Frau Drosselmeyer Loves the Summer
by Virginia M. Mohlere
Her story is always a Christmas tale -- Every Christmas an anniversary. She stepped on a mouse (gut-churning crack of spine, the pressure and release of its bursting under her foot); she followed the doll-turned-man through a world where food came to life to dance for her, jumped out of boxes to grin at her: fixed smiles, matte eyes, leaping too high, spinning too fast until she felt dizzy, undressed, even holding the Christmas-toy's hand under furs. Then the cocoa-man yanked his hand off, poured a cup for her from his arm. The coffee woman leaned over, and espresso flowed from her mouth. The tea persons shredded their skin into a pot of hot water. Clara shuddered, bowed, let the cups pile up. Bit back screams when the sandy-skinned marzipan people broke off their fingers, when the gingerbread children held their arms to her mouth. It turns her stomach now -- chocolate, cookies, tea. Anything sweet. She returned home with the doll-man, but not to reality -- the world subtly different: An ever-present uncle-to-be. A soldier-straight young man chewing walnuts like candy. He waited for her. From one Christmas to the next, he waited to kiss her. From one Christmas to the next until he gave her a ring. From one Christmas to the next to lead her out of church. Between Christmases, he stood behind her chair, staring with licorice-black eyes. To the sound of Christmas bells, she became Frau Drosselmeyer. (She learned the meaning of the awkward conversation with her mother.) In the morning, her godfather -- now her uncle -- smirked over his coffee, dropping sugar cubes (five, six) into his cup; chocolate buttons into his mouth. Winter to spring, he watched her belly for signs of a new generation to meddle with. But before he could bargain with mermaids or fairies, Clara woke to summer in a shaking house, Uncle's sharp cry from the basement. The body she uncovered next to the steam engine was black as iron (dull as dross, she thought, and don't laugh don't laugh), stiff as the clockwork dolls thrown against the wall. Hans-Peter turned to her, mouth dropping open in a long-toothed, silent howl. Clara sold the toy shop -- furniture and stock -- at a loss and marched back to her father's house. Hans-Peter took his old station behind her chair. He stands so silent that no one noticed when his legs began to fuse, jaw to harden. At Christmas, she will place him by the tree.
Virginia Mohlere lives in the swamps of Houston and writes with a fountain pen that is extinct in the wild. Her work has been seen in Cabinet des Fées, Fickle Muses, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, and MungBeing.
She says, "the mask that chose me is made of birch bark and white velvet, hung with grey pearls and black coral. I wear it on the inside. It is one of my true faces."
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