The Doll Maker
"Tell me about the dolls," I said, opening a fresh notebook.
"Why, doc, there are so many," Mrs. Donn said. "I wouldn't know where to begin."
|My only girl by Fridacoustic|
She had a voice like Judy Garland but it had deepened and become raspy with age. Her small frame straightened and shuffled to the mantle which, like every other horizontal surface in her house was crowded with dolls of various sizes, each perfectly dusted, each delicately dressed.
"You don't have to call me doc, ma'am," I said. "My name's Evan and I was sent to…"
"You were sent to see if this old broad can still care for herself. You can tell 'em I'm fine. So you really interested in my dolls?"
"Well uh, what? Do you or don't you want to hear about these dolls."
Her lips, which were ringed with the signs of many, a stern face, drew up at each corner in a sort of knowing smile. I nodded and she lifted a smaller one, maybe a foot in length from the crowd. It wore an older military uniform dating from one of the world wars.
"Oh here we are, you'll like this one," she said. "This one is of my pappy. I made him when I was still in school. This was when I was making them with paper clay."
Her eyes grew distant and her smile fell from her face. She shook her head.
"Sorry doc, I made this from old photographs 'cause he died when I was still very young."
"Never mind that, oh here's a good one! This I made this one on my tenth wedding anniversary. My first ceramic. I'd say probably the best in my collection."
She lifted a slightly larger doll. It was dressed in an early '70s dress-suit that was really a throwback to the same garment from the 1950s. It had auburn hair, but empty eye-sockets.
"This is Sarah, my princess."
"The file never mentioned a daughter, how can I get in touch with her?" I said.
"Oh Henry and me never had kids. But this is how I imagine her, growed-up."
"And the eyes?"
"Well I never could figure out whose eyes she'd have, mine or Henry's. I just left them be."
Distance began to sweep her face again, but she fought it off with a frown and clinched eyebrows.
"I got one of Henry, too. But I really don't want to touch it more than I have to."
"That's alright," I said. "It looks like I have everything I need. Your place is well kept, you seem all right. I'm going to recommend nothing more than a periodic visit from someone in Human Services."
"I made them all after they died, doc,” she blurted.
"You just said you never had kids."
"I didn't doc. Henry, well Henry loved the bottle more than me…he's why I made so many dolls, doc. They are the reason I made one of him."
I shook my head, smiled and quickly gathered my things. As I looked around I noticed many of the dolls lacked eyes. I became intentional with my breath, I was uneasy but feared what would happen if she sensed that. I hurried out the door, but before I took my final step out I saw something that I ignored then. She had begun another doll. It was a female, and looked remarkably like the woman in the picture above her fireplace.
That's why I'm telling you this officer. I believe I was the last person to see Mrs. Nora Donn alive. When I heard that she sewed her mouth shut, and died of malnutrition, I came down here immediately. My only hope is she found some peace in the end, a peace where she can be more than the doll maker.