Wish Window

Christmas, 1997 / No. 1

“I chose Rosefield,” the owner said.

“From Furniture? ” I said.

Roger Rosefield, the new display director, trimmed the main window with bunny dolls.

I measured some man’s feet.

Roger hung spun-glass clouds, a pink crepe backdrop. He arranged dyed eggs on a carpet of cellophane grass.

I fetched size-twelve slippers. I fluoroscoped the man’s foot. The leather looked smoky, his bones black.

The stench was like sulphur and old shoes. It crept from the main window to Cosmetics and beyond. Perfume girls atomized ounce upon ounce.

Roger tore out his display. I swung by the owner’s office.

“I would never have used real eggs,” I said.

I fluoroscoped some man’s feet.

Roger carpeted the floor of the window in daisies.

Thousand-watt spotlights. They browned the daisies in under an hour.

I popped by the office. “Any idiot would’ve used crepe flowers,” I said. “Or sealing wax.”

Roger ensembled child mannequins dressed in domino masks. Twenty jack-o’-lanterns. A backdrop of cornstalks.

I pyramided shoeboxes. I spied a dime-sized sore on my upper arm. It was purplish, tender to touch.

I shoved my arm in the fluoroscope. The spot vanished. My hand a crib scythe.

The sore blackened. I poulticed it with bread. It grew triangular. I rubbed it with zinc salve. It crusted and oozed and stuck to my shirt.

Halloween day. I ran up to the hospital. A doctor palpated the sore. He inspected my scalp. He shone a flashlight in my eyes.

He X-rayed me. My spine a chalky zipper. Lumps ghosting my neck and ribcage.

“Tumours,” he said. He said ultraviolet rays or coal tar or bruises could have caused them. Or bacteria. He said when cancerous tumours are ground into juice and injected into rabbits, the rabbits develop the same kind of tumour.

“Can’t you stop it? ” I said.

The purpling sky. I trudged back to the store, pocket full of painkillers. In the window janitors were waving butterfly nets at moths flickering in and out of cornstalks. The jack-o’-lanterns puckered, their insides specked with blue-black mould.

The owner met me in Accessories. “Rosefield’s out,” he said. “You’re in.”

I curtained the main window. I bought glow-in-the-dark paint and brushed it into merchandise.

Next evening the owner and comptroller and department managers massed on the sidewalk. Pedestrians paused.

I drew back the curtains. It was a night-before-Xmas scene–tinseled tree, toy trucks, dolls. Child mannequins in nightshirts and caps. All spotlit green and red.

Cars slowed. Pedestrians clapped.

A breaker switched. Lights died. The paint fluoresced. Suddenly the children were skeletons. Luminous limbs, skulls. Egg-shaped tumours glowing green between their ribs.