Of course, that was back before Swine Flu reared its piggy head to frighten the world. Back before torture was officially called torture.
Back when Plasticopians were still innocent, and the world was a kinder, softer place.
It's a dark and stormy night.
It's a dark and stormy night.
But inside, all is calm. Supper is over, the dishes neatly tucked away.
Betty is planning the next week's meals while America plays nearby.Baby Adam is snuggled in his bed.
The older children are doing homework -- good obedient Anna in the livingroom.
The other two in the quiet of their rooms...
Oh, my. That doesn't look like homework. Poor dear sweet little Alice, so easily distracted from the straight and narrow path that her sister trods with such a sure tread. What is to become of her?
And Henry? I'm afraid he finds school entirely irrelevant; that term paper seems very dull indeed when his latest love interest is only a phone call away.
Yes, it is life as usual in the Ratchet household as the clock strikes eight.
None suspecting that their very ordinary lives are about to change, for at that very moment a stranger stands upon their doorstep, seeking shelter from the storm.To be continued....
CHAPTER 32: A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE
It is a quiet evening at the Ratchet home, in spite of the storm raging outside. It is also Barbie's 50th birthday. Not that the Ratchets would notice. They are non-believers and so don't celebrate the occasion.
At precisely eight p.m., Laskan time, there is a rap at the front door. The sound is nearly lost in the chiming of the cuckoo clock and the wail of the wind heard through the walls.Certainly Henry hears nothing. He is oblivious to everything but the video playing on his laptop and the strange ache in the pit of his stomach that he thinks is love. Alice is listening for only one sound -- the sound of her sister's approaching footsteps -- as she explores Anna's toiletries. But Betty Ratchet, who can pick out the whimper of a baby at a rock concert, hears the knock. Just then she is distracted, so she calls, as mothers everywhere are wont to do: "Will someone please answer that door?!" Anna, who is nearest, looks up from her homework. "I'll get it!"
She opens the door. A cloaked figure greets her, the face lost in the shadows of the hood."Hello," says the stranger through teeth that chatter from the cold. "I'm lost...and chilled through and through...and very hungry. I wonder if I could come in and warm myself for just a moment."
After her initial surprise, Anna remembers her manners. "Of course. Come in.""Thank you."
As the stranger steps into the entry, the cloak falls open, revealing what is beneath...or rather, what isn't.
Anna's eyes are as big as saucers and her mouth hangs open.
The stranger jerks the cloak back into place. "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen anyone in their birthday suit before?"
"Not in this weather. No wonder you're so cold.""Well I was on my way to a bathing party..." Having thus explained, the stranger glances around. "Nice maison. Are you the only one home?" Just at that moment, Betty calls. "Who is it, dear?" "It's a stranger in their birthday suit!"
"Oh?"Betty comes around the corner. "Excuse me. Can we help you?"
"Just with a moment's shelter from the storm. And perhaps I could use your phone? I believe that my life may be in grave danger."
"Your life will be in grave danger if you are flashing my children."
Betty hands over America before turning to confront the stranger.
"My daughter says you're wearing nothing but your birthday suit. Isn't that what you said, Anna?"
"Under the cloak, Mom.""Oh! You mean this??"
"A bathing suit?!"
"My birthday suit. I was born wearing it. I'm not ashamed to be seen this way. It's how the Great Manufacturer made me.""But why are you wearing it on a day like this...oh, I get it! You're one of those Barbie groupies. You're going to a Barbie-look-alike contest."
"Me? No, I am Barbie. Barbara, really, but no one calls me that."
"Ha! Then what are you doing here?"
"Seeking help! I think someone is trying to do me harm. Oh, please, can you help me?"
To be continued...