Flash Friday 19/09/2014: Ms. Mayberry Yet Again
To celebrate my second year of Friday Flash, I’ve decided to write another Ms. Mayberry story. Why Ms. Mayberry? Because she was the woman who starred in my first ever Friday Flash, and made a (delayed) return in my first year anniversary story. Hope you enjoy, and here’s to another year of Flash Friday!
“Hello,” Ms. Mayberry said. She stood in the way of Gareth as he walked down the street, smiling and waving at him. “What a pleasure to see you again. It’s been a while.”
Gareth frowned. He had recollections of his last visits with Ms. Mayberry. She always appeared as a cynical, bitter woman, who would probably prefer to have her clients keel over and die with their wallets hanging out than deal actual business. The way she spoke to him now, however, sounded as if she was on cloud nine. She was happy, elated, somewhat excited. And it was bloody terrifying.
“H-Hello.” Gareth gave a feeble wave back, eyeing behind himself. “How are you?”
“Oh, very well, ta. ” Ms. Mayberry beamed a smile from her plump cheeks. “Yes, very well indeed, Gareth.”
Oh crap. She remembered his name.
“So…” Gareth struggled to think of something to say. “I take it your ice cream business took off, then?”
“Nope.” Ms. Mayberry grinned. “Dropped like a brick.”
Gareth blinked. “You mean your business failed?”
“Oh, come now. You don’t need to act surprised. We both know that I was totally helpless and did not know better. But now — now! — I’ve developed a much better business. This one is going to work, for sure.”
“Seems it’s going well. You know, with you being so happy.”
“T’is the nature of the work, my dear. How could you ever have a sour face when you own a shop like this?”
Ms. Mayberry gestured to the store sign. It read ‘Ms. Mayberry’s Baby Store’, the font made up of alphabet blocks.
Gareth blinked. “You own a baby store, now?”
“I sure do. How about you come in and have a look-see for yourself, hmm?”
“But I don’t have any childr–”
Gareth didn’t seem to have a choice. Grabbed by the wrist, he was dragged into Ms. Mayberry’s new hare-brained scheme.
Looking around the shop, not much had changed in the layout. The old ice cream counter was gone, but everything else pretty much looked the same. The benefits of ice cream wallpaper and pictures was that it suited a baby shop just as much as an ice cream one. Despite everything else looking the same, there was one part of this shop that shot a spike of fear into Gareth’s heart.
All the ‘baby products’ weren’t actual baby products.
“So.” Ms. Mayberry stood in the middle of her empire and beamed at Gareth. “What do you think?”
“Oh, uh…” Gareth looked around. “When you said ‘baby store’, I thought you meant you dealt with baby products.”
Ms. Mayberry frowned. “But I do.”
“No, I mean…like, actual products made from other companies.”
“What? No, none of that nonsense. Your old and cranky Ms. Mayberry likens herself as an inventor now, don’t you know? Really gets her mind going and her fingers working. Look, see? I even made this crib.” She crossed the room to pat it, like a father would pat their successful son.
“Yeah. S’what you put kids in, right? When they go to sleep. Keeps ’em safe.”
“And it can rock, you know? That’s bound to calm the baby right down. Have to make sure you have a rocking bed.”
“Else, how’re you going to get it to sleep when it starts crying at three in the morning? Not me, that’s for sure.”
“Mayberry, that’s a washing machine.”
Ms. Mayberry nodded. “Was a washing machine, at any rate. Now, it’s been repurposed to be an automatic rocking crib. Look, watch.” Reaching behind the crib — no, it was a washing machine, no matter how much Gareth tried to tell himself otherwise — Ms. Mayberry drew out a small plastic doll of a baby, the same kind that kids played with. “See, here’s your baby. Why, it looks just like you, Gareth. How uncanny.”
Gareth frowned. “Yeah, thanks, I guess.”
“Anyway, so we stick this tired little tyke in here. Put him in the crib, just like that. There we are. Now we shut the, uh, special safety door. Just like that. Now, you’ll have two options. The ‘Baby Bathtime’ setting–”
“–the wash cycle,” Gareth said.
“Was the wash cycle. It’s toned down, dearie. There’s that, and the ‘Baby Rock To Bed’ setting–”
“–the spin dry.”
“Which has been modified to rock the child to sleep, all by itself. See, all you have to do is turn this dial here, press this button, press the Start button, and it will now gently rock the baby to sleep, while you–”
The washing machine went into a fast spin cycle, the entire machine shaking so hard it began to walk across the floor. Ms. Mayberry let loose a pained cry, pressing every button on the machine. When none of them worked, she rushed to the back of the machine and tore the plug out of the wall with a war cry.
The machine gently wound down to a full stop.
Ms. Mayberry pried the door open, extracting the doll from inside. It came in two parts — the head, and the rest of it. Ms. Mayberry looked down at the parts, then back up at Gareth. Her face was pale.
“Well,” she said, with a sudden smile. She tossed both parts over her shoulder. “All this television and video games kids do these days. Have to expose them to some danger somehow, you know? Else, they’ll be wimps all their lives. Right?”
Gareth nodded with uncertainty. “Sure.”
“Not impressed, I take it? No matter. I’m sure you’ll be much more impressed by the rest of the stuff that I have here. How about I show you the new baby dummies I invented?” Ms. Mayberry crossed the store to an open box. She began to rummage through its contents, which was making a much more metallic noise than Gareth liked. “You know, it’s amazing what you can achieve with some ingenuity, creativity, and a small bulb.”
Gareth began to sidestep towards the exit. Parenthood just got a lot scarier.