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mary decarlo

september 27, 2023


hen we saw the hot pink Barbie branded Corvette sitting in our neighbor’s trash pile, we hesitated. Aggie and Tim were our summertime neighbors, kids who lived next door three months out of the year with their grandma, our full-time neighbor. Aggie liked to say their parents re-homed them, first to boarding school and then to our little slice of nowhere nothing. They came from Boston, and, to them, everything was wicked cool or wicked rude or just plain wicked. Tim tended to start fist fights and Aggie was a nihilist. Ask her what she was up to and you’d get a reply like, “re-uptaking my inhibitors.” She was always flaunting her recent diagnosis, psychiatrist, and prescription.

Two and a half seconds were spent speed thinking through potential pitfalls, when I saw my little sister’s tanned forearm shoot out and grab the Corvette by the windshield. “Let’s go,” she said, and we went fast up through the trees lining the divide between our houses and behind our concrete patio. Beth, that’s my sister, put the Corvette down between us in the mud. “Careful!” I said, pulling up some grass and laying it down to give the car a cushion so it wouldn’t get all dirty the same minute it was in our possession. Beth never thought about consequences. That’s a big sister’s job. She ran inside to grab our Target bag full of dolls and I checked out the specs. This was the kind of car I could see myself in a few years down the road with my future boyfriend and future best friend on the way to a party or fancy dinner or maybe even my job as a nurse or flight attendant or, hell, what else does Barbie do? Maybe a mother. But probably not. We didn’t have the Dream House and neither did Aggie and Tim. Their grandmother’s basement was full of slot machines, maybe a dozen of them. We used to have sleepovers there with bags full of quarters, but that was last summer. Beth didn’t feel comfortable sleeping there anymore, but I missed dreaming of grapes and cherries. “James wants to ride shotgun,” Beth said, pulling our K-mart version of Ken from the bag and accidentally pantsing him in the process. “Be decent,” I said readjusting his lime green trousers. We changed him into a gold mesh crop top which seemed sporting for a ride in the convertible.

I heard it before I felt it. A rubber band pulled back sharp snapping against my shoulder. Tim had ambushed us and was hurling accusations about us being thieves. “I know you’re poor as shit, Meatosaurus, but stealing our grandmother’s trash is wicked degenerate. I’m calling the cops.” Meatosaurus, Boneless Chicken, Vegorama Vag – all nicknames I’d acquired after boasting to Tim that Tuesdays were Domino’s Pizza nights in our household. He pulled the rubber band back again and snapped Beth’s arm. “It’s not even yours unless you’re telling me right now you play with dollies,” Beth said. “In my bedroom, I’ve got a brand-new BB gun. Think now’s a good time to test how far it can shoot.” “I’m gonna tell Aggie you said that,” I said. “And?” Tim said, “Lotta good it’ll do you with a BB in your ass.” Beth charged him with both hands, pushing him to the grass. “That’s for threatening my sister,” she said before side-swiping him with her fist, “and that’s for what you said about me when I warned you to stop coming into our yard.” Weeks earlier, he’d called her the c-word. I didn’t defend her because I didn’t know what it meant. I had to check the dictionary which embarrassed me because I’m older and should know more than Beth, who obviously knew good and well what it meant.

Beth looked down at his big, scared, stupid eyes and let her drool hang down long and sticky and slop onto his face. Tim’s eyes shifted from scared and stupid to animal. I ran up the concrete patio, perched on the railing, lifted the Corvette above my head and threw it, not at Tim, but on the ground by Tim. Then I jumped off the railing like a wrestler and stomped it like the big boys stomp in WWE. The plastic flew and a little piece of pink side-mirror cracked off and hurtled straight down Tim’s throat. He gasped, and he made the universal sign for choking, and he swung at me, but he couldn’t catch me because I was fast. I was at the age where girls are faster than boys and Beth was even faster than me because she was superior to me in every way, still is, and we ran away laughing and we let him crawl home. He was fine, the doctor extracted the mirror, and he was on solids again in no time. But we shamed him bad and shame is something that doesn’t have such an easy fix.

That night, while he was still in the ER, we took some Wite-Out and Sharpies and wrote “TIM = BUNT” on his skateboard. We figured bunt for the boy version of the c-word. Aggie saw us do it and she just side-smiled. “Are you gonna tell,” we asked through the smoke rings she blew at us. “This,” she laughed, “has me approaching anti-depressed.” What a weirdo, we thought, but she did have a pissant brother who couldn’t be making her day-to-day life a joy ride. “Hey, Aggie,” Beth said, “why’d you throw out such a cool toy?” “Cause I knew you bitches would put it to good use,” she said. I’d never been called a bitch before. I didn’t know how I felt about it, but I looked to Beth, and she was grinning, so I took it in stride. Aggie gathered her hair into a rubber band, flashing us her earrings which I saw for the first time were silver sequined Barbie heels. “Wicked,” I said before I grabbed Beth’s hand and we dashed.

barbie girls

Mary DeCarlo is a writer living in Queens with her husband and cat. Her work has been in Identity Theory, Gone Lawn, HAD, Rejection Letters, Capsule Stories, and Variety Pack. Her work has been selected for Best Small Fictions 2022. She also writes plays which can be found on the New Play Exchange. For more, her website is or you can find her lurking on Twitter @merrymarymare.

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