Anthony Self’s New Short Story – Colin

Colin

Shop dummy head

by

Anthony Self

   “So it won’t hurt anymore, then?”

The man sitting behind the desk in the sharp suit flashed a rehearsed smile, leaned forward and rested his elbows on the polished mahogany wood, interlacing his fingers together in one fluid motion.

Considering the question for a moment, he brought his newly arranged tepee hand mould to his lips. His grin broadened and he simply uttered, “Not at all, Mr. Fischer. You won’t feel pain any longer.”

Arthur Fischer sat uncomfortably in front of the salesman and mahogany desk, one hand clutching his fedora hat. His other hand hung limply in his lap.  Maude, who had been nodding to the salesman’s pitch for the last twenty minutes, letting out occasional monosyllabic affirmations when he paused for breath, now wrapped her arm round his. Arthur mustered the strength in his decrepit hand to stroke her palm.

“Is there a return policy?” Maude said, “In case…in case it doesn’t work?”

“Of course, Mrs. Fischer! We let you have the model for seven days, and if you’re not completely satisfied, we can conduct a whole re-insertion.”

Arthur and Maude both said ‘oh’ at the same time.

“Instead of talking about it though,” the salesman said, “how about we take a gander at the models and you can see if something…fits?” He made a gesture, rising from the desk. Maude helped Arthur up, and together they shuffled out of the large office whilst the Salesman chatted about deluxe models and discounted rates.

The long hallway was starting to annoy Arthur. His prescription shoes were click-clacking on the marbled floor and the large stone columns were starting to make him feel dizzy. The walls were dark, with no apparent wallpaper or pictures attached to them. Maude must have noticed his faintness, as he felt her take his weight on the useless side of his body. He hated feeling redundant. Inept. Like a child. Mostly he despised that Maude’s role in their relationship was starting to become that of a Nurse.  At seventy four, his mind was still buzzing and alive – he loved the stimulating conversations they had – sipping wine together in their favourite restaurant, talking endlessly for hours on trivial subjects, laughing and teasing one another. But in the last few years, he was becoming depressed and melancholy – his failing, useless body was beginning to take its toll.

The Salesman suddenly stopped and turned to face them. He waved his hand dismissively in front of him, and a panel in the wall slid open.

“Our first models…George and Kate.”

Arthur looked to his side, where the panel had opened. In place of the wall there was a glass window, where a tall, athletic mannequin stood propped on display.   It took Arthur a moment to realise that it wasn’t in fact a mannequin. The model was wearing beach shorts, there was hair on his broad chest and he was tanned. Chiselled chin with deep brown eyes. Arthur had once had piercing blue eyes. Azure, Maude had said on their first date. My man with the Azure eyes.  Next to the model sat a brunette woman, in a one-piece bikini.

“We’re doing a special with these two – half price.”

Maude pursed her lips. It was a sight Arthur has seen countless times before. She was always better at haggling. Before she could ask about prices however, the man in the suit had already anticipated her question.

“Fifteen thousand.”

Arthur and Maude both said ‘oh’ at the same time again. The Salesman sensed that this was above their price range, and with another shake of his hand, the panel slid back.

“I think I might know what you’re looking for,” he said. Without breaking a stride, he turned on his heels and they shuffled down the corridor again. A moment later, another panel slid from the wall revealing another glass window. Behind this one, a model dressed in a tuxedo stood defiantly in front of them. He had jet black hair, an aquiline nose, deep set eyes. Piercing blue eyes. Just like his own, when he was younger.

“Five thousand.” The Salesman said, the Cheshire cat-like grin unwavering.

Arthur snapped himself awake from his daydreaming.

“There’s only one model.” Arthur said, matter-of-factly.

“This is our Colin Model,” The Salesman continued, “He was top of the line a few years ago, but the previous owner got into an unfortunate boating accident and he’s now missing a toe.”

“Which toe?” Maude asked; a look of worry on her face.

The Salesman dismissed the slight chink of his sales pitch with another frivolous wave of his hand. “Just the pinkie toe.”

“Five thousand is all we have.” Arthur said, as a spasm of pain jolted down his side. For the first time, a look of disdain flashed across the Salesman’s face. It lasted about a quarter of a second, but Arthur noted it.

“This is our cheapest model,” the man in the suit said. There was a brief moment of silence, and then the Salesman was back to his cheery self. “I tell you what, how about I leave you guys to discuss this amongst yourselves for a moment? I have another client that I need to speak with briefly.” He patted Maude on the shoulder and then hurriedly walked down the dark corridor, disappearing behind a velvet curtain.

“Arthur,” Maude whispered, “You have to buy Colin.”

“No. We said we’d do this together. We said…”

Maude cut him off abruptly. “You need it.”

Arthur was about to argue, when she raised a solitary finger to silence him. “You’ll be able to work again. Perhaps in a few years we’ll have enough for another model.”

“But that could be years!” Arthur said, incredulously.

“I can wait.” Her eyes flashed with a renewed energy, “it might be nice to have a toy boy around the house, after all.”

Arthur smiled.

When the Salesman returned, he found Maude rifling through her purse.

“I have twenties and tens, will that be okay?”

The Man with jet black hair rolled off the young girl, breathless and exasperated. He could feel himself sobering up. The young girl let out a satisfied sigh, turned slowly and started rubbing his chest.

“I have to go,” he said in the darkness, finally.

The girl’s hand stopped circling his chest.

“You’re married, aren’t you? I noticed the ring on your finger at the bar.”

Although she couldn’t see it, the man with the jet black hair and piercing blue eyes was quietly crying.

“I was…once.”

“Oh. Divorced?”

“No…she died.”

The young girl sighed, but this time there was an undertone of vexation to it. She lit a cigarette in the darkness, a small ember circle brightening whenever she inhaled.

“Will I see you again, Arthur?”

“I told you not to call me that.” In the darkness, the man with the jet black hair and aquiline nose looked up at the ceiling. “My name is Colin.”

*