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Dropping The Red Doll
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Dropping The Red Doll
He hasn’t seen his ex-wife in three years but suddenly she is back in his head and back in his life. As he sits next to her, while she is dying from injuries sustained in a car wreck, he sees the red doll she owned as a child and realises that he knows nothing about the woman he once professed to love.
The only thing he is sure of is that the decision he must make will drop the red doll...forever.
Paul Leighland MacLaine
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|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (15)
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Dropping The Red Doll
Paul Leighland MacLaine
dropping the red doll
a short story from the collection:
the tales of socrates dancing
paul leighland maclaine
It was during the time I have come to call the Red Doll: the weeks where I was engulfed by a true-white sadness. So devoured was I that, for the first time in years, the end I thought I could see and had used as my shield, melted from my hand leaving me unprotected, vulnerable, and deep in the depression I had once consumed in excess to escape. She had, in the briefest of moments and fewest of movements, established herself once again inside my head.
Entrapped within my thoughts, she ran from room to room, sweeping her hands through shelves, upending tables, dislodging all my precious and precariously set memories, and smashing all the mirrors with her fists. And yet, with this chaos inside me, my fears exposed and assembled so much like killers pounding down the door to my soul, instead of cloaking my form, instead of pulling down the shades and wetting the light to hide, some part of me once shut tight away opened the door, allowing her to sweep in forever. In one minute hiccup of time, one single break in her concentration, one combination of metals, and one terrified scream, she was attached to a machine and we were once more shackled together by fate.
Two hours passed before she appeared in the section of my thoughts I see when awake, tugging away at my ear, making me smile.
And I pondered, why should it be that a relationship that had died twenty-four months before it split still weigh so heavily on my mind even after our fifth separate year had passed. I ceased that thought, pinching it extinguished, and stared to the walls and ceiling for others to think of, offering exhaled smoke in exchange for some kind of peace.
I lit up another cigarette, reached forward and held her battered hand in mine, placing it to my lips and tasting her smooth skin. A nurse entered the room, glared at me contemptuously, and waved her hands about her face.
‘Who brought that in here?’
I looked at her face. It was not a face that I thought had been shown the care from others it might deserve, and then to the object of her point: the doll sitting next to my wife’s shoulder.
‘I did. It belongs to my wife. I mean my ex-wife.’
I felt, after the nurse had left us, that she had allowed the doll only because it had once belonged to Helen. They could be sisters, the doll and Helen. It possessed the same reddish-coloured hair tied back to hinder its wildness. It had her delicate hands, china hands that matched Helen’s as surely as if the maker had used them to copy from.
Helen’s heart was slowing, reflected by the sounds emanating from the apparatus near her head. It was a beat known to me in all its forms. I had laid my head upon her chest often through our now seemingly short time together, eavesdropping on her existence...
straining to hear my name. I looked to the vein near her thumb, as I had so often caught her doing. She would catch me spying, raise her hand, and show me the gentle movement of the skin.
‘Want to see me living?’
‘I can.’ I would reply. ‘I can.’
I was pleased that I remembered to bring the doll, her companion in childhood photographs, witness to her every adventure, keeper of her every secret.
Helen had visited a fete when she was five, and to be raffled at noon was the red doll. Helen bought a ticket from her small allotment of cash, and sat in the room where the doll was displayed. For three hours she talked to it through a glass case. Asked to move on a number of occasions, she replied, ‘I’m waiting to win my doll.’
‘Darling, but you might not have the winning ticket.’
‘I have the right ticket. I will win.’
She would hold out her hand, showing the ticket, and look to her father, seated, watching her those three hours, patient, loving, committed. Perhaps he sat as I do now, decisions about her life to make, and Helen in silent anticipation of a prize...
or as I also do now, unable to explain the reason for possible future disappointments.
I held her hand, again seeing her life in the vein. Watching it tap, tap, tap against her skin. There was a click, and her pulse stammered.
Want to see me living?
‘I can. I can,’ I said.
‘What did you say?’
I turned to the doctor.
‘I said nothing - nothing at all.’
I looked back at her hand, but the vein was still and I felt anger toward him for cheating me of her last efforts at life.
I drove home, and poured my tears onto the breast of the red doll. A red doll whose name I’d never known.
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© 1995 Paul Leighland MacLaine
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