by Denise Duhamel
They decide to exchange heads.
Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin
over Ken’s bulging neck socket. His wide jaw line jostles
atop his girlfriend’s body, loosely,
like one of those novelty dogs
destined to gaze from the back windows of cars.
The two dolls chase each other around the orange Country Camper
unsure what they’ll do when they’re within touching distance.
Ken wants to feel Barbie’s toes between his lips,
take off one of her legs and force his whole arm inside her
With only the vaguest suggestion of genitals,
all the alluring qualities they possess as fashion dolls,
up until now, have done neither of them much good.
But suddenly Barbie is excited looking at her own body
under the weight of Ken’s face. He is part circus freak,
part thwarted hermaphrodite. And she is imagining
she is somebody else maybe somebody middle class and ordinary,
maybe another teenage model being caught in a scandal.
The night had begun with Barbie getting angry
at finding Ken’s blow up doll, folded and stuffed
under the couch. He was defensive and ashamed, especially about
not having the breath to inflate her. But after a round
of pretend tears, Barbie and Ken vowed to try
to make their relationship work. With their good memories
as sustaining as good food, they listened to late-night radio
talk shows, one featuring Doctor Ruth. When all else fails,
just hold each other, the small sex therapist crooned.
Barbie and Ken, on cue, groped in the dark,
their interchangeable skin glowing, the color of Band-Aids.
Then, they let themselves go. Soon Barbie was begging Ken
to try on her spandex miniskirt. She showed him how
to pivot as though he was on a runway. Ken begged
to tie Barbie onto his yellow surfboard and spin her
on the kitchen table until she grew dizzy. Anything,
anything, they both said to the other’s requests,
their mirrored desires bubbling from the most unlikely places.
by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton
From the day she met you-know-who, Olive Oyl was tortured by spinach.
She’d made a thousand green soufflés before she gave the sap the boot,
whipping eggs with spinach, splashing everything with oil, Cold-Pressed and Virgin,
then sliding the pan into the oven with Popeye’s stern orders
to make it snappy. Why didn’t he like her honey-baked hams? He preferred skinny
sausages, strung link to link like neckties. Their lopsided kitchen was no haven
for Popeye’s lanky paramour. Still, she was used to the shenanigans of zany Sweet Haven,
her sailor breakdancing on the linoleum, peeking up her skirt, catching spinach
leaves like wet confetti on his tongue. Only Olive knew the skinny
on Popeye’s perversions, the way he loved to spit-polish her big brown boots,
tap his pipe on her bony back, lower his voice a scratchy scale or two, order
her to kiss him. There was nothing Tammy Wynette about Olive
more than once she’d shrunk his bell bottoms, then sucked the pimentos out of his olives.
She beat him at bowling, despite the snickering from his cronies on the Sweet Haven
League, despite the fact that she sometimes liked all the butch-femme stuff, ordering
and submitting, the kinky games they sometimes played with spinach.
He’d wrap her in foil so she looked like a can, arranging spinach leaves around her boot-
tops, a few green stems in her hair. He squeezed her silver middle until she popped, her skinny
abs twitching and rippling like a filly, all the pencil-sleek and board-skinny
parts of her hardening to attention. Sometimes he called her “Olives”
and she’d slap him, sure he was making fun of her breast size. He’d call her boots
“bootsk” and she’d kick him, waiting to see if he’d smile. Sex was a haven,
something they rowed into after Segar, their creator, died and they could finally fuck. Spinach,
on the other hand, lost its slimy appeal during the Bobby London years, the chaos and order
of pro-choice battles smudging up the strip.* Olive filed a protection order
against iron-enriched greens. No matter what he bench-pressed, Popeye’s biceps stayed skinnier
than the duct tape on Olive’s nipples when she marched in the pride parade. “Spinach
sucks” read the sign she held over her head with an anarchic gleam in her eye. “I love
Sour Patch Kids,” gurgled Swee’pee, unused to the protests surrounding the usually safe haven
of his basket. Without warning, Olive whipped out her laptop and booted
into space, a full-figured Cyberella-star in the spring sky: Virgo, Boötes,
Ursa Major. She entered the chat rooms of large women, browsed amazon.com and placed orders
for every book published by Firebrand Press. Sweet Haven now felt like McHaven,
a fat town full of gristle and greasy-bottomed paper bags, where only the french fries were skinny
and size fifty-six hips switched charmingly down the boardwalk. Olive
kissed a girl in cyberspace. They both loved Tracy Chapman and despised spinach
in any of its forms. Their boots left deep footprints all over pink clouds’ skinny
wisps. They ordered each other around like siblings. “Oh Olive,”
bounced along the rooftops of Sweet Haven, the heavens sailorless and spinach-free.
* London was fired by King Features after penning an episode in ’93 in which Olive was perceived as pro-choice by the anti-choice owner of Popeye’s Fried Chicken
“Kinky” appeared in Denise Duhamel’s book of the same name, published by Orchises Press. It is reprinted with permission.