“The bruises were always small”

Photo by Matthew Rolston, from his book “Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits,” via CBSNews.com.

I’ve become a bit of a fan of io9.com. They’re not always brilliant or thorough, but they often post some fascinating things — usually links to other fascinating things. Today, it was this article on sad, retired ventriloquist dummies. (The article, in turn, links to a series of portraits on the CBS News website.) It caught my attention because it reminded me immediately of my story “The Voice You Throw, the Blow You Catch,” in Fiction Circus (and soon to appear in my first-ever chapbook). The story is about a woman and her troubled relationship with her ventriloquist dummy. Exactly who is abusing whom is open to interpretation, but in the end, the woman abandons the dummy and all the other men who’d made a pass at her rally round him in solidarity:

That first night, the bartender brought him in and everyone gathered around him, a wide circle like they’d found a wounded dog and no one was sure what he’d do. Everyone spoke in whispers. They stood like that for who knows how long. The dummy lay in a pile on the floor, limbs twisted, his face a mess. A couple of the older jilted men finally stepped into the circle, bent like pallbearers, and lifted him to the bar. Carlo set him on the highest shelf, put a bottle in his hand.

It’s one of my favorite stories — and a favorite among readers, too — and the portraits of these decaying old dummies are a perfect fit for the story.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

2 thoughts on ““The bruises were always small”

  1. I was taught to call them ‘dolls’ rather than ‘dummies’. Just saying.

    The article is right when it refers to them as ‘unnerving’. Why is it that they appear safe, innocent, comical when they are in the ventriloquist’s hands, but menacing when they are on their own, inert?

    I read your story and loved it. I love stories in which 1) a lot happens, 2) in a few words, 3) with several things unexplained.

    Oh, and by the way, I was always a huge fan of ‘Chuck and Bob’ from ‘Soap’ πŸ™‚

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