“What do you mean?”
“I mean something’s missing,” I frown. What is it? I just can’t put my finger on it. There they are, just like I imagined them. Just like I drew them before they were made out of wax. My little alien family, in full human size. A mum, a dad, two girls and a little boy. They are sitting there eating their dinner in the spaceship, just like a normal space family. Well I guess it’s not a normal spaceship really, it’s a tropical spaceship. The little spaceship is filled with these strange, tropical plants with intense colours, that all look like they’re poisonous. My little wax family do not seem to look bothered by the fact that their tropical space home is going through the universe in a frightening speed. No, they just sit there eating their silly, little space cakes.
“They don’t look happy.”
“They’re aliens, Alice, why do they have to look happy?” Sarah smiles at me, “I’m sure that aliens could be miserable as well,” teasing me again, “long day working in the spaceship, maybe dad has been fighting with mum, or the kids don’t like the alien food. There are always reasons to be unhappy you see.”
“Haha, very funny,” I say, still looking at them.
“What?” she is still smiling, “I’m not being funny,” she makes a face, “I always take art very seriously.” She obviously doesn’t, probably the reason why I like her.
“How much are they paying you this time?”
She seems to choke on her gum or something.
It is my time to smile.
“I thought you didn’t take art very seriously?”
“Oh, I don’t,” she shakes her head, “but money,” she smiles again, “I take money very seriously.”
“Well, I like this place, and they really can’t afford me.”
I don’t know why I say that. It is a lie. I’m not sure I like this place at all. Maybe I just forgot about the money, sometimes I just feel like I have enough.
Something is missing. It really is. Something is missing in the installation and I just can’t figure it out. The wax family are wearing typical futuristic uniforms with tropical prints. They look like fun, don’t they? It is meant to look like a fun place, but they don’t look happy. They are on this great, tropical spaceship probably on their way to an even greater tropical planet, but they don’t look happy. Not in this installation at least. I have made many of the same family. The wax family in the tropical spaceship, the museum is filled with scenes from their lifes. In some scenes they look happy, but not in this one, not when they sit here eating dinner. They don’t look angry either, it is something else. Something I can’t quite define.
“Is your brother coming?”
I turn towards her. Isn’t that why I chose to have the exhibition here, so that he wouldn’t have any excuse not to come.
“I don’t know.”
“Oh, there she is.”
“Really, she looks so much like her mother, it is almost frightening.”
“She is the same age now, isn’t she?”
“I think so.”
“She looks just like that picture in the paper of her mother, so tragic, you know.”
I can hear them talk about me, as I walk through the room smiling at them. I do look like her, it isn’t hard to understand why they talk about it.
“Big sis,” he is standing by one of the installations. The tropical space family in their living room. He hugs me. Smells like alcohol and something else. Something I don’t really want to know about. “You really made all of this,” he turns around quickly waving his arms, seems like he could get dizzy and fall any minute now. “What I wanna know,” he is talking very loudly, they are all looking at us, «is who is the dad talking to there on his space phone?» He points to the installation of them in the living room. “Right?” he turns to an old lady that has been standing a little too close to him, “He gotta be talking to the mistress, right?” he says to her.
“Will,” I take him by the arm, try to lead him away from the worst of the crowd. I don’t really know why because I know they are going to watch us anyway. “I’m so glad you came,” I say as I get him to sit down on a bench.
He tears himself away from my grip. Gets up and starts walking towards one of the other installations. The party that the tropical space family is hosting.
“There she is,” he points to one of the other space women, “There she fucking is!” He is screaming now. Going straight into the installation. Pushing into the wax figure. I can see the guards come running. “Fucking bitch, you stay the fuck away from our dad,” I can hear him scream as the guards drag him away.
They are looking at me now. This will be a story tomorrow for sure.
“The older sister she wasn’t that similar to the mum,” I can hear someone say, “no, she looked different.” I walk towards the exit, but I can still hear the last words of the conversation. “Do you think that is why she did it?” I can’t hear anything more as I open the door and feel the cool evening breeze hit me straight in the face. Soon they are going to come running after me, the assistants. I have too many. Many of them I don’t even like, but instead of firing them I just keep hiring new ones.
I walk towards the little kiosk with the newspapers. Grab a paper and some gum. The man in the kiosk looks at me for a while before he takes my money.
“You’re that girl aren’t you?”
I’m 34 so I’m definitely not a girl anymore, but I still nod. I know what he means. “I saw you on the news when you were a kid,” he hesitates, “I felt sorry for you, no kid should have to go through that much shit.” I don’t say anything in response. Just take my paper and the gum. I rip the gum open and grab a few in my mouth. Chew away. They are always sorry, I have heard it all before.
I can see two assistants in the middle of the street, looking so panicky it makes me want to cry.
“There you are,” Melissa shouts. She is one of the ones I don’t like.
“Thank God,” the other one says, I have no idea what her name is.
I don’t respond to any of this, just walk back to the exhibition with the paper under my arm, chewing too much gum. I push the door open. Walk through the room. Pretends that they are not looking at me. I know which installation I want to see. The tropical space family and the funeral. No longer on the spaceship, on a planet now. Even space people can’t be buried in a spaceship, I at least didn’t like that idea. I stand there in front of the installation. They definitely look sad now. Only four of them left. The mum and dad are still there, but only two of the children. Just a boy and a girl left now, the oldest girl is gone. Well not really gone, because it is quite obvious that she is the one in the coffin.
There is something missing. In all of the installations I get that feeling. Why can’t I see it. Something that should have been there, but that isn’t there.
“Are you okay?” it is Sarah. I don’t really remember if she is my assistant as well. Probably, I just shrug. Walk towards the next installation.
“Cause I heard your brother lost it,” she makes a small whistling sound. “Shit, he really isn’t in a good place, is he?” I don’t answer her. Just walk to the prison installation. Only four of the wax family members in this installation as well, obviously dead wax people can’t come back any more than humans can. So the space dad and the two space kids are visiting the space mum in space jail, I guess.
“It is pretty sick, that she would make this,” they are talking a little too loudly before they notice me and seem to make a small jump backwards.
“It is pretty sick, isn’t it Sarah?” I just say and turn to her.
“No, I’m okay with the jail installation,” she says, looking down.
“I don’t know, I’m okay with the jail, it is the other one I can’t stand.”
She nods. Many people don’t like that one. I know that. He hangs in the middle of the room. Looks quite real even if he is made of wax. The space dad hanging in a rope from the chandelier. Obviously there wouldn’t be a chandelier in a spaceship, but I don’t really care, there were one in real life.
“You think I took it too far?”
“I don’t know,” she hesitates, “I guess artists are allowed to go as far as they want to go.”
I look at him hanging from the chandelier. The sprinkled sand underneath him. I watch people go and drag on the other end of the rope and the music starts playing.
Can you see its blinking lights, coming down for us?
The wax body is being hoisted further up against the chandelier.
The beach is going wild as they pick us up
I don’t know if this is too far. It is not like the wax doll is kicking, fighting for its life while the cheerful music is playing in the background. It is just hanging there.
It’s a freaking spaceship, it’s come, gonna take us away
No, I could have taken it even further, I really could have. I still don’t feel like I get it. I just don’t get it.
“Something is missing, Sarah,” I bite my lip, “it really is.”
“Why the fuck would you make this?”
He is back, but I knew he would be. “I just don’t get what would go on in someone’s mind to make this.” Will is three years younger than me. I was eight and he was only five. He can’t even walk straight. There is no one left here now but me. Me and now him.
“Oh, my God, you even made that dinner scene,” he drops the bottle he was holding in his hand. Some strange looking yellow liquid is running out on the floor. “Why would you make that?” he turns towards me, and he has that look on his face. He really doesn’t get it. Doesn’t get this at all.
“Why not have the actual scene when she died?” he comes closer to me. I can see his fists clench. “If you have all this other shit, why not that scene?” He shakes his head, closes his eyes for a while, as if he wants to get rid of something stuck in his head. “Why not one of these godawful looking installations with her choking?” He tears at his hear, looks like a crazy person. “You could have Claudia all blue in the face, right?” he is talking so loud, walking towards the dinner installation. Walking against the tropical space family. Tearing down the Hawaii poster hanging at the wall. “Why the fuck not? And then you could put big, funny letters up, straight in front of her with: It is only a peanut.” He kicks at the dinner table. Hard. It gives away. One of the legs breaks off. Sending the plates with the space cakes straight into the floor. “Don’t eat it, Claudia,” he screams, “your own mother has put peanuts in it,” his knees seem wobbly, “soon you’ll be dead.”
I just stand there. Looking at him walking between them. Right next to the little wax space boy. Five years old. “And you, you son of bitch,” he is looking at the space dad, “this is what you drive her to, this is how crazy you would make her.” I watch as he picks up one of the plates, smashes it against the space dad’s head. “Just leave us, if this is what she got to do to make you stay, make her own kids sick,” he is screaming. Is red in the face. “Fucking leave!”
He turns towards me. Tears streaming down his face, it feels almost like he is five again.
“Why would you make this?” He is sobbing now. Just sits down on the space kitchen’s floor. “Why?” I clear my throat, walk towards him. He seems calmer.
“I know this doesn’t make any sense to you,” I say, trying to find the right words, “but I just can’t get it out of my head, I’ve just always felt like something’s missing,” I don’t know how to explain it. Don’t know why I have made the same family so many times, in different shapes, and now this tropical spaceship theme. The same morbid scenes over and over again. “It is like I can’t let it go before I get what is missing.”
He isn’t sobbing anymore. Wipes his nose against his sweater. Looks towards the space family still sitting there next to the broken table with no food to eat.
“Where’s the cat?”
I hesitate. “What do you mean, what cat?”
“The cat, didn’t you call it Snowball or some sort of weird thing?” he is getting up, walking towards the space family again. Walking towards the eight year old wax version of me. “I remember that stupid name, cause it didn’t make sense at all,” he touches the pink, tropical shirt I have decided that the wax version of me should be dressed in. “It was brown and white, it wasn’t a completely white cat, so why call it Snowball?” He is so calm, seems so tired. “The cat should have been here, or some sort of space version of it.” He is standing there with the wax family, is a part of the famous dinner scene. Soon, he is right about that, soon Claudia would die. She would get up from the table, and start making these choking noises, and we would immediately understand what was wrong. Just like the space family would know, because everyone knew she couldn’t even have a little bit of peanut before being in danger, and suddenly someone had put a lot of peanuts into the stew.
I stand there looking at him. Will. Only five years old at the time, but now 31.
“The cat wasn’t there,” I whisper.
He frowns, as if he suddenly can’t see me clearly. I look so much like mum. The pictures of when she was arrested were all over the news. Made her face famous, made my face famous. There were so many peanuts in that a dish, it couldn’t be a coincidence. “She said she killed the cat,” I almost can’t hear myself talk.
“What are you talking about?” he seems confused, “I remember that cat many times after Claudia died, didn’t dad give her to the neighbours or something when we moved?” he is walking around the dinner table. Facing the eight year old me. “Yeah, I remember it coming in the door wanting to be petted just the day after,” he leans over the table, looks into that wax face of mine. “Mum was sitting with that cat on her lap in the sofa, crying over Claudia.” It is like he has forgotten that I am there. He only talks to this other version of me.
“I know,” I whisper, “but Claudia said …” I almost can’t get the words out, “that she had killed the cat.”
“She did this last night?”
“I think so,” she said she would stay late. Sarah looks at all the red.
“It looks a lot like blood, doesn’t it?”
Casey is turning towards her again, and she can see it in her eyes. It looks like money.
“It is fucking amazing, that’s what it is.” she says patting Sarah on the back, even though Sarah haven’t really helped making the installations like this at all. “So fucking morbid, as if someone has been dragging a dead body around in here,” she claps her hands together, “as if they’ve just been throwing blood at all this creepy installations.”
“I don’t know,” Sarah turns around, “we’re meant to call this tropical spaceship?”
Casey looks bewildered for a second or two, “Oh fuck that Sarah, we’ll call it, murder in tropical spaceship,” she is laughing now, “they will love it,” she hesitates for a moment, “exactly what this fucked up family show was missing.”
I hope you have enjoyed “Tropical Spaceship”, the story as well as the song, and I really hope that you would like to hear more songs and read more stories 😊
About the song: Vocals/music composition/lyrics/mixing: Therese J (Me)
If you like the that have been used to illustrate this short story, they are all from morguefile.com. All the photos have been edited, but they are by Jusben.Follow @AStoryWithMusic
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