Herman the Fool – a short story
By Karen S. Cole
It’s sheer luck when you stand out completely, all of your entire life.
“Hello,” the little dummy seems to say to you as you slowly move closer to it. What does it really look like? It has hair, teeth, clothing, and a mystery to it. There is poking out of black, yellow and green hair. It does not seem to look like anything, sort of sexless, a clown that could be anything. Is it really a “gay” dummy? Yes, but no, it seems to scream somehow it was once male at you. And it seems once – it altered itself to its basic soul.
Yet you know you have met this person before, perhaps as a woman once. Pushing past the forces of nature, realizing you might get caught and thrown into a mental institution, suddenly you wake up and see bright lights all around. You are at a simple store, a shop of sorts. As you look around, the imagery resolves into a woman at a puppet store.
Fascinating, isn’t it? You are staring at the dummy in your hand. You have picked me up well, the dummy’s lips say, in your own mind. You are now that woman, but it is all in the past, as human life on the face of the planet is over. Well, maybe in a few years.
“Pick me up, a woman of my soul,” it told her as she lifted it to her lips.
“I’ll take it,” Sandra sighed at the cash register.
“No problem. Just make sure you take care of Herman when he comes home with you. He always takes up too much space.”
“Well, the little fellow does seem small for that.”
Easing away from the cash register, Sandra pushed herself out the door. She now had a new friend for her collection of Pierrot dolls, she knew to herself, heading to her own apartment downtown. She could not be a lesbian any longer.
She was too old and fat – mattered – to her previous lover any longer. And she knew she had to die. Her lover had gone out the door once and simply never returned. She was a nobody. Her lover had often given her this feeling, partying on her sometimes.
She had never really been a lesbian, Sandra smiled to herself. She had known the only heaven was in the afterlife. But her body groaned and creaked as she made it go up the stairs after she keyed into her small but dingy apartment building.
She made it up the steps to the top floor where she was forced to live. It had taken a long time to find the small studio apartment, as demand was incessant in the area in which she lived, far away from the boyfriend who had always made fun of her, in an occasionally fun way. He had been an actual man, before the lesbian.
He was a Daddy. He had his own kids earlier or had made it up. Anyway, he was long gone far away, due to his own personal war with her over poverty, over the lack of children due to her fat, over life.
Far away from the man, she had almost driven into killing her. The man had interesting hair too, like this Pierrot doll, but it had been all black and shady, spikes in the morning, feathers at night like her other lover’s hair had been.
There had never been any such “love” going on. Still, Sandra smiled. She knew now she had no such “soul,” but it had been fun playing let’s pretend.
Some days, she wondered if he had murdered her. He had driven her into becoming an overweight lesbian, or not. Was it her fault or his? It was a “he says she says,” and he had eventually found another such somebody. She thought maybe she had said something, and he had taken offence. She now weighed enough to die.
She gazed longingly at the dummy, as though expecting the mystery event. But she smiled her own smile as she held back against the heart attacks. They were bursting her chest out inside. And she was holding her 1001 Pierrot doll.
For you see, her apartment was stuffed with Pierrot dolls, the Crying Clown, the smiling clown, the clown everywhere. She had built small wooden shelves from kits. These were her children, for she had aborted only one once, but there were none available now. She was going to join the only child she never had, in outer space.
He was worried, the little Herman, for her. She shook him. Then she shook him hard. “Say you’re sorry. Say you’re sorry, Daddy, for telling me there is an afterlife, and that you were God. There is too a hell in this life called War.” The doll shook, oh how it was shaken. Suddenly, Sandra noticed Herman’s little face was cracked. Ouch!
She had broken her favourite pastime doll. Not only, that, but her death sequence was also starting to seem a little pathetic. Pant pant pant, hold the doll. Look at the doll. Pant pant pant did I waste my time back there? Yes, I did.
“Daddy,” she murmured to herself, “Daddy, you are broken now. Come to my home,” she intoned as the melodious…mommy. She placed Herman neatly on a shelf. She couldn’t or didn’t want to remember any of their other names.
As she looked around, the place resounded with marching band dolls, sophisticated dolls, Barbie dolls, kewpie dolls with their little blond heads, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls which were stuffed with wonderful candy hearts by her as she had sewed them in herself, plastic dolls made by anyone whatsoever, purple and green ceramic dolls and some which were merely other kinds of clown dolls than Pierrot dolls.
The camera that was her eyes refocused on her brain. Something had been in there long ago, recording anything as she slumped to the floor, falling into her fat, having whittled down to the skinniest person in the universe. She smiled at me, thought Herman. She had finally gotten on SSI and her own apartment was all hers. It happened the very day she noticed she was dying.
Now I am home at last. I hope, he thought to himself. He hopped up and immediately walked over to her. “Godspeed, my dear, but I don’t know where you went. You have probably disintegrated. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I would say altogether. Now we can party down. Yet somehow, I would have liked to get to know you, my sweetheart, my…” Herman stopped, and he saw a small glow surround his chest muscles. He gulped and realized the worst fate had befallen him. This could not be Heaven.
He looked up at the ceiling. He looked down at the extremely filthy carpet with trash all over it. He looked at the peeling, cracked walls. He felt at home, and extremely brave. Then all resolved into a perfectly livable apartment. He was happy.
There was absolutely nothing left but dead silence.
Herman crouched down next to the dead body and wept. For he was stuck forever, in an insignificant little apartment, blithering onto a rotting corpse. He had been from England once, and the teeny weenie little white tag said it out loud so strongly. In tiny hard-to-read blurry print. He couldn’t help that someone else had been his Maker. He couldn’t help even being the grand old fag of England, or whatever he was…what was he?
Many doors slammed downstairs to let little him know this: that he had only his survival urge and his urge to have fun somehow left. There was no little boy to play with; there was no errant ear in which to fathom the obscurity called time. There was no Christophophoror Robbins, no Winnie the Pal. No one, no one – him.
He even tried mounting it, but there was nothing there.
As it grew, over the years, he groped in boring devotion to the nonexistent dead woman. But as he was unable to do anything to bring her back alive from the dead, they finally killed him. Bugs, weasels, cockroaches, and tiny spirochetes: all ate him. Mildew really, but he had to remain alive to suffer through it all. Finally, he just keeled over already. And the gods were not there to pronounce his fate.
Who are they? No one you can touch or stop or talk to, nothing at all – but the only way that figures.