by Ben Banyard
We were shocked by how lifelike the three dummies were; walking past the shop window the mannequins’ gazes seemed to leer at you. They were, of course, dressed in the boutique’s very latest fashions.
Zeitgeist Mode was one of Carnaby Street’s coolest places, and Serge and I felt like celebrities when we worked there. Its reputation was built by the owner, a theatrical little Albanian named Defrim. He was always secretive about his plans for the latest window display; he prided himself in making it eye-catching and worthy of conversation.
That morning Serge and I got in just before opening. Defrim was sitting in the dark on a stool just back from the window. He had deep bags under his eyes, which sparkled as he savoured the reactions of passers-by.
“You like my new work, no?” said Defrim, his gaze never shifting from the window.
Serge and I exchanged shrugs.
“Might be the best yet.” I said, meaning it.
Defrim grunted. “What about you, Serge?”.
He cleared his throat.
“Well, it’ll cause a stir. I’m not sure I’d say I actually like it, but –”
Defrim’s stool crashed to the floor; for a little guy he cut a menacing figure as he hurtled towards Serge.
“You don’t like it, huh? And who are you? Small-time? Huh? What do you know?”
His face was puce, and was positioned directly below Serge’s chin. But Serge was cool.
“I was going to say that I don’t personally like it but I can see it will get noticed. People will talk about it. I mean, they look real, don’t they? Those…mannequins.”
He moved towards them as he spoke. Defrim followed. I was keen to get into the back room to put the kettle on but made myself stick around to see how the situation developed.
Serge was leaning close to one of the dummies. Suddenly, his eyes widened.
He was pointing at a female dummy. She was blonde, posed with a casual hand on her hip.
“Defrim, this one’s crying.”
My stomach lurched, hump-backed bridge-style. I had to get closer, to see it with my own eyes. Sure enough, the mannequin’s eyes were glistening and a solitary tear meandered down her cheek.
We turned to look at our boss. The colour was fading from his face. I could almost see him carefully slotting words together in his mind.
I heard the staccato click of approaching high heels. They paused briefly outside, before continuing along Carnaby Street and out of earshot.
“I’m going to let them go. I promise.”
Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, where he writes poetry and short fiction. His work has appeared in Shortlist Magazine, Sarasvati, The Stare’s Nest and Fry Your Friends, amongst others.