The Possession of The Puppets

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“This is a Rubik’s Cube,” Charlie holds the toy up to my face so I can see.
“I know what it is, genius.” I roll my eyes.
“No need to lash out like that,” he frowns. “Geez, if you want a job here, I’d appreciate it if you’d respect the mind-numbing toys on my desk.” I wouldn’t really consider a Rubik’s Cube mind-numbing, but whatever Charlie wants...
“Let me guess,” I say, picking up a yoyo and bouncing it up and down. “You don’t really do much work.”
“How’d you guess?” he grins.
Charlie is in his early twenties, and for someone who went to college for psychology, he sure seems like he’s in his own little world half the time. After graduating from college, he opened up his own little antique shop, which nobody could quite understand, due to the fact that he really is a smart guy and he majored in something that could possibly turn into a great job. The shop is cool, but God only know where he gets all the stuff. I mean, a guy his age can’t possibly have collected all that vintage junk in twenty years.
The thing about Charlie is that he just doesn’t seem to care anymore. Don’t get me wrong, he does sell his stuff, but he mainly sits at his desk and plays with his shiny new toys, including his latest transformer, a Chinese finger trap, and the most recent iPod...but mostly the Chinese finger trap. He’s not so organized, and because his family won’t help, and his sister (also known as Allis, my best friend) keeps complaining about it, I decided to help...well, that and that fact that maybe I like him a little more than I should...or a lot more...whatever. He’s twenty-two, I’m nineteen. It’s just a small age gap. It’s just a small crush...sort of.
“Look,” I say, “I’m offering to help you out, but you seriously need to work with me here. I don’t care if you play with your toys, but you have to do something productive.” I sigh as he gets a piece of gum out of the gumball machine and starts chewing.
“This is productive. First of all, it sharpens your jaw. I bet you didn’t know that.” He smiles. God, I like him so much, but he’s so frustrating. “Hey, come on. Lighten up.”
I shake my head and look around. “I’m surprised you even have all this junk organized. Where the heck did you get it all?”
“The truth?” he asks, then hops onto the counter in front of his desk, slides toward me, and pulls me close so he can whisper. I stumble into his arms and blush. “They come here themselves.”
All romantic and excited feelings that had rushed toward me now fell away, along with his grip on my arms. I step back. “What the heck? Did you steal this stuff or something?”
“No. Why would you even suggest that?” Charlie calmly shakes his head.
“Well then why are you lying to me?” I cross my arms and narrow my eyes.
He frowns and creases his eyebrows. I always find it cute when he does that. “I am not.”
“Well then tell me who brings them here. Even if these things could come to life, it’s not like a Madonna legwarmer is going to get up and walk,” I say, picking up a hot pink legwarmer that says MADONNA in obnoxiously bold letters down the side.
“I think it’s the puppets.”
“What?” I look around. Most of the merchandise in the store is vintage eighties stuff. I wouldn’t really consider it antique, but it sure is retro. “I didn’t know you had puppets.”
Charlie’s eyes shift, then light up. “Come on, I’ll show you.” He takes his keys from his belt loop and brings me to a closet door in the back of the shop.
“I didn’t even know this door existed,” I muse.
“Gee, even before you applied for a job, you came in here so much. I’d expect you to know the place top to bottom.”
I blush. It’s true. I would always go in there after school in high school, and this past year I finally hocked up the courage to ask for a job. Truth be told, I don’t know the place as well as I should, but I do know Charlie from top to bottom. I liked to study him after a stressful day. He has these dimples that only show when he is truly amused. All fake smiles don’t get the dimples. I also learned that he has a tiny freckle shaped like a heart between his thumb and forefinger. And when he’s depressed, his sandy hair flops into his eyes, rather than staying pushed up over his head. No. I will not think like that when I have to be squeezed up against him in a storage closet stuffed with puppets.
“The puppets,” he says, waving his hand over them.
“They’re creepy,” I say.
He puts an arm around me and squeezes. I go rigid. He looks at me. “Is this okay?”
I nod. It’s more than okay. It’s perfect.
He smiles. “Good.”
I look at the glassy eyes of the puppets and clear my throat. “Why haven’t you sold these?”
“I tried, but they keep coming back. And ever since I locked them in the closet, they haven’t bothered me.”
“What do you mean?”
“No new antique junk. No new eighties junk.”
“Why didn’t you just burn them? Then they wouldn’t be here at all,” I say.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I never thought about that.”
“We should do it,” I say as we walk out into the store.
“Okay,” he squeezes my hand.
*
The fire is huge, and I feel my breath catch in my throat as the flames cast shadows across the ground. Light and darkness play across our faces. Charlie and I haul a huge box full of puppets to the edge of the fire and look at each other.
“Ready?” he asks.
“On three,” I nod.
There is a short pause.
“One,” I breathe.
“Two,” he opens the box.
“Three!” we yell in unison, heaving the box as hard as we can. The puppets plummet to their death in the fire, and a heavy force knocks into my chest. Charlie catches me as I fall backwards, and we stumble to the ground. The wind picks up and the fire morphs as I see the face of a melting puppet. Awful screeching noises slice through the air, and Charlie covers my ears.
And suddenly...it is gone.
Ash and mucky soot lay in a pile before us. I abruptly relax my shoulders. It feels as if a weight has been lifted off my chest. Charlie sighs, throws his arms in the air, and laughs.
“You’re a genius!” he kisses me.
I fall back into the sand, and he smiles. “No more possessed puppets. I think for once, I’ll actually be able to relax in that store.”
I can’t help but return the smile.
“And I’m glad you’ll be there with me,” he whispers into my ear, kissing my neck.
My soul is flying.
I am complete.





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