Baby Doll

She woke up like a writer full of words. An artist full of color. A wife with problems. She lay in bed for a while, eyes shut. But when she was certain, she threw off the sheets.

In darkness she walked to the living room, feeling her way with a hand against the wall. At the mantle she fumbled for a box of matches, struck one. Flame touched wick, wick caught, and she licked her fingers and snuffed out the match. She floated the candle on her palm to the kitchen. She set it on the counter next to the fridge.

She opened the fridge and removed a bottle. With her thumbnail she cut the wrap around the top. She could have used the gadget from Brookstone, one pump to penetrate the cork and one to pull it out. But she didn’t want to rape it. She wanted sensual.

blood moonShe poured herself a glass. Stood in the kitchen under the light from the blood moon falling through the skylight. She stood in the moon beam shower and kicked off her slippers, which skittered across linoleum.

His words from this morning played in her head on repeat, like a fragment of song she couldn’t kill. He’d asked about the money again. Was it in the account? Maybe it was, she said. They both knew it wasn’t. Their eyes locked, and she told him the truth, sort of. Some of it, she said. Not a lot. Not enough.

The doorknob would pop if she weren’t careful. The door would squeak. It took her a full minute to open it without waking them, a trick she’d learned as a child so she could use the bathroom. She remembered waking Mother, Mother stomping her heels, screaming curses at children who made such noise that others couldn’t sleep.

She padded gently on the balls of her feet towards the bed so as not to thump the floorboards. She knelt, set her glass on the nightstand, combed the girl’s head with her fingers.

“Sweetie,” she whispered. The girl was sleeping so soundly.

“Sweetsies,” she whispered, louder.

Nothing.

Baby doll!” she said abruptly, teeth clenching. Relaxing. Tenderly.

The girl stirred. Blinked. Struggled to open her eyes.

“Baby doll, time to fly.”

The girl brushed her hair from her sleepy face. “Momma?”

“It’s time to go, baby doll. Let’s go.”

She reached down and slid her hands under the girl’s warm little body, pajamas stuck to her skin

“It’s dark outside,” said the girl.

“I know, baby.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Momma’s here.”

Her own words from this morning played on repeat, too. Electric bill, four hundred. The doctor even more. She paid all the bills, and the girls’ tuition. “I’m doing the best I can,” she said.

He took a step forward. He was not a violent man but there was violence in his jaw, molars grinding. “How much?”

She couldn’t say.

“How much is left?”

“A little.”

He stepped closer. He wouldn’t hit her, but he wanted to. Maybe not her. He wanted to hit something. “How little?”

She struck another match, and an orange glow lit the girls’ room. Shadows danced in corners, on the bean bag, the closet door. The little girl fumbled with her sticky pajama top, then closed her eyes. Her arms fell, pajama top tangled around her face. She wobbled, a marionette asleep on her feet

“Baby doll!” shouted the woman, and the little girl woke up again, put out her hands for balance and blinked. “Let’s go!”

She would rather have been yelled at. Yelling implied she was worthy of a response. It was the way he’d stared at her, it was hateful. Then he turned his back on her. In that one moment, he’d destroyed so much.

“Momma?”

She sucked her cigarette, blew smoke up towards the tree tops.

“Mommy?”

“I heard you.”

“The rocks are hurting my feet.”

The gravel road led them towards the bridge.

“I know baby.”

“Why do you get to wear slippers?”

“I’m the mommy.”

“When I’m the mommy, can I wear your slippers so the rocks –“

“No more questions, baby doll.”

It was the tuition. That was the problem. They couldn’t afford it. The public school would have been fine. That’s why they’d bought here. Good schools, everyone said. Worth the taxes.

They reached the middle of the bridge and stopped.

“Momma why are we stopping?”

“Time to fly, baby.”

The little girl grabbed two handfuls of nightgown. “Momma, I don’t want to fly.”

“Shhh.”

“My feet hurt.”

“Sshhh.”

“I wish my sister was here.”

“She’s not your sister, baby.”

“I wish my step-sister was here.”

“She isn’t.”

“I wish-“

“Honey shut UP!” shouted the woman.

The outburst surprised the girl, who took a moment to register what had happened. Slowly, her face collapsed, and she began to cry.

The woman scooped her up and held her close, comforting, soothing, squeezing, clawing, whispering, scratching. “I’m sorry, baby doll.” The girl continued to wail, and the woman let go. Her nightgown snapped back and sank towards the rocks below.

She returned home as the sun was coming up. Her husband was in the kitchen, pouring coffee. He glanced up, said “Where have you -…” He stopped. Coffee swirling in the clear glass pot.

“Solving problems,” she said. She wanted to smile but killed it. “Cutting tuition by half.”

_____________

36 thoughts on “Baby Doll

  1. A patch of cold darkness opened in my gut just now. More to say about this, but wanted to share that first impression, and how much I enjoyed reading this, like being sucked into a black hole. Fantastic piece. The transition to the gravel underfoot was very nice, as the end, and the toying with character – who you can trust and who, not. Seems it’s no one.

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    • Oops, okay I know I responded to this. And then I saw that it didn’t post, and then I never got back to redo the response. I don’t remember what all I said, but I seem to remember it being exceptionally wise and entertaining. Maybe my best comment ever. Oh well, I did mention that I picked up the jump cutting from you, so thanks for introducing me to that. Seriously. Hope y’all are having a good time in Prague.

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  2. Pingback: Baby Doll | bossmansayko

  3. You’ve just wrenched my guts out! That’s an absolute killer, Walt. Beautiful language and so horribly disturbing. It’s the kind of story where you know what’s going to happen and you so don’t want it to. Very good. Now, don’t do it again. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting how some say you know where’s it’s going and some say the end was a surprise. I guess I can see it either way. Wrenched my guts too, more than a little bit. Felt even worse after I clicked publish. First time that’s happened. I don’t think I will do it again anytime soon. I should probably lighten things up around here after that one. Not tomorrow though. Maybe in a few days.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, it’s a kicker when that happens, though also a good sign, I think. I remember writing a novel chapter where a character I was fond of made a terrible, if logical decision. I felt devastated while writing it, but was sort of pleased afterwards – hopefully, if I was that upset over losing a character, the reader would be too.
        You don’t want to write stuff like that all the time, though, or you’ll need therapy – and so will we 🙂

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  4. Oh, that was good! My face was blank and my mind uncomprehending for a second or two after I finished it. A very dark little tale, I’m very impressed. I’ve tried to write stuff like that myself, but find embracing the darkness scary as well as exhilarating. How did you find it, writing something like that?

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    • It was fun up until the end, which was as disturbing for me as for the reader. And I felt awful after clicking publish. Rotten. Kind of sick. I’m proud of it but at the same time I’m not, if that makes any sense. By not comprehending, do you mean the way it was written confused you?

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      • Yeah I think I would feel the same way. It must be difficult to actually go ahead and put your name to something like that. I meant it in the sense that I was almost in denial about it, as if my mind was trying to tell me that the worst hadn’t happened after all. Great that you inspired that little internal struggle!

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      • Aha. Thanks for sharing that, and for reading. I think what we read, or what we consume through film and television, has an influence over how we think and feel and act. Maybe not the first time, but over time, as we continue to ingest “bad things,” we become warped, bad people. Others will disagree, but I’m pretty sure I’m right about this. I think people who put stuff out there for consumption have a responsibility to consider its effect.

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  5. Wow this was brilliant, my breath actually caught while reading the last couple of paragraphs. A complete surprise to me, I assumed she was leaving the husband taking her child. Very dark, but very grabbing.

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    • Interesting that you would say that, and you’re not the only one. I never intended to mislead readers or make them think that was what was happening, yet that’s where some thought it was going. Probably a combination of wishful thinking on their part and a lack of sufficient foreshadowing on mine. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

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  6. Absolutely brilliant. Dark and so beautiful. You have won over a new follower. If you have a chance stop by my blog and read some of the silliness. Nothing as profound as your writing. You have talent.
    thelonelyauthorblog

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  7. Pingback: Carol Decorates for Halloween | waltbox

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