Screaming Clay

(Written 23 April 1995; typed up 26 September 1995.)

It was time to kill the dolls.

We started with the gingerbread man, just to warm up. Ripped his struggling little legs off and fed them to each other, still hot and fresh. Delicious. We left his head attached to his torso and propped him up against a book so he could watch, his raisin mouth gaping in comical horror.

Giggling, Sally picked up the Barbie that Mom gave her for Christmas. The plastic arms wriggled. My GI Joe blanched and tried to find a defensible position behind the toy chest, but I saw him and grabbed him up. He whacked ineffectually at my hand with his plastic M-16.

I tugged at his head ’til it came off. The Barbie was still kicking, screeching almost inaudibly, “Put me down! Let me go!” I held the GI Joe head, eyes gone glassy, in front of her struggling legs and she punted it across the room. Sally giggled again and started snipping off limbs with Mom’s gardening shears.

Our little brother Timmy had spent days making a bunch of deformed almost-human dolls from modeling clay. They couldn’t run fast; we dropped a dictionary on one of them (it flattened with a satisfying splat), and rolled another flat with a rolling pin from the kitchen. Sally used Mom’s letter opener on the third. As she plunged the blade into the soft clay, it let out a piercing shriek that slowly faded into a gurgle.

“Mom must’ve heard that,” said Sally. “We better hurry and finish up.”

We both looked at Teddy, who was sitting quietly on the bookshelf watching us. He must have thought he was safe, being the oldest of the toys—he’d belonged to Mom when she was a girl. His ragged fur was coming out in patches, and he was blind in one eye. He saw us coming and tried to lumber away on twisted feet, but only succeeded in plunging to the floor.

Sally picked him up.

“You be Mom,” I told her, “and I’ll be Dad.” We each took one of Teddy’s arms, and pulled.


This came out of an exercise in which we drew a noun from one hat and an adjective from another, and wrote for about twenty minutes. The phrase we drew didn’t have to actually occur in the result; it was more a springboard than anything else. My phrase was, of course, “screaming clay.”

As with the other exercises I’m publishing here, this isn’t intended to be a complete story and hasn’t been revised at all (even for spelling or grammar) since writing. Though I edited it while I was originally writing it—crossing out phrases, making false starts, and so on.