Dolls for Dummies
By Deryn Pittar
From her lap, his shiny black eyes stared up at her as she admired his permanent red smile. Fingering his tiny overalls, she pictured the children’s faces, pressed against the icy windowpanes, waiting for her to arrive with another basket of her lifelike, homemade gifts.
The last strand of hair was finally in place. As she gently inserted the needle to tie a knot, he lurched in her hand and a high-pitched voice said..." please don't put that needle into me any more times. I already have a dreadful headache.
She recoiled, stunned and threw the doll across the floor. It bounced once and came to rest beside Sooty. The cat sniffed the doll with little interest, having seen many of its kind over the years, then leapt back and hissed as the small voice again spoke.
"Hurling me across the room will not make any difference to my ability to speak" the doll said. The cat batted it with its paw and the doll rolled over and faced her.
She was now standing. Was she imagining this? No, the cat was puzzled as well. Cautiously she approached.
"You could pick me up" the doll's squeaky voice suggested and the cloth mouth moved with each word.
Gingerly she reached out and picked the doll up and held him level with her face, but at arm's length.
"How did this happen?" she wondered aloud.
"I don't know how it happened. As you can see - I’m a doll that can talk and that needle in my head was the final straw”
She carried the doll and sat him on the shelf above the fire. The evening light was fading outside as he crossed the room to draw the curtains, turning back twice to make sure the doll had not moved. She switched on the lamps and sat again in her chair with the doll making equipment scattered around her. How many dolls had she made? Hundreds. They had filled the lonely days and the joy on the children’s faces was reward enough. She certainly couldn't give this one away. This one she would keep: for company, perhaps to even take traveling with her. She had always wanted to travel but never had someone to go with or the money for that matter.
People thought she was mad, and perhaps she was a little crazy. Mad enough to have her husband leave her years ago. Mad enough to spend her days making dolls. Mad enough to talk to herself as she walked in to the village and back. No wonder the neighboring children called her a witch when all she really needed was a good haircut and some decent clothes to wear.
The doll sat, silent, as if waiting for the conversation to resume.
She went to the doll, looking intently at his cloth features, small overalls and tiny floppy legs and arms. She cleared her throat feeling stupid that she was about to have a discussion with a doll. She often talked to her dolls, but this one could talk back.
“Do you think this will last?” she asked
“Will what last? The doll answered. “Me? The fact I can talk? The cold weather? what?
Realising she had a pedantic sarcastic doll on her hands she got straight to the point. “I want to know if you think you will remain as you are. Perhaps you might fill out and gain strength and be able to move your limbs. Will you need feeding? I have very little income.” She looked away, “I am just confused.“
“What a strange person you are” the doll answered. “All I can do is talk. Here I am, wanting to be your friend and you are worrying about the future and food costs.” The doll sighed and fell over onto his side.
Gingerly she righted him, apologising for her rudeness and lack of appreciation with a litany of “sorry, sorry, sorry……..” and she returned to her chair to brood.
Later, she approached him again. “I’m gong to make a sleeve for the back of your overalls. Perhaps even a coat would do. Then I can carry you around, sit you on my knee and we could go out as a pair of entertainers.”
“And?” he asked
“Well” she took a deep breath “I could be a ventriloquist and you would have to pretend to be a “dummy”. We could have conversations, joke together, talk to the children and tell them stories.” Warming to her idea she hurried on, “we could travel everywhere doing this. You would have to be silent in the company of other people because if people find out you can talk you will be taken, dissected and destroyed. “
There was a long silence and she wondered if the doll no longer spoke. Finally, “Deal,” said the doll, “providing that I can sometimes meet with other Ventriloquists’ dummies. It could be a lonely profession and there’s nothing exciting about the inside of a suitcase.” He grinned, showing her two neat rows of newly grown teeth.
If the teeth had grown in the last little while what would it be able to do next? Gripped with sudden terror she grabbed the doll and threw it quickly into the fire and put her hands over her ears.
Next morning she looked at the melted remains in the grate and wondered if she had taken too much medication the day before.
- - -
I have a love affair with words: writing them, arranging them, saying them, making them sing. I write poetry, short fiction, screenscripts and have had success with all these. I am presently finalising a novella paranormal romance which I hope to have published as an ebook. My silver hair and fine lines attest to my life's experiences.
Labels: Deryn Pittar