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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?

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