She was still enraged.
“There’s nothing else for it,” she said. She picked up the umbrella from the floor and positioned it over Ken’s lacquered skull. “And anyway, I’ve never been to jail.”
Inspired by this product. No animals were harmed. I love puppies.