The Mannequin and the Trouser Press

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Hello my lovely little men and ladies! Already wearing your pyamies and having your nice hot cup of Cocoa? Then I begin.

in the window of a little poor tailor lived a beautiful mannequin.
It was not an ordinary mannequin made of wood, paper-mache filled with old newspapers. No, she was a dignified, old fashion mannequin with beautiful curves and little wheels. Within her body she wore a skeleton made of steel wire, covered with mohair, then a layer of real brocade which gave her the appearance of a chic mannequin.

Sometimes people stopped in front of the window, asking the tailor how he got the doll, because everyone who saw it agreed with the rest that the doll actually was too chic and therefore should not belong to the little tailor.
‘There’s definitely something wrong here,’ people who saw her whispered behind his back.
‘That doll is just too beautiful. How could a poor tailor like him ever own such a thing?’
But then he showed them his friendliest smile and told anyone who wanted to listen that the mannequin was given to him a long time ago by a rich old lady to pay him in return for his services, but nobody actually believed him.

The years passed by. The mannequin enjoyed herself and worked hard, doing her best every time when an order arrived, big or small to please the little tailor. Bridal gowns, cocktail dresses, evening gowns, it didn’t matter; the mannequin made sure everything fitted her in the most perfect way.
But after twenty years of service she suddenly started suffering from moths and became covered with countless frays and holes from the many pins and needles that pricked her body. The layer of brocade became pale and discolored, especially in summer when the sun shone on the window, this to the sadness of the mannequin who preferred to stay beautiful forever, dressed in new brocade causing people passing by to stop.

Fewer and fewer people passing by stopped to see her,  until the time came nobody looked at her anymore. The tailor, getting old, bought a secondhand doll made of jute with fewer holes and without fraying. Affected by gout and rheumatism he was unable to lift the mannequin from the window, and after a few weeks he had simply forgotten her. The mannequin became scruffy and a layer of dust appeared on her shoulders, causing her to become ashamed of her appearance.
‘ Oh,’ she thought, ‘I wish I could be as beautiful again as before to attract people walking by the window.’ Then, she promised herself, she would sneak out at night to go dancing, because that was her deepest wish. How great would it be if she could dance in one of the most beautiful gowns designed by the tailor, even if it was for only one single night! But then she looked at herself in the old-fashioned full-length mirror in front of her who put out his tongue at her, saying that the mannequin was but a conceited creature.
“You stupid piece of driftwood,” she then replied. “What do you know about real life, how it is to be asked by a handsome soldier who takes you out into the night to dance at the king’s court, spinning and waving until she dropped.
Then the mirror sneered so the knot in his wooden frame got a little bigger again but not to fall apart, so he decided to shut up. But since then nobody ever came to release the mannequin from her miserable life in the window with the mirror. No handsome boy, old man or even a buyer of old stuff was interested in her. Even the mirror with his mockery towards her started to laugh more often about her.
“Look at yourself!” He cried. “You body falls apart! It’s full of holes made by moths! Be glad you’re still standing here today. Tomorrow it may be your last, For me perhaps, but definitely for you!”
Then the mannequin wept and hoped that the full-length mirror would fall apart into thousand pieces.
Summer and autumn passed and the nights became colder where the mannequin felt quite naked, but because there still was no one who watched her she didn’t care much about that. Soon it would be Christmas again, she knew. The best time of the year when the window would be decorated, when people had an eye for beautiful things and they would pay more attention to stuff that really mattered such as friendship, sharing with each other and thinking of those who were forgotten throughout the year. In silence, the mannequin secretly thought about herself a little, hoping that someone would see her and would take her away, if necessary even to the trash!

It was an ordinary, frosty morning in December when she woke up. It was the full-length mirror again with his icy laughter who had awakened her.
‘Look over there, across the street,’ he taunted. ‘A new dweller in town. There he is, your fine gentleman! Should you not ask El Stiffo if he wants to dance with you?’
The mannequin swept the fraying out of her eyes to have a good look. This time, the mirror was right! There, across the street in the window of a shop for exclusive men’s clothing, she saw him. It was a distinguished-looking trouser press, made of mahogany. He must have had been placed there early that morning because the night before at the same spot a simple standard with a dull tweed jacket stood there which she ignored, out of sheer petulance.
‘Now that’s a true gentleman!’ She exclaimed, wished herself to the other side of the street in order to see the new occupant closer. The mirror wanted to laugh and had his knot already wide open but kept it shut, thinking about the blob of glue the tailor promised him if he got cracked.

How deep was her wish to meet her new neighbor! The more she looked at him, the more she longed to chat with him about the latest fashion, about the past, and things genteel; things simply shared with each other hoping he eventually would ask her to dance. With a fine pair of trousers, a fine jacket and the linen shirt he was the perfect partner to give her the confidence enjoying herself again, if possible throughout the night.
But at the same time it dawned on her that her wish never could become reality. How would that be? She, a disheveled middle-aged mannequin, full of holes and frays and on the other side he, a chic ‘Made in England’ trouser press, too far away from her because of the two thick glass windows, pavements and road between them keeping them separated.
She noticed thinking about this made her sad so she decided it would be better not to think about him anymore.
The days passed and soon it was the night before Christmas. The street was filled with Christmas lights and the wife of the little tailor decorated the window where she was standing with a red paper bell, a dozen of real candles and a crown made of branches of a fir tree, the same things that were used every year. She wouldn’t dare to think about how the trouser press looked across the street. Though occasionally she couldn’t resist watching him secretly by peeking between her fraying to see he wore sprigs of holly on the lapel of the jacket.
“A few hours more and then it would be Christmas night,” she knew. Then, at twelve, people wrapped up warmly came out of their houses, moving towards the church for the midnight mass. How pleased she would be to be joining them, wearing a dignified black frock with a nice thick duffel coat against the cold!
From afar the mannequin could hear the choir singing christmas songs, and she began humming along a bit. It was as if this year the choir sounded a bit nicer than the year before. Standing between the remnants of the already extinguished candles she thought of the things that had happened during her lifetime and which were undoubtedly for her in the offing. In about a week it was New Year’s Day when people rid themselves of many things to make way for newer, better or nicer items. A time where it could happen to her, being noticed and sent to the scrap yard.

The bell in the church tower rang, slow enough for her to be able to count the strokes. “Ten, eleven, twelve.”
A star flashed across the sky, even brighter than the moon, causing the mannequin to become startled.

“Are you afraid now?” the mirror asked derisively. “Why don’t you go to your fiancé on the other side of the street? I’m sure he will protect you!”
Thinking with all her iron wire the mannequin wished to be with the trouser press which, as in turned out, was also thinking of the mannequin and before she knew what happened  she stood beside him in the window, dressed in the finest and most expensive dress that the tailor had sewn a few days ago for a wealthy client.
“Welcome, honorable lady,” the trouser press politely said. ‘”What a pleasant surprise. May I have the pleasure of your company tonight?”
There was no need for him to say that a second time! Together, under the envious glances of the mirror she left the window at the hand of the trouser press, and disappeared into the night. She swayed and waved along the roads, waltzing through the meadows when it gently began to snow. Never before had the mannequin enjoyed herself so much as now. Finally her dream came come true!

The next morning, Christmas Day, after the people woke up in a white winter world, the tailor found his shopping window empty, without the mannequin except for the mirror. Also across the street the trouser press was missing.
Only now it occurred to him he realized he had forgotten the mannequin which had served him faithfully for many years. How could he ever discard her? And where was she now?

The next day, it was Boxing Day, and the little tailor’s doorbell rang. Standing there were a group of boys who said they had found her while throwing snowballs.
He quickly shot into his slippers and ran after them despite his crooked legs, chasing through the snow, away from the street, to the park where they stopped at the wooden music chapel. There, under a thick layer of powder snow he found her, covered with the trouser press’ jacket, lying next to her, with their wheels worn down to the metal intertwined together. Only now the tailor realized how stupid he was, by not just putting a new layer of brocade on her, instead of buying a second hand one, just to save money.

With regret, he thoughts went to her. If he would have taken better care of the mannequin, with a new look she would attract more richer than poor clients, but now it was too late. The frame on her inside was bent and began to rust. Holes in her body were irreparably large and the brocade was fraying.
Only the birds did not mourn. They saw their nests in the spring lined with warm fringes of brocade and mohair with the result that in May they contained more eggs than ever before.

Posted by Ben Midland

Ben Midland (pseudonym) is a driven and productive Dutch writer of thrillers, novels and short stories. His genre reaches from humorous books, non-fiction to on fact based suspense novels. Midland studied at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. He is a bachelor in Japanese language and Modern History and an expert in Japanese religion, mythology and folklore. Midland lived for many years in Japan and the Philippines. After 1998 he took up studying again and started a career in the IT wherein he worked for many years. In 2007 he became widower of his first wife, Lourdes Nudo van Weelde-Juson. Since 2013 Midland lives in Portugal, together with his second wife and family.