When the sun rose in the west on the fourth consecutive day with still nary a passerby, Mannequin knew without question that something was truly amiss. The avenue beyond Mannequin’s window display had remained pedestrian-free both night and day with only the occasional scampering rat or seven becoming more and more commonplace.
There simply was no way to put things right. Where to start? First and foremost, the sun rose in the east, of course, just as it always had, as ages of sailors and squinting astronomers knew all too well. But from Mannequin’s staid perspective, the sun, being a mere reflection of itself on the facades across the vacant avenue—Stayfit and Dunkin’ Donuts—that burning furnace of life-giving light seemingly originated from the opposite direction. Not a concern. Mannequin had never brooked travel plans and so the distinction of east versus west mattered not one iota. What was a great deal of concern to Mannequin, however, was that while its torso was clothed in a delicate sea blue Italian wool knit V-neck coupled with a black cotton tee, there was no escaping the rather embarrassing fact that its nether regions and legs remained as bare as the day the machines lathed them. The madras plaid shorts which should have completed Mannequin’s ensemble, had, for the past four days, stayed half-folded but mostly crumpled on the window display floor mere inches from the toes of Mannequin’s cold, enameled feet.
There was one saving grace. While there could be no denying the reality that the store’s staff and shoppers and window gawkers had all become but a memory, still the Muzak played on. Day in and day out, every hour upon the hour had been marked by the dulcet passage of Moon River. Instrumental. At first disturbing—and especially so from the run beginning around the two hundred and first to the three hundred and thirty-ninth play-through, for reasons best left not reflected upon here—it became something akin to a murdered heart tucked beneath the floorboards. But then, near the diminishing notes of either the six hundred and twenty-first or third time, a switch flipped in Mannequin—figuratively, of course, as Mannequin was a mannequin and possessed no circuitry—and an enlightenment came to pass. An epiphany of sorts. Yes, somewhere around about week four or so, that inescapable repetition of Mancini bestowed upon Mannequin a comforting affirmation of anchorage and certainty in a world otherwise untethered and dully chaotic.
Three hundred and seventeen days passed before a young man appeared one morning, sneezing and coughing, his hands forever in motion to wave off the dusty air as he sighed at the sight of it all. He didn’t stay. He cursed under his breath before taking up Mannequin’s crumpled shorts and then he was gone. Two days following that, a woman and man stood behind Mannequin and shared a lengthy conversation that covered so many things so far above and beyond Mannequin’s ken. Talk of ‘diminishing’ this and that and ‘staff layoffs’ and ‘return to real life’. So much jargon. ‘Death.’ It all made no sense. None of it. With one exception. The man said his loneliness had been ‘like a cold blanket.’
The reflected sun rose in the west as always one clear morning as a small girl rushed to the window and almost smeared it with an ice cream cone in her frenetic approach.
“Naked!” she screamed, sticky fingers stabbing and smearing the thick glass in her excited discovery of Mannequin’s still nude repose.
If only Mannequin had possessed the ability, it would have thrown its head back and laughed.