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You Can Make It Up: “Paper Dolls” By James Franco

Paper Dolls
A Short Story By James Franco

Abby stared out the window, watching the crepuscular dimming of the world. Everything: the swingset that had been still for ages, a Texaco sign visible just over the treeline, her husband pulling leaves out of the gutters with his thick-gloved hands, everything turned the deep color of blood, like the fire of the universe burned within them. The phone rang, but Abby ignored it. It was probably her mother, calling from Annapolis with more news of father’s spreading cancer, the creeping death that had made the man a living ghost.

At dinner that night, Abby told Brian that she was going away.

“What do you mean, going away?” His fork suspended in mid air, creamed spinach hanging loose between the tines like a veiled threat.

“I just need…to live.”

The next day, Abby was on the Pineapple Express to New York City. She found herself sandwiched between an overweight businessman with grease stains on his cheap shirt, and a small child traveling alone, laminated pass hanging around his neck like a pricetag. She thought of her own son, who had run away three years ago. Could she blame him? Wasn’t that what she was doing now? No. Still why was no one accompanying this little boy? Were his parents divorced? Should she have divorced Brian long ago? She swirled the ice in her glass of tomato juice. In her hand, the foil bag of peanuts felt brittle and insubstantial, like her heart.

In a cab now. World speeding by. She wanted to reach out and hold it still, but that had always been her problem. Abby rolled down the window for some fresh air, but it was all smog and exhaust. She didn’t care. She breathed the brown air of the city as if it were the finest perfume. It smelled like freedom. Brian would hate to hear her thinking things like that. “What happened to us?” he might say. “You and me, a couple of Freaks and Geeks against the world.” Well Brian wasn’t here.

Suddenly, the taxi swerved as a car raced past them, bullets streaming from its rear window like hail. Two police cars were in pursuit, sirens screaming, but that was all Abby was able to make as the cab spun out of control. Her lap was filled with broken glass. She could see her life stretched out before her like crepe paper, elastic but fragile, and through the shattered windshield she saw the wall of the median closing in like the spectre of deat–

Spider-Man woke with a start. It had all just been a horrible dream.

Unable to get back to sleep, Spider-Man walked out to the fridge for a glass of Milk. His best friend Reth Sogen was sitting on the couch playing video games. They smoked a shit ton of weed.

“Dude, I’m getting the Spidey sense,” Spider-Man said.

“Oh no,” Reth Sogen said, coughing up a ton of weed smoke, like so much weed smoke. “Is it jewelry thieves?”

“No,” Spider-Man said, “Pizza partyyyyyyy.”

They had a pretty sweet pizza party, and then Spider-Man went out and saved the world high as fuuuuuuck. The Green Goblin’s son was like “fist bump. Best friends.” The Green Goblin’s son is very complex and interesting. Very tortured with the right performer.

As the sun set over New York City, Spider-Man sat perched on a gargoyle overlooking the teeming city. There were shreds in his outfit–from the inevitable tussle with some villain or another–that would need repairing, but who would repair him? Spider-Man closed his eyes and listened to the heartbeat of the world. And then he got another sense, trouble somewhere, a woman hurt in a car accident, and Spider-Man knew what he had to do.

The end.