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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Other · #945885
Growing up
Why Barbie Got Divorced

It was Summer, 1963. I lived on a mountain with a 2 1/2 mile long driveway and neighbors who were there only on infrequent occasions. Until that summer Barbie had been my best friend, conspirator and confidant. Barbie had an outfit for every occasion and she went everywhere with me. She rode like a pro balanced in my bicycle basket or hanging on to the pouch on the side of the saddle. She had her own niche in the fork of the maple tree that hung over the lake and could swim to safety if I flipped the canoe. Her glamorous evening gowns were left at home and rarely worn as there were few occasions requiring that sort of attire in my life.

That was the summer of Gary Westfield, falling in love for the first time and realizing that falling was the right word for that momentous occasion. Earlier that spring, I had received a Ken doll for my birthday. My thoughtful grandmother gave me a wedding gown and spring slid by in preparations for the wedding of the year which I had planned for June 1st because, as everybody knew, one always got married in June. My Great-aunt made finger sandwiches for the glorious occasion and my mother even let me use candles because I wanted a candle-lit ceremony. Barbie and Ken were married to the music of Davy Jones and said they did in a ceremony I spent hours writing especially for them. It was romance as romantic as I could imagine and afterwards, Barbie and Ken retreated to their glamorous honeymoon suite in the back of my closet where they stayed in seclusion while my parents and I vacationed at Seaside Heights for a month.

The day after we returned, Barbie, Ken and I were busy planning the rest of the summer, high up in the maple tree when a boy my age rode his bike along the road below us. I scrambled down the tree and shouted down the road at him to stop. He came back and we began the business of checking each other out. Hanging by one arm off a strap on his army-style backpack was a doll dressed in army fatigues. That's G.I. Joe, he told me. G.I. Joe had a canteen, a backpack and a tiny pair of binoculars that really worked if you squinted a lot.

I invited him up into my tree and we exchanged vital information as Barbie, Ken and Joe got acquainted. For the next few weeks the five of us were inseparable as I showed him around the mountain. I showed him most of my forts and the caves leading to the iron mines. With flashlights and enough rations to last a pair of hungry kids at least two hours, we explored the tunnels where we'd both been specifically threatened not to go. We canoed around the lake and found arrowheads near the cove.

Finally I showed him "the Rock." The rock was a sheer granite mass rising high above the trees about a mile from my house. I felt as small as my Barbie standing at the bottom looking up, craning my neck back and back. Still, the top was lost far above us. We ought to climb it, he thought and so we discussed this, the ultimate of adventures. We made lists of the equipment we'd need: Rope, our new sneakers for added traction, candy and our faithful companions dressed accordingly, of course. Gary objected to Barbie coming along. So did Joe and Ken.
"She's a girl."
"She'll never make it to the top. She'd get in the way."

I informed the three of them that I was a girl and that I could climb better than the lot of them. No way was I going to leave Barbie behind.

That was when Gary bet me that Barbie couldn't make it to the top. Never mind that my big brother and his friends had never been able to climb the rock. Never mind that it soared three stories high and had next to no good handholds, Barbie and I would make it!

Next came the business of deciding what was riding on this bet. Neither one of us had more than fifty cents to our names, and besides this bet was worth a lot more than fifty cents: Barbie's reputation was on the line! Gary or Joe, one of them, I forget which, decided that if Gary won, he'd get Ken and if I won the bet, I'd get his new cat's eye marble that I coveted.

Somewhere along the way the idea of us both climbing the rock had been lost in the shuffle and now just us girls were going to be the ones climbing it.

Ken and Joe were sitting on the ledge just above where Gary and I were standing. I could have sworn Ken was looking very superior and offered no encouragement what-so-ever. I started to put Barbie in my pack, when I was informed that she couldn't ride up: she had to climb up!

Holding Barbie in my left hand by her arm, I started up the rock. The first part was easy. There were lots of handholds and toeholds and we progressed slowly up the face of the rock. It must have been about noon because whenever I looked up to see where to grab next, the sun glared down, blinding both of us.
Barbie was scared, but I told her that we would make it. We had to or she would lose Ken. Barbie wasn't worried about that, Ken would never leave her: they were married, remember?

Up and up we climbed. I reached up and my hand encountered only smooth rock, with no place to grab on to. I held Barbie by her Safari Queen outfit in my teeth and reached up with my other hand. There was just a little uneven spot and pulling with all my might, I inched up about a foot before the rock crumbled under my weight and I went sliding down the face of the rock in an avalanche.

I hit the ground with a sickening crack of my left arm. Barbie landed in the brush behind me, one of her legs lying a few inches away!
Gary helped me gather everything up and we slowly made our way back to the house. As my Dad and I headed for the doctor, Gary, Joe and Ken made their way home. I came back several hours later with my arm in a heavy white cast and was put to bed for the rest of the day.

My grandmother had fixed Barbie: she had a cast to match mine. She spent the next day lying in bed with me. She said her leg really hurt, but I think my arm hurt more. I know I bled more than she did, because my bone had come through the skin and her leg had only been a clean break.

Gary came to see me the next day. He'd left Ken and Joe home: they were busy packing, he said. Seems that Gary's parents had decided to go somewhere or other and he had to spend the rest of the summer at his grandmother's in New York. Before he left, I gave him all of Ken's stuff. A bet was a bet, after all. Besides, Barbie didn't want anything around reminding her of how fickle men were.

Gary looked at me in a strange way and just before he jumped on his bike to leave, he leaned forward and kissed me real quick like and then was gone.

Barbie and I spent the day writing out a divorce decree for her and Ken which she mailed to Ken in care of Gary. Reason for divorce: he left her for Joe and in doing so broke her heart. I stood by her side as Barbie threw her wedding gown into the burn pile. It flared briefly and then crumpled into ash.

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