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Mannequins on Pencil heels

Make-up, Mystique, Mannequins. Photo Copyright: Andrew Graeme Gould

Writing prompt: Make-up, Mystique…. and the Mannequins in the picture

Provided by: Pencilgirl,  a lovely fellow participant of the A to Z challenge.Visit her! And mega-thanks go to Andrew Graeme Gould for letting me use his photograph. I’m floored by his ability to capture people and places in the most intriguing of ways.

I have prompts for all of the letters now, but it would make my job easier if I had more. Please leave me prompts if you haven’t already! 🙂

Genre: Fiction/Flash


You pass me by and you don’t even stop to say hello. Not the lyrics of the Hank Snow song, honey. This is me, talking to you, walking on by, though I’m not allowed to.

Okay. I know you can’t hear me, girl about town in your fancy trench coat, because I’m talking in my head. But you’ve stopped to take a second look, and that thrills me and scares me at the same time. If you come any closer, I’m screwed. I’m good, but maybe I’m not as good as I told him I am.

Who him, you ask? No, don’t come any closer. I’ll tell you.

My mentor, the Director. A master at his art, a maker or breaker of actors’ fortunes. And if I survive this, I might get the lead this time. I don’t need more mystique, he says, nor more skills, or better make-up. What I need is discipline, the ability to follow instructions. And this is his way of making sure I have it.

So here I stand for each day this week, from sunrise to sunset, hoping I would not be discovered. The only other who knows my secret is the grizzly old shopkeeper, and he never looks at me. He closes for an afternoon siesta, and that made me choose him.

I cannot sweat though it is hot, cannot swat at a fly if it decides to dance on face, cannot blink when anyone is looking. I’m glad you looked away just now. I stand here surrounded by the murmurs of shoppers, the honks of traffic,  the smell of sausages cooking in the shop around the corner. Paint cracks on my lips and cheek, my eyes droop heavy with mascara, unseeing, yet seeing everything.

The Director passes by at lunch each day, just to see how I’m doing, you know. The first day he smiled as he strolled past, the kind of eyes-twisting-into-your-lower-stomach kind of smile that turn your insides to jelly. He had never smiled like that at me before, only at his flat-chested girlfriend.

You walk on, and I haven’t finished the story.

But I liked talking to you, you had the air of listening. Not like the Director (who  is my lover as well, but you already guessed as much).  He likes to be listened to, not the other way around.

Talk of the devil. There he is, strutting along the road to this shop, his red and black scarf flying, his jacket unbuttoned, hands in the pockets. His eyes fix by the mannequin across me as he walks, the one  I’ve replaced the last four days, full-sleeved black dress flying in the wind.

The director does not know that standing here, I’ve had time to think.

To my surprise, the shopkeeper felt moved enough by my plight to help me last night, and I told the make-up man I’ll  handle it myself for the day, an actress who can’t hustle her own make-up is not much of an actress.

So there stands the Director, winking at a plastic mannequin, while I stand a few steps behind him to the right.

Just look at him, his glasses on his nose, gray hair opening up over a bald spot.  The shopkeeper snorts and walks into the shop.

At that, the Director draws closer to my sisters-in-waiting, but does not touch them.  He stares at each of my companions in turn, life-like but lifeless. His glance grazes by me, not stopping. He walks on, whistling, but his shoulders slump.

I think I’m not going to his studio again. If I can stump him, you know, any film maker would have me. And some day, I’ll be offered a lead.  Besides, he would either claim I had played hookey and wasn’t there at the shop, or he’ll get someone to watch, and report to him when I break for the day which one of them I was. Then he would claim to have known all along.

The make-up man rushes in out of nowhere: “You’ve got the job!” he says to my earlier avatar, standing stiff under her wig, a smile painted on her face.

“I know,” I chuckle from behind, startling him.

But I’m not taking the job, no matter how bad I want it.

I wish you were here to see me grin. You must’ve stepped into your office, shed your trench coat, buckled down to work.

Next time you stop and stare at a mannequin though, remember, she may not be a mannequin at all.


I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )
Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • indigo bunting says:

    I can’t believe how many ideas you come up with so quickly.

  • Nate Wilson says:

    Excellent. Honestly, I’m in awe of your ability to create a wholly unique story every day of this Challenge. Especially since, by the end, you’ll have more stories than I’ve had ideas for stories. And good for Miss Mannequin, taking her career into her own hands.

  • Damyanti says:

    Thanks everyone for the super-kind comments. I hope I live up to the expectations till the ned of the month. I just realized finishing the challenge would mean an extra 12-15000 words on top of my regular writing….thanks for the ongoing motivation, folks.

  • Oh my gosh, that was soooooo good! Really enjoyed the twist.

  • Madeleine says:

    Great piece of flash fiction. Great picture prompt too. :O)

  • Dafeenah says:

    Great story! I didn’t want it to end, but I feel that way with all of your stories. By the end of this challenge you will have 26 novel beginnings to choose from.

  • Your writing style is wonderful, so I’m here to stay. Love the story.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. I do hope you come back to participate in Book Blurb Friday. You’ll be amazing at it. No need to wait until May. Just play along whenever you like.

  • Spenc says:

    So creative, all that from a picture and a letter. Impressive, thanks for sharing

  • What a story. Wonderful pace and love the ending. (I never would have thought that my photo could inspire that, but I’m a mere photographer…)

  • Lynda Young says:

    great story. I like that it was a little different

  • nutschell says:

    Great story! And what an awesome picture. It really does set your creative gears to work. Thanks for visiting my blog by the way, and i hope you have a marvelous weekend!

  • MPax says:

    I really enjoyed your story of the mannequin. Thanks for sharing it with us. 🙂

  • Joy says:

    I like the range of emotions you’ve covered here. 🙂

  • PencilGirl says:

    That was an incredible story!! I couldn’t wait to see which word you’d chosen for your prompt and what tale you spun with it.. In fact, this is the first blog I’m reading.. 😀
    I could never have imagined that a simple word like make-up could inspire such a singularly incredible tale!! Mind-blowing!! 😀 😀

  • Good to see you keeping up the high standard of remarkable flash fiction. The story-line is quite credible. I know tricks have been played on people by pretend mannequins but this is quite different. Glad she passed the test and came out with the upper hand — one good raspberry to the Director!

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