Joyland

New York |

Dear HauntedKnitz4U

by Julienne Grey

edited by Brian Joseph Davis

If it weren’t for your socks, I wouldn’t be on this roof.  You have far and beyond the best online shop for haunted socks, and the ones you sent me—Blue Argyle Pair #5—must have belonged to the best man ever to be struck by lightning. Ken took the bolt, but you sold the socks.  You introduced us.  And for that, I need to thank you. He had guts and now he’s super-charged mine.  Typing on a roof isn’t easy, but the rain’s just started, so I had to tell you: thanks to you, my sister’s wedding will be a success.

Looking for her gift, I found your shop.  I needed more than some egg-shaped teapot.  I craved your uncanny matchmaking skills. Carly may be the sister who brings the soufflé when I bring the soda, but I offer effervescence, and you saw that.  You looked at my questionnaire responses, considered your host of humanely-harvested, locally-sourced socks, and you knew: Ken was the one for me.

I’ll admit I’ve owned my share of haunted dolls with their flappy eyes and skewed smiles; Carly called them my bogus babies.  I’ve been drawn to haunted companions of all sorts, but yours were the first that felt real.  When I saw your photos with their glowing tableaus—socks of every color and texture spooning in a light as bright and bold as what’s to come—I knew that I could trust you.

As soon as I unpacked the socks, I felt their charge—small, like static.  But then I followed your instructions: Unwrap, Anoint, Adorn.  I sprawled them out on the tissue paper, letting Ken’s spirit breathe.  As I anointed my toes with tea tree oil, woozy with the sweet, septic smell, it was as if he were already tickling my skin.  But when I slipped the socks on—that’s when I felt him—slipping over me as if he were devouring my feet with his fresh, minty mouth.  He made the socks so tight he wrung my life force, urging me up and out.

I had already dressed for Carly’s bachelorette party, but I needed a pre-party snack.  I shuffled raisins into my mouth, but one fell on the tiles, sticky-side down.  I know the five-second rule’s a myth so I knew the sludge coated my raisin on impact; and if that had happened just ten minutes before, I would have leapt for my tongs to toss it in the trash.  But then I felt Ken, squeezing at my ankles, so I slurped it down, swirling it round my tongue.  Ken makes me reach for the sweet.

You can forget Carly’s dress code—I kept to your rules first: Socks on, feel them dance.  I knew it would ruffle her, the argyle stuffed in sandals, but I still worn the damn cocktail dress.  Ken must have liked it because he pinched my ankles. 

The bar was dark and sour.  Carly’s table was the only burst of color in the whole room; her friends were a row of pink feathers, chatting over the loud sports on the TV.  They ignored me but one man—a fiery-haired man, like Ken—winked from the bar as I scooted across from Carly’s sequined friends, wrapping a spare pink boa around my shoulders.  Her friends all had sharp titles like Account Executive.  They side-glanced when I said Cashier.  They spoke so fast that I couldn’t keep up with all their glittering laughs.  Carly was laughing so hard that it was hard to tell if she really didn’t notice when she spilled wine on my right foot.

But Ken must have willed it because as I scrubbed off the wine in the bathroom, the room stunk with poo, and I looked up.  There was a woman cleaning her baby with fistfuls of wipes.  The baby was bubbly, a geyser of love and acceptance.  And that’s when I knew what I needed.  All those years collecting those dolls—their eyes weren’t blinking at me for nothing.  They were talking, just like Ken.   I needed a baby and Ken would help me.

Outside the bathroom I swayed to the bar and lassoed the red-haired man with my boa.  Feathers got in his drink.  “I need you,” I said.

“Yeah?” The man smiled, but the sports screams were so loud that he might have pretended to hear me.

“I need your sperm!” I shouted.

That he heard.  He looked flattered and grinned.

“I need a baby,” I said, looking down, mostly just for Ken to hear.

The man leaned in and kissed me.  I pulled him into the men’s room and kept my socks on.

That was just three weeks ago.  Ken’s been antsy, making my toes itch.  But this was the first lightning storm—my first chance to launder the fibers inside me.  So even though my socks are wet, I know Ken doesn’t care.  He’s too eager to be a father.

You may think it’s too soon to tell you—before I’ve peed on a stick—but I already know.  And so will Carly: her wedding’s in a week, and I’m ready for my speech. But more than that, I’m ready for Ken. 

We have a spark to ignite, all thanks to you.

In Gratitude,

Kayleen