artwork for Ra'Niqua Lee's short story The Chelsea

The Chelsea
Ra’Niqua Lee

On break from work, I stumble on the severed head of a Black Barbie at a nearby park. The lamp posts fire up, and the children have all gone home. The doll reminds me of my mother and her landlocked Jacksonville houseboat, Precious Lord. This makes little sense considering that my mother is as white as the buoys tacked along PL like a row of foam helix piercings.

The doll head is half-buried in a sandbox as if somehow washed ashore. It looks back at me doe-eyed. The painted-on purple eyeshadow is just the right shade for her skin, a deep, deep brown.

“Imagine seeing you here.” I grab the head by waxy hair full of sand and grit. I let it dangle like a cross from a rearview mirror.

My mother would only buy me the Black Barbies for Christmas, the Christie dolls, so I would love the half of me that didn’t come from her. When she couldn’t find Christie one year, she took a brown marker to a Chelsea doll. Made it look like Chelsea had been rolling around in mud. The marker tinted my fingers and all the Christies’ clothes. Twice, I scrubbed Chelsea’s naked body in the shower with Irish Spring and a sponge until she turned white again. Both times, I found her tits-up in my toy box the next day rebaptized in Crayola.

One of the last times I remember playing with dolls, I was on the deck of Precious Lord with two Christies and the Chelsea. A whole mess of trees surrounded us where the ocean should have been. I made the Christies throw the Chelsea overboard. We sacrificed her marked body to the imaginary sea. We chanted for her to drown in soil. To dig her own grave. Let the waves of earth return her to us regular regular or not at all.

Ra’Niqua Lee’s Comments

This started with the image of a beheaded Black Barbie. I did not know where to go from there. Symbolically, the image felt extremely heavy. I opted for levity, and I’m still not sure.

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 60 | Fall/Winter 2022