Dad filled a bowl with raisins and put his face in it.
When he got back from the hospital, he had a shopping bag. He reached into it.
Out came a tin truck for my brother Tom. He’d always wanted a truck.
Out came a sawdust rabbit, for Hannah.
Dad looked at me. I looked at the bag.
“I got you a doll,” he said.
I felt sick.
He pulled it out.
A doll has a solid head and body, and arms and legs that you can move.
This was not a doll. It was a composite doll. The whole body was soft and one piece. Only the face was hard.
“Say thank-you,” said Mom.
I looked at my dad. He looked terrified.
“Thank-you,” I said.
Tom and Hannah played on the floor all day.
Dad lay on the floor but didn’t say anything.
Mom didn’t say anything.
I tried playing with the composite doll, but…
I didn’t want to look at the composite doll. I put it in a drawer. Under clothes.
I sat against the wall and watched Hannah and Tom.
I felt sick.
I dug a hole in the backyard and dropped the composite doll into it and covered it.
Walking back to the house, I looked up.
My dad’s face was in the window.
He looked terrified.
“It’s a doll,” Mom said, as she washed it. “It’s as good as a doll. Do you know how much… Do you realize… It’s pretty, just look at it. Just play with it, OK? Take it.”
I took the composite doll.
I played with it for a bit.
I squeezed its soft body.
I put it in a drawer. Under some clothes.
One night when my dad came home drunk—this was a year before—he woke Tom and Hannah and I up and got down on all fours. He got us to sit on his back. Then he crawled around the kitchen.
He got sick on the floor.
Mom cleaned it up.
“Again?” he said.
Hannah and Tom went again.
I went back to bed.
Mom looked terrified.
I looked out the window, too.
Dad was digging a hole in the back yard. You could only see his head sticking out.
Tom put down his truck. Hannah held onto her rabbit. They both came to the window.
Mom picked up the phone.
Dad died in ’77.
I didn’t get a real doll till I had Annette. I was twenty-five.
I’ve had four more dolls since then.
Annette’s expecting. Katherine, if it’s a girl, after her grandmother. If it’s a boy, Jordan. Or Tom. Her favorite uncle.
*First published in Transition
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