Vagabond Mannequin by K.B. Carle

Vagabond Mannequin 

Vagabond Mannequinnew2



1. You are alone in a room of many. You are without the father who loved you once. You slip into cramped spaces until you find yourself outside. You pose as a stranger’s daughter. A child playing with a friend. Someone’s older sister. The roles you play lead you back to the train tracks, back to your father. You climb on the steel rails with a promise that you’ll jump off as soon as the train comes. There are so many words that appear in your tears, and you think of all the places you’ll go, the forms you’ll take. You wonder is this feeling the definition of:

4.  The nickname your father whispers when he calls to you at night. Hint: He gives you this nickname because of the sounds that escape your flared nostrils while he plays the role of your guardian, keeping vigil by your bedside while you sleep.

5.  This type of snake is known to be one of the world’s deadliest. It has a coffin-shaped head and is faster than most people can run. Hint: you whisper the name of this snake when your mother’s shadow extends under the frame of your bedroom door.

9. The reporters swarm around you, wanting answers about the man whose torso is somewhere between the tracks and wheels.

Whose head no one can find. What’s the phrase that mixes with their spit to dismiss this whole occurrence while you bite your tongue until it bleeds?

10. The fights between your parents were at first verbal battlegrounds. Now, your house is a war zone and you are forced to dodge chairs and your favorite rag doll with curls made of yarn tied with ribbons that are stained with drool. If you manage to escape, you climb to the roof of your house, become a statue poised to perfection, and wait for someone to notice you. You decide that you would like to be a person who wanders to new places without obligation. You want to be a:

12.  The title of the person who pretends you don’t exist, until you do. Who chases you through tight hallways, your footsteps a symphony that rises and falls. Who steals patches of your hair for safe keeping. The blood she summons when cracks form beneath your surface.

13.  You see the beautiful women made of fiberglass in the windows of department stores that make your father scratch the stubble of his beard. You know his itches surface when he’s nervous, nails scraping the pinprick hairs you nuzzle into when your mother finally drinks herself to sleep. You beg him to take you inside, and he does, and you hold his hand the entire time while you guide him to the beautiful women who refuse to acknowledge your presence. Your father squeezes your hand and tells you in a voice he uses to soothe your boo-boos and bedtime stories that these women are:

14.  Describe yourself in this moment. Hint: This used to be your favorite word because you heard it pass between your father’s lips to describe you once, until you looked up the definition.

15.  You are surrounded by women who smile and offer you paper cones filled with water. Their eyes stare at your broken arm, how your left eye swells and weeps. They tell you your mother is with the police. That they are sorry about your father. They give a name to all the things your mother has done and that name is:



2.  There is only one book in your home with a red gloss cover, the pages filled with columns of words printed in black. A book you surrender yourself to until your mother discovers you’d rather be reading than listening to her contradictory critiques of the daughter she never wanted. What is the name of the book your mother steals from you, whose pages curl before red flames puncture its center in a fireplace you never knew could generate such heat?

3.  What’s the one word you will never say because you know if you release it into the world, you will have to face the reality that your father was not the man you wanted or needed him to be, that he abandoned you knowing the life you would live without him?

4.  Think of a word you would use to describe your life. Hint: Think of all the times your mother held your body suspended upside down in the air, your world once in color now a shade of red and silence before going out. The long hours your father spends with his Glock 19 in his lap. You shouldn’t know so much about guns at ten years old, so you imagine his gun is the family cat you call Butters.

6. How old is your father the night he takes you to the train tracks? The night you could hear the train in the distance but your father continued to back away from you with a smile that disappears in a mixture of smoke and light, your screams swallowed by the shrieks of metal?

7.  When your mother forces you to stand in the corner of the living room with your back turned to her, your feet stacked inside the mouth of a bucket filled with ice, this is a form of:

8.  The title of the person who smells of discarded peanut shells you find tucked between the floorboards of your home. Who lets you ride on his shoulders when your eyes are different shades of purple, swollen, and tender.

11. Your mother tells you to go outside and pick a stick. When you return, you pull down your pants because you know this is what you’re supposed to do without question. You feel the sting of tree bark as it knits into the welts that form. This is the definition of:



















KB Carle


K.B. Carle lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned her MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency program in Kentucky. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Lost Balloon, Twist in Time Literary Magazine, Milk Candy Review, Cheap Pop, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. She can be found online at


(Next: I endured it. It was fine by Allie Marini)

(Previous: Landscape with Wild Dogs by Christine Taylor)

Feel like submitting? Check out our submission guidelines


Image: Horace Pippin CC1.0