Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans


Flash Reprint: Charlie Baylis’s “the infinite dollshouse”

the infinite doll­shouse

Char­lie Baylis


The sea­weed washes from the hood of an oak trea­sure chest reveal­ing a smat­ter­ing of seashells spirited from Scan­di­na­vian beaches by cold win­ter gales (1). The shells have been arranged to spell “we stole seashells by the seashore”, in a clumsy off-white script.

Nes­tled inside the wood is an infinite doll­house, not infinite in size because it is actu­ally rather small, but infinite because its res­i­dents believe it will last forever. There are many odd peo­ple liv­ing in the doll­house, though the exact sum of their sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences equates to an even num­ber, a fact that is, ever so slightly, odd.

A man made of dust from the leaves oppo­site the doll­house often telegrams. He once relayed the fol­low­ing 8.5 words to the girls, strung across the back of a snowflake: “peo­ple who live in stones shouldn’t throw glasshouses”. The res­i­dents met his con­fus­ing acts of aggres­sion with paci­fism. They feel he mis­un­der­stands his place as a pil­lock of the com­mu­nity. He is prone to wear­ing socks out­doors and his recy­cling bin is always empty.

One ani­mate res­i­dent of the doll­house, a stumpy plas­tic female with neat blonde hair, works as an AVON sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive. She vends box upon box of Sum­mer Glow to res­i­dents at other reaches of the coastal post­code. When she wan­ders into the seaside colon­nade the res­i­dents hap­pily snap up the beauty prod­ucts as they serve as var­nish for the stars they carve out of drift­wood. Any excess they flog at hugely inflated prices to pil­grims who arrive in vast num­bers and colours at pre­or­dained times in the roman cal­en­dar. All the res­i­dents have to do is crayon some­thing cute on the pack­ets, some­thing like a uni­corn.

On Sat­ur­days the lit­tle women ride to the mar­ket in a sleek green motor­car, a gift from a mys­te­ri­ous gen­tle­man who claims to share every­one in the world’s world­view (2). The res­i­dents have a week­end stall where they ped­dle the crafts they’ve crafted to tourists in Eskimo boots. The most pop­u­lar pro­duct they sell is moon­light.

In recent weeks I’ve noticed the walls of their shack are peel­ing, fur­ther­more the pantry is run­ning low on moon­beams and root veg­eta­bles. Some­times I feel the doll’s world and the life I live are so strongly linked, as if they are two sides of the same stone. I have felt this way a num­ber of years, but so long as the infinite doll­house remains intact I think I can han­dle being wrong.

(1) These thefts were made by Mother Nature and she remains unre­pen­tant. She will shape many more seashells in the shape of her hands.

(2) though once in a dream I saw him chas­ing killer whales with a har­poon.


Note: Orig­i­nally appeared here: http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/05/augmented-reality-the-infinite-dollhouse/ as part of the aug­mented real­ity series in May 2014.


Author’s Note

Strangely, the first sen­tence I wrote for it was one in the mid­dle, but I can’t remem­ber which. I also don’t really remem­ber where the idea for the piece came from, but I’ve come to think of the girls of the doll­shouse as my unborn daugh­ters. The last sen­tence on your ver­sion is dif­fer­ent from the Litro ver­sion, which goes ’ I think I can han­dle being right.’ I’m still not sure whether I should say right or wrong, I don’t know which makes less or more sense! There are also a few other small dif­fer­ences, per­haps you could play spot the dif­fer­ence.


charlie baylis pic.jpgChar­lie Baylis lives in Spain. He reviews poetry for Stride. His own cre­ative writ­ing has been nom­i­nated for two Push­cart Prizes, the For­ward Prize and for Queen´s Ferry Press´s Best Small Fic­tions. He has made the short­list for the Brid­port prize. He was (very briefly) a flash fic­tion edi­tor for Litro. ´Eliz­a­beth´, his debut pam­phlet is out now on Agave Press. He spends his spare time com­pletely adrift of real­ity .


FF.Net Edi­tor Com­men­tary (Ran­dall Brown) 

If you are like me, you some­times for­get to have fun with flash. The open­ing tongue-twist­ing The sea­weed washes from the hood of an oak trea­sure chest reveal­ing a smat­ter­ing of seashells spirited from Scan­di­na­vian beaches by cold win­ter gales is fun. At least my idea of fun. Why not try some tongue twist­ing your­self?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *