Sunday Scribblings – The green iris blues

NOTES:  I’m all uptight over an assignment to revise one of the stories I submitted for grade over the last four months, yet I wanted to participate in SS, so a quickie.  Say, any advice on revising short stories, Professor P?  ; )

Revisions made 7/2/09

Barbie.jpg picture by pemerytx 

For ten hours a day, six days per week, Jane Wulandari sits rigid in the blue plastic chair at her work station, leaned into the task of painting eyes on hundreds of doll heads per day.  For 802,000 rupiahs per month she deftly wields her brushes and paints in the exact sizes and numbers prescribed, and makes near-perfect irises and pupils on the whites of each doll eye every time.  She is no artist, by any means, and not particularly intelligent, but easily trainable at repetitive labors.  She comes from a long line of factory workers and laborers, blue collar survivalists.  So when America began exporting hundreds of thousands of its jobs overseas, she soon found a marriageable Indonesian man on the internet.  With his help, she began the process of obtaining all the proper documentation and left Chicago for Jakarta.  And in that gigantic capital city, she enjoyed many happy years calling herself a fine artist and boasting of her brilliant foresight.  And even now, though her hands, back and neck ache almost unbearably, she is still pleased with herself, though less so as she keeps a watchful eye on the latest goings-on in America.



Photo from “the making of Barbie” at


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Click here for more on prompt “#169 – Toys” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.

13 responses to “Sunday Scribblings – The green iris blues

  1. Interesting progression. Liked it. Hope your stress level goes down. My advice – write from the heart, edit from the gut.

  2. I didn’t expect the social/political commentary at the end, but otherwise, what an interesting profile. I love the idea of a sort of Studs Terkel fiction, wherein we get a slice of life from the type of characters who make our world turn at the ground level. Imagine all the factory/assembly line workers who do the same small thing day in and day out…do they have rich inner lives? Dreams? Or have they become drones?

  3. The giant barbie face is freaking me out LOL
    I like the undercurrent here.
    There is a folk legend about a seal (silkie) that falls for a fisherman and goes to a witch who magically makes her human for a year. The price is that while she can walk upright, every step with be painful. She is willing to do anything and so ends up on dry land and the fisherman falls in love with her too. she bears him a son and at the end of the time she and her son go back to the sea. the last line says something to the effect of “thu the proud hunter shall shoot baeth my young son and me”. I get the feeling that this lady has planned everything out but as the world will – the outcome will not be happy. I think I would rather be a dead seal than spend my life painting barbie eyes but hey, that’s me. As for the stress and having a dry time – maybe we both just need to get drunk. It’ll come around – that big circle just keeps turning.

  4. I sure liked the way this smart bit of flash fiction/prose poetry unfolded, right down to the closing political punch line. Very smooth; took a moment before the burn set in…

  5. Yeah! I’m with Dee. That Barbie head gave me the creeps! That ending was a head scratcher at first. It took a moment for that Obama/Indonesia connection hit me. It’s me I’m sure! Always a neat idea to focus on everyday things that have a story behind them. Like, how do those Barbie heads get painted? Simple questions, with curious answers!

  6. There’s something that aches in that She is no artist, by any means and the later many happy years calling herself a fine artist. Jane dreamed herself into a comfortable place: how poignant that Obama’s ascent looms as grit in her dreaming. I’d actually like to see more of her, out in the rest (what little there is) of her life. Will Barack call her out of her satisfaction? Can she leave the blue plastic chair?

    Wendy mentions Studs, and I have enjoyed me some Studs in his sprawling conversations with the real soul people. Philip Levine’s poetry also comes to mind, openly dedicated as he is to people in the poetry of their working lives. His work was a portal and in its way a validation of my own fiction as it seeks to voice real folk.

  7. I recognize the mindless effort – it reminds me of my first job while I was still a very young kid – folding anewspapers at a weekly for one thin dime an hour. Standing. That came before blue plastic chairs. Imagine. The politics surprised me – but that’s okay!:) Nice write!

  8. ALL

    It’s the last day of the ESC writing class, up until 11:59pm online, anyway! So I broke loose for a bit and revised this little ditty a bit. A couple of your comments, along with some in-person comments I got, helped me conceive of another rule to break: to avoid writing under the influence of out-of-perspective-stress, or if I insist, to at least run the dang thing by someone first!


    THOM G

    Thanks for the advice, T. I still have in my head your good words for the creation end of writing. And I can see in your writing that’s exactly what you do. But your economy with words, I don’t see how you do it…like your first line in Monday’s 58, geezus!



    Why must Murphy’s Law prevail? (I think the times you’ve come by, I’ve been caught at my not best.)

    I love Terkel’s “Working.” It made a gigantic impact on me. What a service that man did for us all. At the time, I had some fairy tale idea of what careers were, and this brought me close to the American Real.

    About your question, the only ones I’ve ever known of seemed not to have rich inner lives. I’ve always thought I could, though, if I did that kind of work—go on auto-pilot and dream up stuff—but maybe it’s just too demeaning and maybe my spirit would hang low, too.



    What??? Barbie was my role model, a beautiful thing, the closer up the better!

    I liked your legend. I’d not heard it before. That kind of sacrifice is gold. A guitar guru I once knew asked me if I’d rather have the experience we were having, knowing it would end, or not have it at all and not know the beauty of it. As much as I hate pain, I chose the experience. That was one of those surprising self-revelations.

    And I would love to paint Barbie heads, but not for $70 dollars per week. I’m an American, for crissakes. Not the smartest American, but smart enough not to follow a factory job overseas. LOL!



    Thank you as always. Your compliments are so lovely that even my cynical self believes them ; ) I had to take the edge of the last line in the name of Objectivity. I hope my revision reads well. Even though I had no one read it first, I didn’t break my new rule because I wasn’t stressed!



    Again, I just don’t understand it. You’re a red-blooded American male (and how). Barbie’s beautiful, an icon. So what if it’s unrealistic for a girl to expect her legs to grow so lusciously long, her breasts to turn out so perfectly, her waist to be so few inches, and her face to be so lovely! Pffft! LOL!

    About the ending… Well, refer to the “ALL” address above ; )

    About how those Barbie heads get painted… I know very well now. And I feel politically bad about it.



    Yes, you caught the ache, even in this little snippet! And yes, Jane can leave the blue plastic chair just as she left her factory job in Galesburg, IL in the early 2000’s. Now that I’ve made a couple of changes, maybe you and everyone can see that better…I hope. Of course you can’t see the Galesburg stuff, that’s just me taking Hemmingway’s iceberg advice, but maybe you see her more scrapping than aching ; )

    I’m glad you brought up the Levine business. You know I’m half-lit, as our beloved, living-amongst-us blues hero has said, so it would be worth my looking. And the others here, who are probably all lit, will enjoy the line you drew between the two. And since his work influenced you, you must provide me with your favorite link! Although I know to just roll with your words and feel the glow, I am ever seeking to put together the bazillion-piece puzzle that you are : )



    Folding newspapers! That’s neat. We all like a little unfolding of our blog friends’ pasts and so I appreciated this little tidbit from your growing-up years. My first job was at our county’s community health services: typing, filing, and going with the case workers to WIC clinics. That was an eyeful. And although I did the typical teen thing, acting like it ain’t no thing, it settled into my head and did its work.

  9. I had Barbies – I learned to sew because of Barbie. Back then there were bolts of preprinted barbie dress pieces you could buy. My friend and I both had moms who sewed and when we got a new set we would carefully trace each one with newspaper and make patterns. that way we had the originals plus all the ones we could make out of scraps of fabric begged from our moms. This one is just sooo big LOL
    Don’t want to paint faces or anything else over and over again. Did factory work several times – the repetition is a mind killer and dangerous to a day-dreamer like me! (I even worked in a bra factory once – there’s a story!)

    LOL! Well, those eyes couldn’t have been painted by Jane, then, hehe. “Near-perfect,” even though not perfect, definitely doesn’t stretch far and wide enough to be lazy!
    I like how you used the word “kid” instead of “jest,” say, in relation to Barbies ; )


    Another neat story! I wasn’t big into sewing, was more into drawing. My mom made some stuff for my Barbies, though, plus I got lots of hand-me-downs from my totally-with-it city cousins. One girl’s passé is another girl’s haute couture!
    About the factory work: so you’re another mark against it, eh? Like I wrote in Wendy’s comment, I suspected as much even though it seems like repetititve functions would be prime for letting the imagination loose. Well, one day you’ll have to tell of your time at the bra factory ; )

    Thank you again for saying, Quin. You’ve been leaving me in a similar place a scary amount lately. Your talent is ever-surprising and in wide-screen format! I admit I’ve been a bad little lurker lately, all “tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit,” I can’t seem to leave even an “X.” Like your piece for SS #168, “The Best Laid Plans.” Fucking brilliant! And your deals are edible. Well, I trust you’ll cut me slack for being too this or that to comment, too me… At least I hope you will : )

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