“Broken (Revised)” for StoryFest 2017



“Put it back on! Put it back on!” Marilyn squeezes her eyes closed, claps her hands over them. She isn’t going to open them again until Ophelia puts the cap back on and hides the evidence.

“Marilyn, put your hands down and look at your daughter. You can’t hide from her.” There is something in Ophelia’s tone that Marilyn latches onto. It’s a distraction; she won’t have to think about how childish she looks like this, covering her eyes so she won’t see the baby girl.

“You aren’t my mother!”

“No. But you are hers.”

Damn! She fell right into the trap. Ophelia is good enough at that to actually be someone’s mother.

“She’s a broken doll – ”

“No. She’s a living being. She’s going to die soon – and she deserves to be seen by her mother while she’s still alive.”

Ophelia’s wrong. This isn’t a baby. Not a living being. Not really. Marilyn doesn’t want to look at the shattered places, or  the gaping hollow where a brain should be, but isn’t. It’s too much like Mom’s huge hollow house, and the gaping hole where her parents’ love never was.

It’s like a symbol of the hollowness inside her.

Would anything be different if Ophelia was this baby’s mother?


Damned Ophelia, not letting her hide, not giving up on her. How the hell did she get to be so stubborn,or so strong?

Marilyn knows the answer to that.

She has a mother who loves her. A mother who stays alive, and does the things a mother is supposed to do for her child.

Marilyn has a baby now. That makes her a mother.

The mother of a nameless, broken baby girl.

Marilyn is broken too – not with a skull that has a hole in it, and no brain inside…no. Not like that. But she’s no less broken.

Sometimes broken doesn’t show. Sometimes, people hide it under long sleeves.

“Marilyn. It’s time to look at your daughter, and face this. That’s why we’re  here, after all.”

Marilyn doesn’t argue. There’s no point. Ophelia takes her wrists and applies pressure upward. Gentle, but firm and relentless, just like this strange half-sister who is at least half a mother.

And more of a mother than Marilyn can ever remember having. She lets Ophelia guide her up, and to the side of the little clear plastic bassinet where her sister has taped pictures and notes – stupid, to do that for a baby who is blind, deaf, and has nothing to see or hear or think with. That slices at her insides, but Ophelia isn’t going to let her loose until she looks. Marilyn doesn’t want to think about what’s waiting when she does.

“Let’s count to three, then it’s time to put down your hands and open your eyes. See her, hold her, and give her a name. Then we can put the cap back on.”

She isn’t going to give up. Marilyn pretends she’s high, so swaddled in heroin’s warm blissful hug that everything – even this – is only a dream,  and  they count together.


Ophelia isn’t going to give up. Marilyn knows that.  She  pens her eyes, and glances at the places where there’s no skull, and emptiness stares up at her. It helps to focus on the perfect tiny face, and pretend it really is just a doll.  She doesn’t say so, because Ophelia will try to force her to see a real live baby.

Marilyn looks, but she won’t let herself feel. Not even when she holds the little warm bundle.

She used to have lifelike baby dolls – that’s all this is. A toy.

“Time to give her a name, Marilyn.”

“Damned nosy kid.” She just wants Ophelia off her back. Out of her face.

“That would make a lousy name. You can do better.”

She tries to think of something – anything to get Ophelia to  shut the hell up and let Marilyn keep the fantasy that smooths out the hurts and fills the empty places.

There’s a lavender band around the edge of the blanket, and on the cuffs of the baby’s sleeper. She thinks that reminds her of something, but she can’t remember what. It doesn’t matter. It’s an answer.

“Lavender. Her name is Lavender.”

Maybe it will be enough to make Ophelia leave her alone, so she can escape into her dream-world again. She only needs a few minutes alone –

“Miss Morgan?”

Marilyn knows the doctor’s voice; she has an unmistakable accent. Warm and soft, like the gauzy feeling after shooting up. But now, there’s something darker lacing it, like poison,  and Marilyn holds the broken doll of a baby close, rocking it. She won’t turn to look at the doctor. She’s just a little girl with her toy. Nothing else.

It doesn’t stop the next words from shattering her fantasy.

“She can’t live much longer than another day or two. Her breathing is failing. I know you haven’t been ready till now, but the donation papers need to be signed before she dies, if her organs are going to have the maximum positive impact -”

“I need to use the bathroom.” Marilyn stands up too fast; her head seems to take longer than the rest of her. She presses the baby – Lavender – toward her sister; Ophelia opens her arms, cooing senselessly to the blind deaf brainless little thing. She doesn’t look suspicious, and the doctor doesn’t know Marilyn well enough to guess she’s planning her escape.

She grabs her purse and leaves them there. She can feel her heroin kit through the denim.

Maybe it’s wrong. She’s a mother now. But Marilyn has to get away from here. Somewhere with no broken baby daughters, no broken places in herself, no papers to sign and pieces of her doll given to all the mothers of all those other broken baby dolls, because those ones could be fixed, but hers was broken forever –

She remembers Brad. This is his broken baby doll, too, but he left her here alone with it the same night they made it. He’s gone forever – safe.  Just like she wants to be.

She goes into the ladies’ room, all the way to the far stall. She caresses the shape of her kit with one hand while latching the door closed with the other. She can almost feel the gauziness waiting for her, calling to her.

Brad escaped into the gauziness forever.

Marilyn sits down, opens the purse, and pulls out her kit.

She can escape, too.



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