"And So It Begins." Flash fiction stories of up to 500 words that begin with a first sentence we provide. The first sentence for issue six is "I'm not built for this kind of thing anymore."

Baby Go Bye Bye

By Wendy VanLandingham

I'm not built for this kind of thing anymore. I try to say this to her – it's kinder to be blunt – but my lips are frozen in the same plastic smile I gave her mother thirty years ago. Her mother: the quiet girl with freckles and sweet green eyes, who diapered me with Kleenex and taught me to swim in an apple pail until I sank to the bottom and lost my voice. She squeezed me when she cried and chewed on my bonnet as she slept. She loved me. She knew how.

But this child is wretched. Too much like her father. A spoiled brat with hot breath and fingers always sticky with jelly. To her I am only a plaything, one among too many, and there will always be more. I want a new one, she seethes. I am nothing but old.

Eat your pie, Sally, she says at tea, and shoves her pink plastic spoon between my lips. Cherry filling drips down my neck. Why Abigail, she says, nodding my head, you make the best pie in the whole wide world!

She fills a tiny plastic cup with water and sets it on a tiny plastic saucer. Here, have some tea, she says, sliding it towards me. We sit in silence. Abigail, she whines in a voice meant to be mine, thank you oh so much! She scoots her wicker chair closer to the table. Her knees knock the tabletop and my head falls forward, bumping the saucer, spilling the tea. Water, water, everywhere. I say nothing. There is nothing I can say.

Sally! she shrills, taking my head in her sticky clutches. She pulls me to her purpling face, crust fluttering beneath her nose. You are a bad, bad girl!

I flop and flail over her lap as she spanks me, beans from the hole in my arm spilling onto the floor and disappearing under her buckled shoe. My eyes snap shut.

What's going on in here? I hear her mother say from the doorway.

A halo appears above the little beast's head. Sally spilled tea all over the floor, she lies. So I'm giving her a spanking.

The sticky clutch loosens. My eyes snap open and I am once again staring into the sweet green eyes of the girl who loved me best. Abigail, she says, you have to be very gentle with Sally. She's too old to be spanked.

She licks her thumb and gently rubs the cherry from my lips. How's my Sally girl doing, huh? She smiles warmly and, as she's done a million times, pulls my string as if she could undo what was done thirty years ago. The string just rattles like a last breath. Kiss baby, I want to say into her ear. Play patty-cake. I love you.

She kisses my frozen, plastic smile. I love you, too, girl, she whispers. She sets me back down into the wicker chair and carries her own living doll to dinner.