(Episode 9)

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!"


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...


(Episode 9)
Betty Ratchet's heart is touched by the terror-stricken eyes of her unexpected guest. Or is that smeared mascara? In any case, she extends a helping hand.

"Let's go in the kitchen and talk. You can tell me all about it."

She reaches to take the cloak from her guest, only to find it totally soaked. "Anna, will you run upstairs and get the robe hanging in my closet? We can't have Barbara here catching her death of cold."

Anna is only too happy to oblige. "I can hardly wait to tell all my friends that Barbie's at our house. In her birthday suit, even."

"Henry! Alice! Guess what?"

"You'll be safe in this house. No one will even know you're here."

"...yeah, just like all the pictures. Really big ones. Huh? They look all natural to me. Pure plastic. Tell everybody to come...the team, the whole gang. Yep. Over at my house. Right away."

plink..plink ...plink...

"I want the phone after you're done. I have to call Lindsey, Teresa, Alissa, Marissa, and Kerilynn."

Betty guides her guest into the dining alcove where she closes the curtains against the storm. "There. No prying eyes can see you in here."

She puts the teapot on the stove.

"I have to say this, Barbara. You hardly look your age. A little stiff in the joints and that cupid's bow mouth went out of style in the 1930s. But other than that, you look like you were born yesterday."

"Thank you, Betty. I have good genes. Well, I don't know if I have any genes, actually. But I do have a chemical make-up that is anti-aging. You know we Plastic People will be around long after all other forms of life have faded from the earth."

"I've heard that said before. Some say Plastic People are the new link in the evolutionary chain, particularly resistant to the effects of global warming and environmental pollution."

"Nature always comes up with a solution to any problem."

"You're very wise."

"Well, I am 50. And I was born fully grown, so you can add on another seventeen or eighteen years. Let's see...that would make me...67 or 68. Old enough to have seen many fashions come and go. "

"You've come a long way, Barbara."

"Yes, I have. Especially considering I was born with nothing upstairs. Brains were considered a total waste in a girl, you know, back in 1959. So my head was left totally empty. Then along came the 1970s, and women were expected to have careers. As you may be aware, there are few career choices for those without brains: store window mannequin, Miss Calliefornya, politician. That kind of thing. I wanted to be a doctor, or an astronaut, or a teacher, all of which require at least some grey matter. So I had a brain implant. In fact, I've had several brain augmentations over the years."

"So tell me, Barbara, why do you think you're in danger?"

"I have many enemies, you know. It seems like anytime somebody's unhappy with something in life, they blame it on me. Supposedly I've ruined three generations of young girls, all of whom wanted nothing more than to grow up to look like me, thus setting them up for a lifetime of frustration and depression. "

"That's so unfair. Maybe those people should spend less time blaming you and more time being positive role models themselves."

"Exactly my thinking. But people love to have someone to hate. I've been beheaded, burned at the stake, dismembered, and had my hair pulled out by the roots. All in effigy of course. But I often feel that I'm living on borrowed time."

"I think I read something about that. It's all so sad. So what happened tonight?"

"Well, I was invited to join some friends for a swimming party. That's why I'm wearing my birthday suit. I was riding in a cab to the location I was given when I started thinking. You see, I recognized that address ... it's not a swimming pool, it's a coffee shop! I know it well, for I've had several birthday parties there. But why would anyone in their right mind have a swimming party in a coffee shop?"

"That is a puzzler."

"So I put 2 and 2 together and realized that I was being lured to the coffee shop--not for a swimming party--but for some other nefarious purpose. I had the cabbie stop and jumped out and ran off through the neighborhood. I was terribly afraid that he was in on the plot and would follow me, or tell my assasins what happened and they would come after me. I saw the light in your window and thought you might provide me some sanctuary. And the rest of the story you know."

"Have a cookie. It will make you feel better."

"Thank you, you're so kind. I think I'm going to cry."

To be continued....