Poodle Figurine

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No. 47 of 50 — Significant Objects v3

[The bidding on this object, with story by Peter Rock, has ended. Original price: $3.00. Final price: $10.50. Proceeds from this auction go to Girls Write Now.]

What Amanda notices most about Mr. Neidorf is not his muddy boots. Not his scalp, glossy through his thinning hair, not the way his beard grows up high on his cheeks — not a beard, exactly, but a darkness beneath his skin that underlines his eyes. The scraping way he walks, she notices, and the humming under his breath, and the fact that he is shorter than she is, yes, but these are not what she notices most. It is his hands. How he holds them cupped inward, always, fingers bent as if he is holding something that he can never put down, that taps on everything he tries to touch.

If he looks at her, there is not much to notice. A girl on her way to the office, in tights and a skirt, a girl whose short, dark hair is parted on the left. A girl who lives alone, who lives with only her dog.

It is her dog, Ranger, who senses the words before they arrive. Ranger leaps to his white chair, eyes staring and ears perked, and in a moment the words rise through the apartment’s floor: My veins are like wires all wrapped around inside the meat of my body and I can hear your radio in my heart. And a tapping on walls, on the ceiling, as if Mr. Neidorf is accentuating his words, making sure he has Amanda’s attention. I’ll throw you down in my dirty bathtub, your front teeth chipped. I’ll fill your ears without turning on a faucet.

Amanda sees him in the elevator, neck bent, staring at the numbers above the door. The top of his head glints. She knows his apartment number, reads his name on the mailbox in the lobby. She doesn’t have to ask anyone about him. She just has to listen.

The tape recorder is always ready. Ranger’s tail hits the stand and the microphone spins a slow circle; it sweeps the air for the thickening that means the words are about to start again:

I’ll wipe your ass on the walls, I’ll burn off all the hair on your body, I’ll turn you to a blind porcupine and birds will make nests out of that hair and then sing a song about your cracks and sweet crannies.

She records it all. On the quiet nights she listens to Mr. Neidorf through her headphones, turned up high: Wheelbarrow? I’ll put things in you — Tap, tap, tap — wheelbarrow you all around. I’ll make you lick my sweet outlets. She lies on her bed in her underwear and her running shoes, ready and shivering, his words in her head. Perhaps it is not his hands she notices most, yet she feels him holding her, his fingers curve around. Eyes closed, she sees the tiny porcelain doll he’s made in her likeness, and one of Ranger, too; he holds them, white, one in each hand, tapping and tapping, calling her.

She will go. She’ll pour his tea, unlace his boots, do all he cannot do while his hands are so occupied. And once she has taken care of these small needs, she will attend to the larger ones. Shivering, she imagines the cold, smooth touch of porcelain on her skin, all the sweet things she will let him do to her.

About

Peter Rock is the author of the novels My Abandonment, The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, This is the Place, and Carnival Wolves, and a story collection, The Unsettling. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he is an Associate Professor in the English Department of Reed College.

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