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Coin-Operated Boy

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The front door was slammed with such a massive thud that the hinges screamed in protest and the lock screeched as it stopped the door from falling to the ground. She dropped heavily onto the couch; the ukelele sliding from her fingers, and thudding to the floor, as though making a noise compensated for the damage it had failed to cause if she had hurled it.

Fat, meaningless tears began to splash from her impassive eyes.

Despite the fact she was ecstatic to be rid of the arrogant bastard, she had still managed to drive another one away. Amanda always managed to pick the egotistical, cocky assholes, but they never fitted her quite right, and again she would wail about all of her failed loves to the empty bed. It wasn’t as though she was doing anything majorly wrong. She was a good girlfriend: she didn’t randomly get jealous, she didn’t bring up all her past boyfriends and their assets, she didn’t cheat, she didn’t get food stuck in her teeth, she always called back, she didn’t put out in the first five seconds nor was she excessively prude, she didn’t try and move in on guys, she liked cars.

The tears had stopped falling; they knew they had no purpose.

Her body dragged itself up from the sofa and shuffled through to the kitchen to make a warm mug of tea - after all everything can be solved with a cup of tea. The kettle softly boiled away to itself as Amanda’s eyes began to wander, falling here and there on objects that she had thrown, or at least nearly thrown, at lost lovers, or failed lovers, or unreturned loves.


What am I doing wrong?

As ever her answer came from the inner bitch: an older woman, alike in features to herself, wearing clothes of the young in as small a size as she could squeeze her cellulite strewn ass into and forever downing bottles of Beck’s in a loud, smoky Dresden bar.


The kettle announced its heat with a flurry of steam and a click; she poured the water into her mug and absently stirred the tea bag round and round. There was that one boy - back when she was still an awkward teenage girl and didn’t know a thing about the heart. He did love her and she had loved him back. But the Fates had seen to that.

Amanda’s fingers gripped the side of the counter to steady herself: she had forgotten to forget about him. The end of another fickle little bitch romance always brought him back into her mind and it always provoked the same reaction, regardless of how long it had been. She slid to the ground, her tea cup forgotten, and curled up into a ball. Her face remained motionless, as did her body, but tears began to pour out the corners of her eyes; dripping down the bridge of her nose; pooling around her cheeks on the cold tiles.

It had been seven years now but this memory still caused her colossal pain, it was something she would never forget; she had tried so hard to move past this grief but she never could when it came to the end of another failure.

After quietly sobbing for about ten minutes Amanda drew herself upwards, stalked over to one of the kitchen cupboards, drew three white plates from a cardboard box and headed towards the back door. Her cold fingers fiddled with the mechanisms of the lock and she could feel herself becoming more and more frustrated with each miss, but she finally freed the latch and flung the door open.

Stomping wildly down the garden path, she headed towards the corner of the garden wall, where the great copper beach tree shaded her from the moonlight with inky purple leaves.

Amanda drew a plate from her arm and raised it over her head, propelling it at the wall. Shards of white cut through the air, aggressively spraying the ground with anger. Fragmented pieces fell to the earth, joining the weeds and previous break-ups.

Amanda felt much better - as usual.

My plans in life have officially collapsed. And you know what? I’m fucking fine with it. Sometimes your plans get fucked up and other things come about. So make other good things happen. Who fucking cares. Leave your plans by the side of the street, festering in a pile. Go.

Something else was going to come for her soon. Something good. She had to believe that.

A ringing sound drew her attention back towards the open door and she darted up the length of the garden. She could hear the last ring sound as she reached the steps, and the familiar noise of the answer machine clicked as she was locking the back door.

“Hi, Amanda. It’s mum here. Are you out with that young man again? I need you to do me a favour tomorrow; can you call me back please?” The sound paused but the machine did not turn off, “Amanda! Are you there?! Stop ignoring me! This is your mother! Amanda!”

Amanda traipsed over to the machine and picked up the accusing phone.

“Hi Mum.”

“Why did you not answer?!”

“I only just heard it click off.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I wasn...”

“Anyway, are you busy tomorrow?”

“I don't thi....”                                                                                       

“Good. Will you do your mother a favour and clean out grandma’s garage? I was supposed to be doing it with your father. But your father’s back is getting worse..”

“Can’t it wait? I’ve to meet up with...”

“Are you refusing to help out your parents after all this?”

“No, I just...”

“Good. It has needed cleaning for years. You can start early and see how much you can get done tomorrow. If you don’t get finished you can do the rest on Sunday.”

“Bye, mum.”

“Love you sweetheart.”

Amanda let out a long sigh and placed the phone back into its cradle.



A light blue Volvo pulled slowly into the gravel driveway and stopped just outside the front door. The engine was shut off and Amanda reluctantly stepped out the car; she was dressed down for the task in a faded black “The Who” t-shirt that had a few too many holes in it and jeans that were falling apart and covered in nondescript stains.

Her gaze drifted upwards and scanned the crumbling brick house. The slates of the roof had begun to give way and fall down, broken pieces were scattered over the side of the porch. The trees that had started growing when this home was cared for were now snaking their way into the very frame of the house, tying themselves up inside the bricks and foundations. The white paint was grubby and had peeled away from the windows and doors to reveal moulding wood. Everything had a layer of moss or dust or dead ivy hanging from it. No wonder her mum wanted to clean this place up. The numbers on the door were rusting, one had fallen off; it was no longer the number eight-three but merely three.

It had the same majestic character that all old and derelict houses have, yet Amanda could feel the emptiness seeping through the bare walls. Amanda remembered this house with such fondness; it was where she would run to when she wasn’t getting along with her parents. Her grandma would hide her in the attic room where Amanda would doodle little drawings and bash out tunes on the piano, and her grandma would return later with a plate of freshly baked cookies and a smile that always gave Amanda the chance to moan about her mum and was advised on how to act better and deal with the little bickerings.

She had learnt a lot from her grandmother.

Amanda’s attention turned to the little stone box at the foot of the garden. Her grandmother’s garage was tiny, and dingy, and potentially full of hazards but Amanda was glad that she had overestimated the size of the job ahead. She stalked over to the petite building and attempted to open the door which had been soaking up water for years and was now wedged tightly into the frame. Amanda tugged harder on the door. Her hand was getting sore from the pressure, she kept pulling and nearly fell backwards as the whole door came unstuck in her hand; she set it up against the wall and peered unto the dusty, dark expansion beyond. Amanda’s hand slowly crept up the dirty wall and gladly found a light switch. Not expecting it to work she flicked it on and the box was filled with a dim, flickering light. Happier, Amanda began to haul out grubby cardboard boxes, peering inside each one to see if it was for the skip or not.

The first three contained rusty tools and moth-eaten, damp clothes - these all went in the skip. The next was smaller and had all of her grandma’s shoes in it which had started to fall apart. Amanda regretted having to throw these out but she did manage to salvage a miniature wooden box of gawdy costume jewellery, from the top, which she opened now, and looked in with the eyes of a child. Her mind wandered back to a time when her grandma was looking after her for the day, she had a spare ticket for the play that she was going to that night and had invited Amanda along, she couldn’t have been older than 6 or 7, and all she could do was worry for the whole day that she had nothing special to wear to the theatre. Amanda smiled as she remembered when her grandma had taken her out to a fancy children’s dress shop and treated Amanda like a princess; helping her to try on all the pretty dresses. Eventually they settled on black and white vertically striped one, with a floaty skirt and grown-up halter neck straps.

“You look wonderful Amanda!” her grandfather exclaimed as she walked in the door and twirled in her new black slippers, “Just like a queen!”

“I think there is something missing,” her grandma murmured with a smile.

Amanda looked up into her kind eyes with a child’s confused wonder; her grandma took an ornate wooden box from her shelf and opened the lid so that Amanda could see all the beautiful jewels that lay inside. At the time Amanda did not know that the diamonds were rhinestone or the rubies where glass; her eyes widened in amazement as her grandmother drew out a silver chain with a diamond encrusted heart hanging from the end and placed it round her neck; leading her over to the looking glass. Amanda’s eyes lit up as she peered at her new attire in the mirror, especially at the millions of diamonds that winked from her heart. She gazed up at her grandma, in pure excitement, and threw her arms around her waist, hugging her tightly.

Amanda smiled as she set the little box into her car.

She threw three more boxes of decaying items, which once meant so much to someone but were now reduced to dust, into the skip. Each was imbued with a different memory and she sighed at each as they were chucked into the skip, and smiled as one was placed into her car.

Amanda went further into the garage and pulled up another box, and dropped it back down again with a gasp. Underneath the box was a hand; she was sure of it. Oh God, please don’t let that be a dead tramp! Amanda thought as she picked up the box and moved it to the side. There was a hand there; her eyes followed it up the rest of the body and right in front of her bewildered eyes was a rather attractive man lying in the dust. There was no sign of decay or rot anywhere but on his clothing, yet he was not alive. She edged closer to him and touched the tips of her fingers to his cold wrist, attempting to feel for a pulse - but there was none. He wasn’t breathing, his heart was not beating and he was as cold as death - but yet he was not. Amanda concluded that he was a very well-made mannequin but what he was made of she could not fathom, it felt so much like flesh and bone but it couldn’t be; if it was he would be dead and rotting. He was just taller than her and fairly slim. She struggled to pick him up but managed and moved straight past the skip to her car; she couldn’t have such a flawless craft destroyed in a dump. It creeped her out how life-like he appeared when she sat him in the back seat of her car; as she walked away she swore she could feel his blue-green eyes upon her back but when she turned he was looking straight ahead out the front window.

Amanda’s job was soon done: she had thrown out all the spoilt objects and stuffed the minimal amount of saved items she could into her car. Feeling thoroughly grubby and shattered, she hung the door in the frame and strolled up the darkening garden towards the Volvo. Getting in, she almost screamed at the sight of a man in her rear-view mirror; but realised that it was only the mannequin she had found. It was a strange feeling to have a silent man riding in the back of her car.



Amanda dragged the mannequin out of the car with difficulty; she had left him till last because he was heaviest, and tried to get him into her house. She managed to get into the living room and dumped him down onto the sofa. He still puzzled her and she wanted to find out more. She picked up the phone and dialled.


“Amanda,” there was a short pause, “you didn’t finish did you. I knew you wouldn’t.”

“Mum! I finished cleaning. I just want to ask you something.”


“Do you know anything about the mannequin I found in grandma’s garage?”



“I didn’t know she had a mannequin. I’m sure she owned loads of crap that I didn’t know about. Did you throw most of it out?”

“Yes, there was a...”“

Good. It was all just rotting away.”

“Yes, mum.”

“Mind you take a bath before you go out. You won’t get anywhere with a dirty face.”

“Bye mum.”

Amanda let out a long sigh and placed the phone back into its cradle.

She decided to scan the mannequin and see if there was a label, or mark of who made it. Her hands moved over the flesh of the arms and neck, feeling for indents of words or symbols.

It felt so odd that a slight shiver ran up her spine as she touched him: he felt so real. His arms were just like a humans, soft, non-resisting skin yet it was so perfect and had a hardness unlike that of a mans. Moving down his neck she felt a strange, hard shape on his chest. Amanda undid the buttons on the dirty white shirt and uncovered a beautifully crafted square of metal set into his chest. It appeared to be a gap in which you would place a coin and turn the lever that was positioned underneath, as though he was one of those children’s rides outside of a supermarket. A coin-operated boy? She got up and rooted around in the kitchen drawer for a quarter and on locating one she stepped back into the living room and sat down on the sofa. But she didn’t put the coin in. She looked round at the items she had salvaged from her Grandmother’s garage and back to him. She sat there, staring at him and generally feeling a bit spaced-out. What was going to happen?

Her fingers shook softly as she placed the coin into the round slit and wound the lever to the right. Suddenly his eyes flickered open and Amanda could feel a warmth rush out from him. Blinking, he mechanically looked up into her frightened eyes. His lips moved dryly as he croaked out some attempt at speech. Amanda just sat and stared, the dead man... mannequin... man... was moving and all it took was a quarter.

This was not what she was expecting to happen at all. It was too strange. She noticed how desperate his eyes were, how his lips trembled but her did not speak; she stood and walked away from him to the kitchen and filled a glass with cool water from the tap. Hearing a small thud she started back through to living room to see him sitting on the floor, apparently cursing himself in breaths; she handed him the water and sat with him on the floor, watching his every move, scanning his whole body, as though he were about to perform a trick. He put the glass to his lips and sucked the water from its surface. Amanda’s eyes were transfixed on the droplets trickling out the corners of his mouth and washing over his smooth neck; leaving trails in the dust. He handed her the half empty glass and looked at her expectantly, there was a wish in his eye, and she obeyed: tasting the water glass so quickly after his lips and left it.

“Love without complications.” His voice was barely a whisper, but she heard it.


“I’m not sure.”

“Wha..who are you?”

“My name is Brian. I am love without complications,” He looked slightly surprised that he had said that, again, but wiped the look away quickly.


“I’m Amanda.”

A black and white tomcat strutted through into the living room, purring at the sight of his owner, and climbed over her outstretched legs.

“What is that?” Brian asked with a look of alarm.

“My cat. Asbo...”

“Your cat?” he put a great deal of emphasis on the first word, “How can you own something that is living?”

“Well I guess he is not really mine, but I care for him and he lives with me. He is my pet.”


There was pause where Asbo jumped onto Amanda’s lap and curled into a purring ball. Brian tentatively reached out his hand and let the fingertips run through the soft fur of the cat’s neck.

“He is beautiful,” he looked straight into Amanda’s eyes, “Just like his mistress.”

She stared back.

“You are lonely, Amanda.”

Her eyebrows flickered with confusion, “What?”

“You wouldn’t have brought me back here if you hadn’t been.”

“I would have.”


The look on his face was so defiant that she didn’t argue back.

Neither said anything for a while. Brian thought Amanda very beautiful: her eyes were a deep green and she had eyebrows of swirls and dots, her hair was roughly dyed a mix between burnt red and violet and cropped shortly, with small curls and strands that seemed to have no particular place, she was average height. He could see such a violent loneliness within her soul; it pained him a little to see someone hurting like that.

He wanted to tell her he could care for her and would love her like no other, but she spoke first. Amanda’s words were in short bursts, he knew that she had no idea what to say, this was the world of faeries and unicorns for her.

“Can I offer you something?”


“A drink or something to eat?”

“No thank you. I believe it is me who is meant to offer you something.”

“Do you want to get cleaned up a little? I have some clothes you can have. The shower is broken. But the bath is fine.”

“Yes, thank you. I must appear so dishevelled in your eyes.”

Amanda made a noncommittal sound and stood up, offering her arm to him, which he took and steadily stood upright. He followed her along the hallway, she handed him a towel and showed him how the bath worked and gave him some clothes. He watched her silently throughout her awkward small talk; she was only doing what must have seemed the polite thing to do in what must have been an awkward situation for her. He wanted to make her more comfortable around him. He wanted her to love him back. As she was about to leave him to his bath he clutched her hand and sighed,

“Join me.”

Her eyes widened, yet her mouth made no attempt to answer. He drew her back into the bathroom and lightly closed the door. Amanda did not consent but she did not refuse him either; she just let him lead her. The water ran steadily into the bath, filling the room with whirls of steam and the scent of jasmine and rose. Brian’s fingers clasped around the bottom of Amanda’s t-shirt and drew it over her head. Dropping it to the ground he began to undo his own shirt buttons, but Amanda moved her fingers under his and took over. He unclasped her jeans and shrugged his shirt from his shoulders. Lowering himself to a crouch he tenderly pulled the jeans from Amanda’s hips and hauled them to the ground, allowing his cheek to caress her thigh.  She stepped away from the puddle of her jeans as Brian removed his own black trousers. Amanda’s eyes scanned over his body.

You’re not good enough for him. Even if he is made of plastic.

Brian placed his hand upon her shoulder and drew Amanda towards his body; he felt she was slightly reluctant to move closer. He cupped her chin with a hand and motioned her eyes to his, so he could look down through the depths as though they were the ocean and he was a bird flying below the clouds; able to see the whole expanse of her, and he could see the reasoning behind her hesitance. His lips curved upwards as he looked at her, willing her to smile back She did. He helped her to ignore herself. She remembered how much she needed this. His mouth pressed against her soft pink mouth and the rigidness of her stance melted away. His fingers danced their way across her back, found the clasp of her bra and undid it; she let it fall to the ground but didn’t breakaway from his kiss. Her fingers rhythmically stroked the planes of chest, while her tongue skimmed the gap between his lips, urging them to part so she could travel into the space beyond. Although her tongue was compelling he drew apart from her, she let out a light sigh. He sank gracefully to the floor, tenderly kissed her navel and hooked his finger onto the lace of her underwear, slowly drew them down her thigh, while still kissing her flesh. As Amanda shook the material from her foot, he swiftly removed his own underwear and returned himself to her lips. It was a brief touch, he soon drew away and led her gently to the bath, motioning for her to step in first. She did so, all the time looking into his eyes, looking for the joke in this - but there wasn’t one.

She smiled broadly, almost maniacally, while lowering herself into the basin.

Brian laughed. “What are you grinning like that for?”

“You’re real. And I’m happy.”

He stepped over the edge and descended into the foamy water, which trickled over the rim. She laughed and he leaned over to kiss her. The water streamed onto the floor with every movement, but Amanda did not care; this was too perfect a moment. None of this was awkward, it wasn’t clichéd, she didn’t feel used, and she didn’t feel pressured, it wasn’t all about him, and she didn’t feel that he was going to leave her; he wasn’t trying to her hurt her.


The moonlight glimmered across her flickering eyes and gleamed as she opened them. The curtain was cracked open and a streak of light fell across the bed. Amanda sat up and absently looked up at the moon which was full. Her head turned and fell upon the figure on the bed beside her. Brian’s chest fell and rose just as a man’s would, her eyes lingered on this for a time, darting between that and the bowl on the side table. It was full of quarters.

But he is not a man, is he?

No he isn’t. But, it was such a beautiful feeling.  

But it hasn’t lasted.


Look at him.

I have, I know he isn’t real, he will never be real. He is just a replacement. A reserve.

And now you are more alone than ever.

For my life I can’t imagine that any flesh and blood could be his match.

He would love anyone. That is his purpose: “love without complications” You don’t deserve love, you never have and you never will. Why else would you have brought this thing home?

I’m confidence... with men. But I can’t keep going back to this forever.

He is just a toy.

But I need something. I have destroyed all the real ones, I messed everything up. But if I never let him go, I will never be alone again.

You will always be alone. He cannot replace the touch of lover.

Can you extract me from my plastic fantasy?


I didn’t think so.

Just throw him out. Your grandma did.

But it must have been different for her. What was she doing with something like him anyway?

You know what she was doing with him.

She was so sweet, and, well, prude. She wasn’t the sort for something like that, plus she loved my grandad very dearly. There must be something else to it.

Does it even matter?

He is not real Amanda!

But I know he feels like a boy should feel, isn’t that the point?

Amanda took herself away from her thoughts, she didn’t want to confront anything just now, she just needed the comfort of release, of emptiness. Brian’s eyes were open when she turned to him. Amanda smiled at him, but he didn’t smile back, he just lay motionless on his back and looked up at the ceiling. She turned the little bedside lamp on and took a quarter out of the bowl she had filled; hoping that he would regain some of the passion she had felt before, she placed it into the slot and twisted the lever. Her smile faltered extended his arm, offering it to her. Her eyes lost the anticipatory sparkle and her smile faded away. Amanda turned over to lay on her side, her back to him, took his hand and led it over her form, allowing it to embrace her side. She reached out, turned off the little lamp and dejectedly closed her eyes, remembering that she was all alone. Brian’s arm moved away from its caress, his fingers were curled as he lightly stroked Amanda’s cheek. Her eyes darted open, and then were squeezed tightly shut.