So excited to have won the Great Jones Street Five minute flash fiction contest last week!
by Kathryn Kettle
The last days of the karakuri man were more peopled than the hundreds that came before. His family came from all around the world, though he would rather they had not. He had been making toys for over seventy years, working through the sawdust cloud of his workshop. Pushing his foot up and down on the lathe. A thousand automata. Men dancing with fat ladies, a child wailing for its toy, a lover escaping from his mistress’ window. Each handcrafted drama for no one but himself. Long ago people had stopped buying his toys, but still he made them. And how they would move with the wind, the slightest tap and his shelves would come to life. The walls carried the scent of sandalwood and soft paint brushes, white spirit.
His daughter held his hand. His son, grandson, their children. They had no need of his creations, the phone in the pocket of his great niece distracted her from the wonder of his passing. Her mother moistened his lips, when a man in the pristine black suit knocked, bowed. Not family. A dozen other black suited men followed him bringing a large wooden crate, about the size of an old television, which they placed at the foot of the bed. Carefully negotiating the automaton inside into the stifling air. The doll was no bigger than his grand-niece’s head. The suited man wound the clicking mechanism, stretched the string on the bow the doll held. In no time the little archer nodded its serene head, pulled a minuscule arrow from the sheath, loaded the string, slid his smiling head up and with his two-hundred year old smile fired the little bow with as life-like a move as could ever be seen. The metal tinkled on the floor and the grand-niece wondered, her phone still in her lap. Unaided by man, arrow after arrow fired into the air until finally all was quiet. Her great uncle’s folded features were at rest, paint still at his fingertips.
As the suited men bowed, packed up the doll and, his grand-niece picked up a toy from the shelf, a small girl who looked as like her as any creation, dancing to music no one could hear.