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He is a foot tall and made entirely of tin. He is dressed in charcoal-colored slacks, a white shirt and black tie, a black greatcoat, loafers, and a bowler hat, all of which are also made of tin. White gloves hold a folded umbrella. A small, tightly curled mustache stands in place of a mouth. His eyes are blue and half closed. His paint is faded and chipped in places. How old is he? The man behind the counter tells people to call him Azim Abdulaziz, but everyone knows that his real name is Jeff. It sounds fake because nobody knows what a Sumerian accent sounds like.

Char turns the Drawstring Detective over. Molded into the underside of his left loafer are the words Made in Albuquirky. It looks uncomfortable.

Char is about to pull the ring when she spies a tag stuck to it which reads Do Not Pull String! She wonders what it would say if she was the kind of person who willfully ignored adamant handwritten instructions. She weighs the doll in her hand, knowing that she ought to look at rings. Char wonders what her grandfather traded for such a beautiful ring. She wonders what she has that Azim-cum-Jeff could want. Char takes the Drawstring Detective to the front counter. There are rings of gold encrusted with diamonds, topaz, garnets, rubies, and emeralds.

There are rings of silver embedded with jade and lapis lazuli. There are rings made of twisted tinfoil, bent pipe cleaners, barbed wire, and maple sugar candy. The maple sugar candy ring is very tempting. She sets the Drawstring Detective down on the counter. Every price tag in the shop says the same thing: Please Inquire. Char—which is short for Charlotte, which she likes better but which Brad says is an old lady name—looks at the Drawstring Detective with his bowler hat and his tightly curled mustache and his chipped paint.

Azim-cum-Jeff takes a long look at Char, as though her question is a strong drink that he must sip slowly. Char waits until she gets home to take the Drawstring Detective out of his bag. She and Brad have lived in their double-wide for five years, having bought it on the cheap because an old lady died there and was eaten by her cats who went feral and who, it is said, still prowl the neighborhood with a taste for grandmas.

A twitch to the left, a twitch to the right, then a quick left, right, left. From deep inside his chest comes a crackle of static, like an old radio being turned on, as the miniature man turns his head from side to side, then tilts it back to settle his calm, even gaze on Char.

His voice is tinny and distant. It reminds Char of playing telephone with cans and string. His mustache twitches slightly with each word. The Drawstring Detective bends over to touch his toes, then squats to the ground, arms pointing straight ahead in a series of deep knee bends. I see by the band of pale flesh on your finger that you have lost your wedding ring. Oh dear. The Drawstring Detective jogs in place, keeping one hand on his bowler hat, his free arm clutched to his chest with his umbrella hooked into a crooked elbow to keep it in place.

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Few remain now. I sometimes wonder if I am the last of us.

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Finished with his calisthenics, the Drawstring Detective straightens his hat and runs a hand down the front of his greatcoat. A fleck of black paint comes off on his fingers. Char dips the nail brush into the bottle, savoring the tang of the polish as it bristles the hairs in her nose. When she was a girl, Char wanted to work at a gas station so she could smell the gas all day. She used to imagine spraying gasoline all over her neck like perfume. The Drawstring Detective sways forward and clears his tinny throat when the nail brush passes over his backside. He keeps one gloved hand gripped around his drawstring ring.

When his string gets close to running out, he gives it a long pull. He was overheated.

Ray Velcoro

It gave him a hunched posture and a half-melted face. He was discarded into the scrap heap, but managed to escape to a life of crime. Which is no life at all.

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She sniffs the air for gas or food rotting in the disposal. Brad stands at the door, dressed in a pitted-out plaid button-down and those jeans he loves with the holes in them. Clear blue eyes and thinning sand-colored hair. I still manage to get out there and look for work every day. I thought maybe he could help me find my ring. Besides, how can I ride a bike with that insurance guy following me around everywhere? Char tries to laugh with Brad, but ends up clearing her throat instead, just to give her body something to do. The crust cakes under her nails when she scratches it from the pan in the Sour Apple scented suds.

On the counter beside her, the Drawstring Detective fences with his shadow, using his umbrella as a sword. She was quite charmed by me and I by her. The Drawstring Detective lunges at his shadow, pins it to the wall, then steps back, bows, and sheathes his umbrella in pantomime. Nor was it the last. Rust, you see. Can toys. I mean, figures of action, fall in love? The Drawstring Detective takes off his bowler hat. The brown paint of his hair has faded to show the shiny tin beneath. It looks like a bald patch. Char wonders if she should offer to repaint it, or if that would embarrass him.

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She was a perfect lady. Elegant and refined, with porcelain skin and real human hair. She was very expensive, far more so than me. She was Italian. Handcrafted in Venice. I never knew what she saw in a mass-produced man such as myself. And it was raining and—. Brad stops, sighs, rolls his eyes. I go to a strip club for the wings, just like every other guy there.

God, take a look in a mirror and ask that question again, Jesus. Anyway, like I was saying, I was walking through the parking lot from the bus stop and I notice the insurance photographer rolling by with his camera and I make my crutch start to shake and I go all Whoa! Just keeps on filming. I mean, they.

Can you hear me? Your husband found me searching the contents of his bank book for evidence that he sold it.

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Her skin makes a muted ripping sound like Velcro when it pulls away. She bites her lip against the pain. There is no blood. I handle the finances.