Extemporaneous bedtime stories told to K.
There was once a boy — me, in fact — who had an inflatable grandmother. She wasn’t my real grandmother. My real grandmother was a regular, non-inflatable person who got cancer and died. And then my grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s, came to believe that his wife had run away with another man in the building, who also got cancer and died.
I’m not sure if I’m explaining this right. The other man really did die from cancer, just like my grandmother, and no one ran away with anyone. But for some reason my grandfather believed otherwise, and it broke his heart. My father tried to convince him of the truth, but he wouldn’t listen. So it was then that my father came up with the idea to replace my grandmother with an inflatable doll.
Of course I didn’t understand any of this at the time because I was just a boy. Instead I pieced it together later, and my father filled in the gaps. All I knew at the time was that whenever we visited my grandfather, there would be an inflatable doll sitting on the couch and that I was supposed to call the doll Bubbie.
K: Was it a fuck doll?
M: Well, yes, only I didn’t understand that because I didn’t know what those things were. But, yes, it was an inflatable doll that you have sex with.
Anyway, my father or my grandfather, I don’t know which one, dressed up the doll to look like my grandmother. It had makeup on and wore the same clothes my grandmother wore.
I remember sitting in my father’s car in the parking lot of my grandfather’s building and having my father explain that Pop-Pop was really confused and that he missed Bubbie so much that he now had a doll that he thought of as her. He asked me to play along and say hello to the doll and call her Bubbie, and I said I would. After that we had a regular visit. We sat around eating danish like we always did, and talking about whatever we talked about, and sometimes my grandfather would direct comments to the doll, so we all turned to the doll to see what it would say, but of course it never said anything.
We had about a half dozen visits like this, and then one time we came and my grandmother… I mean the doll… wasn’t there. She was usually propped up on the couch. So I said, “Where’s Bubbie?” and my grandfather said she wasn’t feeling well and was still in bed. So I went to the bedroom to say hello, like I was supposed to do, and there I saw this terrible thing. She, it, was in bed, on her side of the bed, completely deflated.
K: Was she dead?
M: Well, she wasn’t dead because she had never been alive, but I knew she was broken.
K: How old were you?
M: About six. Anyway, it’s weird because it was actually kind of upsetting. I had come to think of the doll as my grandmother. I knew it wasn’t a living thing, and I knew that my grandfather was crazy, but I had gotten used to the doll being in the place of my grandmother, who I missed terribly, and now the doll was deflated. I didn’t know if she, it, the doll had a tear that could be repaired, or if her… what do you call it? The place where you blow her up?
K: The blow hole.
M. I didn’t know if that rubber cap thing had come off, and I didn’t think it was proper to look, the same way that I never would have looked under my real grandmother’s garments. I wouldn’t have done that even if I had found her dead. It was really strange because as I stood there, I was hit with this wave of pretend sadness. Or maybe it was real sadness. Anyway, I didn’t tell anybody what I’d seen, and then we left, and then my grandfather was put in a nursing home for people with dementia. The end.
K: This is another story that makes me want to fucking kill myself.
M: Thanks, sweetheart. The end.
There was a once a man who lost his favorite pen. He looked everywhere but couldn’t find it. Desperate, he convinced himself that his cat had probably taken the pen into the space behind the pipes in the bathroom, which was accessible through a panel that would sometimes fall open. So he crawled into the space to find it.
Soon it became too dark to see, so he ran his hands along the cement floor in search of the pen. Strangely the space seemed much larger than it should have been — larger even than his apartment. This made no sense, so he told himself that he must have been crawling in circles. It didn’t seem that he had been and yet what else explained the size of the space?
As he continued on he suddenly found himself out in the open, on his hands and knees. He jumped to his feet and looked around. There was no sun and yet there was light. There were no clouds or trees or wind, and the ground was made of something like rubber. Strangest of all, there was no sound. He shouted as loud as he could but couldn’t hear his own voice.
In the distance he saw a mountain and decided to walk toward it. When he arrived he discovered that it wasn’t really a mountain but a pile the size of a mountain. And this pile consisted entirely of pens like the pen he had lost.
He walked on and came to other mountains made of other things: keys, wallets, socks.
He walked on and on, for what would have been many days were there days in this place. He never tired nor did he need to eat or sleep.
And then, out of the blue, though there was no blue in this place, he spotted something in the distance moving toward him. At first it was a just speck, but the speck grew larger as it approached, until at last he saw that it was an animal of some kind. A dog! It was a dog!
This came as a shock, but there was a bigger shock still to come.
He knew this dog. It was the dog he had as a child. It had run away and had never returned; it had been lost, and now at last here it was, coming toward him.
There was once a man who went on a long flight into space. He had no reason for doing this other than that he was bored, and sadly he was even more bored in space, which consisted, in the main, of nothing.
One day he noticed a nice little planet and decided to get out and stretch his legs. A group of half-naked human-like creatures ran through the fields eating nuts and berries and cavorting like they were at a sixties rock festival.
Some of the women were cute, and he figured he might see some action, given that he was an interstellar traveler with a slick-looking space ship. However, as he approached the group, he noticed that the women all smelled like tofu buried for months in the back of a refrigerator.
There once was a helicopter who was different from all the other helicopters. Unlike the others, he wasn’t conscious when he was on.
The moment the other helicopters were turned on, it was as though they would wake from hibernation, from oblivion. Then when they were turned off, they would enter a state of zero consciousness, as though they had died.
But this particular helicopter had no awareness of being turned on, of his propellers spinning, of rising through the air and flying over the city. Instead he would come to life the moment he was turned off.
So he would be, say, on top of some building, doing nothing, just sitting there, and then someone would climb inside him and suddenly everything would go blank, and then, in what seemed like the next moment, he would be in a completely different place, with no idea how he had gotten there. Because of course he had no way of knowing that he was a helicopter and that he could fly and that he did fly, and that this was how he had come to be wherever he would find himself.
There was once a man who signed up for Facebook. He kept hearing about it, particularly at work but also in the news and in magazines, and so one day he went to the website and filled out the form. Unfortunately he didn’t know anyone to invite to be his Facebook friend. He was friendly with some people at work, but they weren’t really his friends, and anyway he had no way of knowing for sure if they had Facebook accounts, and he didn’t feel comfortable asking.
So each day, although he had no Facebook friends, he would fill in the text box where you’re supposed to write what’s on your mind. The first time he did this he was excited to see his thoughts appear on the page, but soon the excitement wore off and he was left with a feeling of emptiness — or really, a feeling of no feeling in particular. Still he returned each day and wrote whatever he was thinking at that moment, up to a maximum of four-hundred and twenty characters, which was the most the text box could hold.
In time he came to think of the text box as a journal that could only hold one entry at a time, like a journal written on an Etch-A-Sketch. This appealed to him for reasons he never understood, although he had many theories about it. Each time he thought of a new theory, he would write it in the text box.
K: Is this true?
M: What do you mean is it true?
K: Is it a true story? Is it you?
There was once a boy who lived with his parents in a house in the rocks. It wasn’t really a house, it was more like a cave, but it was a home and it was where they lived together.
One day there was a terrible flood and everything got washed away and the boy got washed away and he ended up in a place he’d never been.
He saw many things there but didn’t know what they were or how they had come to be. This frustrated him and made him confused and afraid, and so he kept trying to go back to the place he was from, but that place was underwater.
The boy’s name was Bill Gates, only he wasn’t the Bill Gates who is famous today. He was just a boy named Bill Gates who had lost everything, including his parents.
As the years passed, the boy slowly adjusted to the new place, so much so that he began to forget the place he was from, which each year seemed to sink farther underwater.
K: What happened to his parents?
M: He never saw them again.
K: So we don’t know if they’re alive?
K: Make something up.
M: What? That would be lying.
K: No, make it part of the story.
M: Sweetie, I’m telling you what happened. I know it’s sad but at least it’s the truth. The End.