The Doll

A girl sits at a small table in the exact middle of a small room. Her doll-like expressionless eyes wander, finding nothing to linger upon on the greying walls that the mother has, in vain, tried to make appealing with expensive but uninteresting decorations from her previous home to, as she put it, "bring some class to the putrid place". After an amount of time passes, the girl hears the mother slam the front door. The girl waits, knowing that soon she will be faced with the beast that sometimes takes control of the mother when someone doesn't appreciate her "class".

The girl wondered what had caused it today. Then, she noticed that she didn't really care. It happened too often for her to care. She had too much "class" to care.

When she was younger, she'd cared just as much as her mother, calling other children names when she didn't get her way, and always making sure she got the best of everything. She had known she was better. That was how the mother acted, and so she learned as apes do: by example.

There was one main point at which the girl had learned to never care when the mother was like this. Actually, since that time, she hadn't shown any emotion at all. She had learned that, while she was recognizably better than the other kids at school in the mother's eyes, she wasn't perceived by the mother as great and magnificent as the mother perceived herself. The girl tilted her head, as though the memory of when she learned her place might spill out of her lowered ear, out onto the table to be spelled out in front of her. Somehow, the tilt must have shaken the memory loose, as the girl recalled everything. That particular time, it was the landlord who thought that money should always be turned in on time and had delivered a note asking for payment. The girl remembered the mother's self-righteous uproar at the absolute incompetence of the man, and her own mirrored feelings of resentment at the unrecognized greatness of the mother.

"I come from important people; doesn't that pile of filth know that? I know why he favors those vagrants who live in the apartments above and below me! He knows I was born better, so he tries to bring me down to their level. HAH! How my parents would laugh in his face and bury him! Who does this man think he is? I am practically descended from gods when compared with his lineage, I'm sure. That absolutely vile brute."

The mother often spoke this way. She always had a name for people who didn't see her as she saw herself.

The girl quickly answered her mother's spiel with her own, as she had learned was the proper way to respond to another's misfortune. This was another lesson from the mother. If someone else has had a tragedy, demonstrate as loudly and with as many tears and large hand gestures as possible a time when your own misfortune was greater.

Keeping this lesson on her mind, the girl had responded by bemoaning the absolute unfairness of a grade she had gotten on a paper in school. Her emulation of the mother was absolutely sublime, as she remembered it.

"Oh, mother! Do you not understand how I've suffered as well? I wrote a long and absolutely gorgeous paper for the teacher, and she gave me a failing grade! A failing grade! Can you but imagine? Someone of our lineage getting a failing grade from such an absolute wench? I'm sure she descended from absolute tramps, but she thinks she is so much more intelligent and affluent than we are. Mother, if we are to rave on about injustice it should be for mine, as she actually called me after class to falsely justify all the reasons she had failed me. She called my writing weak. Weak, mother! It was a very personal insult! The landlord merely delivered a note telling you to pay soon. My injustice warrants more pity, don't you think?"

The mother had been quiet the whole time. At first, the girl remembered thinking it was because the mother was filled with rage at the injustice that the girl had suffered through. She even repeated her concluding question, albeit phrased slightly differently.

"Mother? Don't you think so?"

This was when the mother detonated. She raised herself to her full height and brought forth all of her royal breeding and highborn eloquence.

"How dare you! You little...you little…fool."

The mother paused, seemingly searching for insults that didn't insult one's birth, as that would end up insulting the mother herself. The girl was taken aback. She had never thought that someday the mother might turn her wrath upon her own child. Didn't they have the same breeding? Didn't they share the same degree of sovereign worth? The mother continued.

"You, you little pissant, you little scourge upon the earth, have no right to compare your trials to mine. I, your mother, am the only thing separating you from the streets, from the evils of the poor, from those that wouldn't know you from all the other destitute oafs wandering the world. Do you understand me?! I go through absolute hell trying to get others to recognize my greatness, and you can't even, for a moment, appreciate how privileged you are? Disgusting. Don't you know that you are just a facet of my greatness? You exist to complement ME, and ME alone. You aren't anything. An accessory is what you have always been. Or that was at least all I ever wanted from you"

She paused here in a moment of silent rage.

"Do you remember how to be as nice you used to be? Inarticulate, but inspiring all other women to complement ME? That is all I want of you."

Another pause shook the room. Then the mother continued, almost as though she was talking to herself.

"…Maybe it's time to get a new you. I haven't been complemented on the exertions I've put towards you in a long time. I practically have to drag them out of people now…I used to get them nearly every time I flaunted you. Hmmm..."

After remaining absolutely silent during the mother's entire oration, the girl remembers the question and answer that determined her whole future existence. Waiting until the mother had been noiseless and seemingly in her own world for several minutes, the girl spoke.

"…Mother?"

Seemingly already exasperated with the conversation, the mother had responded testily and with a warning tension in her voice.

"…What?"

After careful consideration about what would and would not cause the mother to explode again, the girl asked what the mother did want the girl to be like.

The mother brought her hand to her face in thought and gave the girl an evaluating once over. It was obvious to the girl that her various flaws were being counted and evaluated.

"I think…I think it would be best if you became as an actual accessory. You wouldn't ever speak…yes. That would be lovely."

After further consideration, the mother continued.

"Of course, you would have to be factory-made perfect. Do you think you could do that, sweetie?"

The girl considered for a moment, and then responded with, what she considered, a rather profound thought.

"It sounds like you want me to be a doll, mother."

The mother's face lit up as though a million spotlights had hit upon her from every direction.

"Oh, darling. That's perfect."

The mother had practically begun purring with pleasure at the loveliness the idea granted her mind. She continued after a slight pause.

"Become a doll, won't you, dear?"

Hearing another door slam, the girl comes out of her reverie and back to reality. The mother storms into the room but stops short when she sees the girl. The girl, too late realizing her mistake, brings her head back out of the tilt and does her best to sit completely still and exactly as the mother had left her that morning. However, the corrective maneuver only enrages the mother more than the original transgression. The mother expresses this rage with an explosive sentence punctuated with emphatic pauses for breath that almost make her sound as though she is hyperventilating.

"You. Aren't. Supposed. To. MOVE!"

She purposefully approaches the girl, grabs her shoulders, and roughly forces her into a new position. After all adjustments are made, the mother steps back for a moment, lets out a long and dramatic sigh, then speaks aloud without looking at the girl as though she is speaking only to herself but saying things that are obviously meant to befall the girl's ears.

"My boss was going to have a dinner at his house for all the employees. Hah…as though his home is as nice as mine…I told him so, of course."

The mother pauses here and grimaces as though she has just eaten something especially bitter.

"Well…he then decided that my home would be a better place for the dinner. I agree of course…but that he should force such an event upon me…the nerve…That…that…loathsomeself-assuredunworthySIMPLETON."

The mother lets out the last word with the triumphant air of one who has come up with the best and most fitting insult ever to fall upon anyone's ears. She continues on with a self-satisfied lilt to her words.

"Anyways, when they all come over…I expect them to behold my wealth and marvel at my delicious cooking…"

She puts a long and deliberate pause here, and glances at the girl to see if any reaction to her words is visible.

"…However…Under no circumstances should anyone have any reaction other than wonder and jealousy at my life size wax doll. It shouldn't move, it shouldn't breathe…It should be the most beautiful thing they've ever seen…but as art. Not a human."

Seeing no reaction from the girl, an emotion that resembles annoyance crosses the mother's features. She speaks directly to the girl now, getting close to her prettily painted, expressionless face.

"Do you understand doll?"

Still seeing no reaction, undisguised annoyance crosses the mother's features now. She speaks again to the girl after another long and dramatic sigh.

"You have permission to move. To speak. SOMETHING to show me you understand, moppet."

The girl moves only her eyes and looks up at the mother. She considers not giving a response but doesn't want the mother's anger. She slowly removes her eyes from the mother's face back to rest on the wall and nods slowly and stiltedly, as though her joints and muscle are made of plastic and have not had the comfort of any lubrication.

The mother looks satisfied, straightens, and leaves the room. After an amount of time passes, smells from the kitchen reach the room and the girl knows the mother has begun her cooking. Before long, guests arrive.

They complement the apartment with all of its false grandeur, complement the cooking, and, most of all, wonder at the beautiful and mysterious doll the mother has posing in a chair all by itself in a small decorated room, sitting at a table. One man comments that it looks almost as if she could be alive, and the mother laughs haughtily and brags that she made it herself. All the guests praise her craftsmanship and, after a few more admiring remarks are made, they leave. The girl is then forgotten for the rest of the night.

She doesn't mind though. The girl knows, even if the mother doesn't recognize it, that she has more "class" than any of the guests. Shortly after this thought crosses her mind she goes back to her favorite activity of perpetually searching the walls for something to focus on. She never finds anything. It doesn't matter. A doll needs nothing like that, and a doll she is.