"Alright” said Byron, picking up on what the doll had said several days earlier, “tell me your story.”
It had taken Byron some time from when he was first brought to the teacher’s house, before he was brave enough to speak to the doll. He wasn’t too sure about her face and the way she looked at him. She had not shifted from where he first saw her, sitting over there among the teacher’s perfumes and jewelry. Byron had been shifted to many different places around the teacher’s house, but the doll always stayed right there, where she had been from that first day.
“What’s she calling you?” said the doll. “Does she call you Brian?” Byron felt that the doll had even managed a sneer on that crazy face.
“Byron.” he said, trying not to let her bossy voice worry him. “She calls me Byron. Byron Badgery.”
“What a stupid name!” said the doll. “Byron. Byyy-rooon.” This time Byron swore he saw her face wrinkle with distaste, just for a moment, before she settled it back into her wide-eyed look of pretend amusement.
“Anyway, what does she call you?” asked Byron. He thought he might have heard the teacher speak a name but as he was shifted around the house to ease his boredom he wasn’t always near the doll. “And why don’t you move from there?”
“What do you mean?” said the doll, her voice full of menace. “It’s not like you’re up and running, moving yourself around the place!” They were both silent for a moment before the doll began again, very sarcastically. “Oh Byyy-rooon,” she called in a high voice full of sugar, “Come over here and sit with me. Maybe you could help me try on this ring!”
Byron could see her pudgy, stunted little hand, as still and open as her stupid big eyes. He started to wish he was back out at the old camp. Things might have been scary out there but even the dogs weren’t this mean.
“Oh,” she continued, her voice again sounding as if she had been eating lemons all day. “That’s right, you can’t move by yourself, can you? You need the teacher to move you, don’t you? Teacher’s pet!”
The way she said, “the teacher,” made Byron feel sad. The teacher was kind to Byron. And to the doll. He didn’t understand why she was being so mean. And to call him teacher’s pet, well, that was just very mean. It wasn’t as if had a say in anything.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked, trying not to sound as unkind as she was being to him. “Don’t you like the teacher? Aren’t you happy to be here? Better being here than out in the sun in that old camp where she found me.” Byron recalled his loneliness, all those days and nights, out there on his own.
“Oh, I suppose,” she said in a sulky voice, “but now I can’t see the sky. I can’t see the stars at night. I just sit on this set of drawers with that stinking perfume getting up my nose. And she left me sitting on a sharp ring!” The doll wished she could reach down and throw the ring out onto the floor. She was sure her little bottom was getting bruised.
If the doll had been honest, she might have mentioned that she had actually been found face down in the dirt where she had lain for a very long time. It wasn’t like she had been out there happily star gazing. In fact, it was a miracle that a car had not driven right over top of her, long before the teacher had come along. But as time went on, Byron would realize that the doll did not always quite tell the truth.
Byron looked across at where she sat among the lovely fragrances. He looked at her flat little nose and did not believe she could really smell anything.
“Maybe you could get her to move you?”
“Oh yes, Byyy-rooon.” Did those spooky big eyes actually flash? “I will just ask her, will I? Oh, please miss, I would like you to put me in different places, like you do for that little rat!”
Byron took exception to being called a little rat. A rat of any kind, for that matter. He wondered if he should point out that he is a mouse, but instead he just sighed. The doll was right. It wasn’t as if the teacher could hear her voice like he could. He did wonder why she had never been moved. He hadn’t thought about the doll’s problems. His problem was that today was the second day that he was stuck looking across the room at her. He would have to find ways to deal with her grumpiness since there was no getting away from her.
“Anyway, you still haven’t told me your name. What does she call you?”
The doll remained quiet for a moment then mumbled, “Dolly.”
“Sorry?” Byron tried to lean forward to better hear but nothing moved.
“Dolly,” she mumbled again.
“What? I can’t hear you!” Byron’s normally sweet voice had taken on a note of irritation.
“DOLLY!” she yelled. “Just because you’ve got a flash name - Byyy-rooon!”
Oh, thought Byron becoming somewhat grumpy himself. It’s going to keep being like this, is it? He remained silent for a moment, then taking a big breath decided to try again to get her into a better mood.
“I think Dolly is a lovely name,” he said, as kindly as he could manage, considering how much he felt under attack. “And it suits you,” he added. He meant it. It did suit her. Byron liked that name.
They both remained quiet, with their thoughts, before Byron spoke again.
“Anyway, the teacher didn’t name me. Her daughter did.”
“What?” snapped Dolly, with renewed interest. “She has a daughter? Where? I haven’t seen any daughter.” Then somewhat sadly, “I haven’t seen anyone…” before adding, unkindly, “Well, apart from you. And you’re no fun.”
Her big head began to droop. Byron wasn’t sure if she was falling asleep or just trying to turn away from where he looked across at her. He wished she could shut those big scary eyes! Last night, when
he had been left facing her, he swore he could see those eyes glinting across the dark room. He wished the teacher had put him in another room so he wasn’t left wondering if the doll might actually come after him. But the teacher had remained sound asleep, even snoring sometimes, which got pretty scary as he stared out into the dark. He really wished the teacher wouldn’t leave them uncomfortably facing each other across the room. Perhaps she had thought about it and believed they might want to look across at each other? He felt a slight shudder although if anyone was to look at him they would not see any movement in his little body.
“Her daughter lives somewhere else. They’re always on the phone with each other. I thought you would have heard her because the phone is always on speaker.”
“Well, pardon me if I don’t hear so well!” she snapped.
He looked at her little pink ears, sticking out from her head and thought, bet they catch everything they want to hear. Byron was getting sick of her being so mean. “Maybe she should have called you Snappy,” he muttered, beginning to feel almost as grumpy and the stupid doll.
He imagined her eyes had gotten even brighter.
“Nothing,” he lied. “Just that you were going to tell me your story.” He waited but she did not reply. “Your story?” he said, a little louder, deciding that maybe she really did have a hearing problem.
“Alright, I said I would tell you. Give me a minute!” Even though she said it impatiently, she didn’t sound so scary now because she was no longer looking at him. Her head had dropped forward so that she was looking at the floor. Now her eyes did not look so big because Byron could only see part of them. And her voice was a little muffled so that she no longer sounded so impatient with him. Byron was happy not to have to look right at her face.
“So where did you come from?” he asked, making sure his voice came out loud and clear.
“Kmart,” she replied, as if where else could she have come from?
“In Alice Springs?” he asked.
Did she just spit? He wanted to tell her that she didn’t have to be so grumpy with him but figured that would surely just make her worse.
“Is there anywhere else?” She said it like a question, but Byron was becoming used to her sarcasm, so he chose to ignore it. Instead, he pondered the question. Could there be other places?
Byron had only been to Alice Springs and now out here to Arlparra. He did remember being in his own little box inside a very large carton. Beneath him and on top of him and all around him were the same little boxes full of other toy mice that looked exactly like him. Were they his family? He also had a slight memory of being moved from a truck to a plane. Mmm, he pondered, maybe it had all been a dream? Or something he imagined when he was stuck out there under that hot sun. That huge, bright sun could make a mouse imagine all kinds of things.
“Hello?” her annoyance came through even in that one word. “Do you want to hear my story or not?”
“I do.” he quickly said. “I only asked that because I came from Kmart too.”
“Well, I didn’t see you there,” she replied, dismissively.
Byron decided not to respond. He considered that even speaking to her had been a mistake; grumpy, big, flat faced doll, he thought.
Byron was kind and gentle by nature, and up until this conversation, was normally very agreeable. But he was fast becoming aware that his agreeable nature was not working well on this snappy, big-headed doll with her flat, sarcastic face. But, he knew it could be a long time before the teacher got home to move him so decided to keep trying. At least now there was someone who could hear him, even if she didn’t care for anything he said.
“So, you came from Kmart?”
“Hang on. It’s hard to talk when my head is facing down.”
Byron realized he needed to be kinder to her, even if she wasn’t very nice to him. His little head never drooped like that. He was able to always look straight out at the world.
“A little boy found me in Kmart,” she said. “He ripped me out of the box before we even got out the door.” A smile actually came into her voice. “I took the biggest breath because not much air got into that box!”
Byron remembered that same feeling when he was taken out of his box. But he thought he probably shouldn’t interrupt her now that she was finally telling her story.
“Outside of the store there were people everywhere,” she said. “And cars.”
“Was the little boy by himself?” asked Byron.
“No. He was with a lot of kids and some grown-ups. They were walking long way, down Larapinta Drive.”
Byron noticed that she said ‘long way’ just the way the people who had taken him in the car to Arlparra always said it. He could imagine the people who she was with. They would be speaking in their language, kids laughing and chasing one another; the grown-ups sometimes growling those kids when they forgot and ran out onto the road.
“One of the bigger girls grabbed me by my sneaker, snatching me away from the little boy. I worried that my sneaker would come off when she ran so fast down the footpath, swinging me around. It was fun at the start.” Byron could imagine that. Sometimes one of the kids in camp would pick him up and run with him. He liked that very much.
“But then she threw me, right out onto the road.” Her voice got quieter. “I landed right on top of a car before I hit the road.”
Byron didn’t know what to say. They both stayed silent for a moment as Dolly remembered that day.
“The car tooted very loudly. The sound hurt my ears. It almost stopped, then took off, really fast. One of the men with the children yelled at the girl, then grabbed the little boy by the arm to stop him running out onto the road. “’Leave it!’ he said, and they all just kept walking.”
“What? They left you on the road?” asked Byron, horrified.
“Yes. There were too many cars, so the kids weren’t allowed to get me.”
“What happened to you after that?” Byron shuddered, picturing poor Dolly lying on the road with cars racing past.
“I lay right in the middle of the road, right on top of a white line with my legs sticking out. I lay there staring up at the sky, hoping a car didn’t run over me and wreck my sneakers. I love my sneakers,” said Dolly, quietly, remembering how very long she had lain there. “I lay there all day until the streetlights came on and the night became darker and quieter.” Dolly had lain there until the night became cool and only an occasional car came past. “Then some big boys were crossing the road and one saw me. He picked me up by my arm and chased another boy, throwing me at him. That boy picked me up, threw me into the air and as I came down, he kicked me, as hard as he could. I went so high into the air I could see right over Araluen Art Centre. But then I crashed down onto the footpath.” Dolly’s voice was no longer pesky. It had become small and sad. Byron felt a lump in his little brown throat.
“How awful,” he said, feeling so sad for Dolly. But she quickly toughened up again.
“Nah,” she said. “I didn’t care.” But her long silence told Byron that she really had cared.
“So how did you get out to Arlparra?” he asked. He was pretty sure she would want to get past that part of her story.
“Just wait,” she said, letting Byron know she was still in charge. “I’m telling you, aren’t I?”
Byron said nothing, although he felt very annoyed because he was waiting. He had been waiting for days for her to tell the story. It was her, after all, who had suggested she would like to tell her story.
“So, after that I just lay there… long time. The sun came up and I was still lying there. It got hotter and hotter and cars started going past again. Sometimes someone on a bike would be racing down the road and pretend they were about to run over me before swerving away again. Then a woman running past saw me lying out there. She ran out onto the road and picked me up. She was a teacher too. Jenny. I remember Jenny. She liked my little sneakers.” Byron could hear a softening in Dolly’s voice as she remembered Jenny.
Byron had only ever known one teacher and he didn’t know if she even had a name. It wasn’t something he thought about. He could see that Dolly took an interest in these things though.
“It was good after Jenny picked me up.”
She went on to tell Byron how Jenny ran a class in at Sadadeen School over the other side of town. Jenny had a little bus and drove all over Alice Springs, picking up kids who had come into town from lots of different communities out in the desert. When Jenny picked up Dolly, she was on her way back home after exercising. Jenny ran all over town. Sometimes she biked for many kilometres with her father. Jenny loved exercising.
Jenny had thrown Dolly into her little bus before showering and getting ready for school. Then when Jenny had collected all the kids, she drove them to her school. One of the little girls who had been sitting in front had picked up Dolly off the dashboard and Jenny said she could have her.
“I spent all that day in the classroom. The kids were really noisy. The little girl dragged me around all day until Jenny put all the kids back in the bus and drove all around town again, dropping off kids to all the different camps. The little girl got off at Warlpiri camp.”
“Where’s that?” asked Byron, trying to remember if he saw anything at all after he was put in the car outside Kmart.
“Oh, you won’t know,” said Dolly, showing how superior her knowledge was. “It’s a town camp on the way out of Alice.”
Byron said nothing.
“When the little girl got off the bus, she dropped me on the ground and forgot about me. So now I was just lying in a different place. I wanted Jenny to come back and get me, but she had driven away. I don’t know how long I lay there. But then a boy saw me and started throwing me up and catching me. That was fun – until he dropped me and ran away again.”
Dolly lay at the edge of the camp for many days, forgotten by all the kids who lived there in the Warlpiri houses. Then one day as Jenny was driving out with the kids in the bus, she saw Dolly, lying there staring up at the sky. She stopped the bus and looking out that no cheeky dogs were going to chase after her, she dashed out and grabbed Dolly, bringing her into the bus.
“I thought you wanted her,” said Jenny, to the little girl who had taken her home.
“Nah,” said the little girl, picking at a scab on her knee.
So, Dolly, once again went to school in Jenny’s classroom.
“I liked being with Jenny,” said Dolly, for a moment, her voice light and happy. “I used to sit up on Jenny’s desk and watch all the kids learning and making lunches and playing and fighting. Jenny really, really loved me.” Dolly tried to remember Jenny’s face and if it was actually true that Jenny had loved her. She knew it was true that Jenny really liked her little pink sneakers. “I liked those kids.”
“Yes,” said Byron, remembering the little boy who had brought him to Arlparra. “I liked the kids in my camp, too.”
“Then one day,” said Dolly, taking up the story again, “a little girl who was only with Jenny for half a day, hid me inside her jacket. Her family came in to take her away with them. I don’t think Jenny knew that the little girl had stolen me. Jenny wouldn’t have wanted to lose me again.” Dolly’s voice had become very sad. Byron said nothing. “And so I found myself in a car with a lot of people and buckets of chicken and chips and drinks being spilt and chocolate getting stuck to the car seat. We drove long way out of town. Then the car stopped for a fat lady, who had been sitting under a tree out on an empty road. She waved the car down and got in, bringing a lot of dust in with her.” Dolly thought about that time and began to smile. “The fat lady sat right on top of a chocolate bar that one of the kids had dropped.” She chuckled as she remembered how the chocolate bar was still stuck to the woman’s bum when she finally got out of the car.
“Someone sat right on top of me,” said Byron, remembering his car ride out from Alice Springs. He remembered how crowded the car was and how hot and noisy it was that day. He loved that day.
“Yeah, well we’re not talking about you now.” The meanness was back in her voice. Byron thought that had she been able to move she would have waved a dismissive, munted hand at him. He was glad this grumpy doll couldn’t move and add to her meanness. “So, I was brought out to Arlparra. Well, not really Arlparra. Not then. We drove right through. I was taken right out to another community. Irrultja. But I wasn’t there for long, either.” She thought for a moment before adding, “which was a shame because I liked those kids.” Dolly was thoughtful for a moment before she continued. “That little girl looked after me all that night and day. But two days later I was in the car
again. I heard the family say they were going back to Alice Springs. But they stopped at the store in Arlparra and I was accidently knocked out of the car when everyone got out. No one noticed. When they all came out and got back in the car, they still didn’t notice that I was lying on the ground. One big boy even stood on me. He never even looked down.”
Byron realized that his life had been fairly easy until he was left behind at the old camp. The days and nights after that had not been easy but he felt sorry for Dolly, hearing all that she had been through.
“So, what happened then?” He asked, before thinking he probably should not have spoken. He had become quite nervous around Dolly. But Dolly just continued her story.
“Then I just lay outside the store. A hundred cars just drove right over top of me.”
Byron had been to that store. He knew that it would be weeks and weeks and weeks before anything like a hundred cars would pull up. But he guessed that it felt like that to Dolly. Although looking at her, it didn’t seem she had ever actually been under the wheels of a car.
“What?” he decided to be daring. “The cars drove right on top of you?” He was beginning to realize that not everything Dolly said might be true. But she did know a lot. She had been to far more places than he had ever been to.
“Yes!” she snapped. “Right on top of me!” She sat quiet for a moment. “Well, nearly on top of me.”
Byron smiled to himself, pleased he had gotten her to tell the truth. But he did understand that she really had been through some very terrible times.
“Then a pack of dogs came sniffing around.” Byron remembered the dogs. He shuddered thinking of poor little Dolly, lying there among a pack of skinny, snarling dogs. He remembered their sharp teeth and how their tongues lolled out when they were hot with spit dribbling and dripping onto everything.
“One of them picked me up in his broken, pointy teeth and ran away around the other side of the shop with me. The other dogs chased him. Then an old man sitting outside of the shop eating chicken, threw all the bones, and the fatty, brown paper bag, right out across the dirt. All the dogs raced for the food. The dog that had me in his mouth dropped me right amongst all the bits of greasy chicken bones. I was right there as they snarled and growled, ferociously attacking one another.” It was Dolly’s turn to shudder as she remembered that terrifying day. “They snatched up bones and bits of skin and even gulped down bits of paper. They were all running in different directions with whatever chicken bones they had managed to grab, trying to eat them quickly before another dog could knock them to the ground and take the bone for themself. It was really, really scary!”
Byron knew this would be a true story. He had seen the camp dogs when food was thrown out to them. He could imagine poor Dolly, lying there among all the fighting dogs, her big eyes staring up at the mass of fur and spit and chicken grease flying out of their mouths. He knew that even though she would have been so afraid, her naughty smile would not have changed.
“I was just getting over this, my heart almost beating right out of my chest, when some kids saw me. A big boy chased the dogs away and grabbed me. He gave me to his little sister. He was a very nice boy.” Dolly stopped speaking for a moment as she remembered the big boy. He had put an arm around his little sister, bent down to see that she was okay, then he ran off with some of the bigger kids. “Some girls called out to the little girl and they all walked off, around the road past the school and onto that sienna track. The girls all sat down for a while in the red dirt, telling stories in the sand with their fingers.”
Dolly had liked being with the girls. They had all talked about her little pink sneakers. They thought they were so pretty and wanted some, just like hers. Dolly could not have been happier. She liked hearing them laugh, sometimes so much that one of them would fall backwards from where they sat in a little circle, laughing until someone threw a handful of sand at her to make her sit up again. The girls were funny and Dolly felt like she was smiling and laughing inside, just as their beautiful faces were laughing on the outside. Dolly stayed with the girls all day, until they headed home as the sun began to set.
The little girl who had held Dolly’s hand ever since her brother had given the doll to her had become very sleepy. One of the bigger girls, probably her sister, picked up the tired little one and holding her against her chest, let the little girl sleep against her shoulder. As the little girl slept, her arms that were wound around the big girl’s neck loosened and the hand that had held Dolly for all that time fell open. Dolly dropped to the ground.
“So,” she said in a small voice, “I was on my own again. This time lying out on the warm dirt on the sienna track.”
“That’s where I was found,” said Byron. “Out in an old camp right beside that track. Maybe you were lying out there when I was stuck in the old camp?” He immediately worried that Dolly would snap at him for that but instead, she just quietly agreed. “Maybe.”
“How long were you out there? Is that where the teacher found you?”
“About a year,” said Dolly. “I lay out there for about a year. Maybe ten years.”
Byron knew this couldn’t possibly be true. Dolly looked pretty fresh for someone that old and left outside for years.
“Maybe a day or two or ten,” added Dolly, and Byron knew that Dolly had no idea of time. “And then the teacher found me, lying there, the sun burning into my face. Or maybe the back of my head.”
“Well, which was it?” asked Byron, for he was a mouse that appreciated detail.
“Oh, I don’t know!” He thought her impatience with him might actually have moved her head. “All I remember is that it was very hot and I was once again on some sort of rough road that cars sometimes drove down. And one probably drove right over top of me! Not that you would know what that feels like,” she peevishly added.
Byron just smiled. He was beginning to understand this tough little doll. No wonder she was so snappy after all that she had been through. Byron had a very gentle little heart. He found himself feeling very sorry for Dolly. She didn’t even look so scary now. Instead, she was just a little doll that had been through a lot of scary stuff. And although she was safe now, there still hadn’t been very much to make her feel happy and loved. She was stuck among the perfume she didn’t like with a ring poking out from under her bottom and some other shiny jewelry that flashed into her eyes when the light was on. She was never moved around like he was. He wished the teacher could hear him. He would tell her to move Dolly around too.
“Oh, look at you two!” The teacher had come into the room. With all the talking going on they hadn’t heard her come home. “It must have been a boring story you told, Byron,” she said, heading toward Dolly. “Looks like you’ve put her to sleep.” The teacher righted Dolly so that her head was now up off her chest. She propped the doll up against a perfume bottle to keep her upright. ‘That’s better,” she said, smoothing the bed cover on the way back out the room.
Byron almost stopped breathing with the sadness that caught in his little brown throat. Poor Dolly. He saw one tiny tear run down from the corner of Dolly’s eye, making a crooked track over her flat nose until it caught for a moment on her forced smile. Byron wished he could move. He would go over and help her, take her away from the bottles of scent that she hated.
The tear continued until it dripped right down onto her spotty tights. Byron felt the lump in his throat get bigger when it looked as if another tear could fall even further and wet Dolly’s little pink sneaker. Dolly would not like it if her pink sneakers got wet. He wanted to say, “Don’t cry, Dolly,” but knew that if he did the tough little doll would find a way to wound him with some other mean comment. He understood that she wasn’t really mean. It was just her way not to get hurt any more.
Dolly noticed the sadness for her in Byron’s little brown nut eyes and wanted to yell at him to keep his sympathy to himself. But before she could, to her horror, another tear rolled right down her flat cheek, this time falling right down onto her sneaker. She tried not to snuffle. Byron felt helpless.
Then just as he felt he could not stand another moment of Dolly not being able to move, the teacher came back into the room.
“I haven’t shifted you today,” she said, coming toward Byron. Byron thought he would explode as everything within him tried to make the teacher look at Dolly and see that she also wanted to be moved, that she was going crazy sitting there with the perfume. He thought if he could just shout loudly enough the teacher might just hear him. He tried but could feel, more than see, Dolly’s disgust at him being so vocal. He realized that his voice would be making Dolly wince. The teacher was completely unaware that he was shouting at her, even as she picked him up and peered into his little mouse face.
“Oh, you’re so cute, little guy.” She smothered his head with kisses. “Oh, and you’re also still kinda grubby,” she laughed, wiping one hand over her mouth as she held him loosely in the other, while Byron stared at the floor over which he hung, suspended in her grip. The teacher took him into the lounge and propped him up beside the computer, switching it on as she sorted a stack of papers. He knew his face looked just the same as always, but his heart felt so heavy and sad, thinking how Dolly was still stuck there, back in the bedroom. He understood now how much she really did not like the perfume. She might be dressed in her cutie little clothes, but he knew now that Dolly was a very practical girl. Just as tears began to form in his eyes his thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Hi Vicki,” called the teacher. “Come in!”
Vicki walked over to the pile of papers and added another pile. “Thought you might want your photocopies.”
“Where did I leave those?” said the teacher. But Vicki wasn’t listening. She had picked up Byron.
“OMG,” she said, “where did you get this grubby little mouse?” Enough of the grubby, you two, thought Byron. You’d be grubby too if you had lay out in a deserted camp for as long as I did.
“I’ll tell you about it sometime, when I don’t have so much work to do,” the teacher replied. “I keep finding these abandoned soft toys around the community. I’ve got another one in the bedroom. She was cleaner than this little mouse.”
“Show me,” said Vicki, who had some strange toys of her own, including an ugly, purple, plastic troll with crazy green hair, sitting right above her computer screen in the classroom.
“Really?” said the teacher. But she knew Vicki liked toys so took her through to the bedroom. “The one out there is Byron. Byron Badgery. Van named him,” she added, “when I sent her photos the day I found him.”
I wish your daughter had named me, thought Dolly. At least someone in the family had some imagination. Bet she hasn’t even sent a photo of me to her daughter. It’s all about Byron. Byron, Byron, Byyy-rooon.
“And this is Dolly.” The teacher gave an exaggerated shudder.
“What?” said Vicki. “Did you just shudder?”
“Look at her,” said the teacher. “Look at those big pukana eyes!”
“Pukana?” enquired Vicki.
“Look it up some time,” said the teacher, dismissively, picking up the doll. The teacher came from New Zealand where this word had meaning.
Dolly felt another tear beginning to build in her eye, when suddenly the teacher wiped her hand across the doll’s wide pink face.
The teacher patted her hand down the front of her little purple striped top.
“She’s wet,” she repeated. “How weird! How did she get wet?”
“Probably crying, because you’re so mean to her,” said Vicki, taking the doll from the teacher. “Oh, you’re so beautiful,” she said, looking closely at Dolly’s face. “Look at her cute little pigtails! I love her!”
The teacher looked puzzled. She looked from Vicki to Dolly.
“Yeah, don’t know if beautiful is a term I’d use for her,” she said. “But I swear she has attitude! Ever since I brought her home and washed her, I’ve just left her there on the dresser. Her and her big eyes. I swear those eyes follow me and flash at me, every time I come near.”
“Well, maybe you need to move her sometimes; be a bit kinder to the poor little girl?”
The teacher looked at Dolly again, now staring wide-eyed up into Vicki’s face. The teacher smiled. She was a cute little doll, really, now she thought about it.
“I think you’re right. I do kind of like her… pesky little doll. But she should be happy sitting there among the perfume.”
“Are you kidding?” said Vicki, who happened to be allergic to perfume. “Do you realize how overpowering some of those smells are? Poor Dolly!
mischievous type - even if she has got a girlie phone around her neck. I think she needs to move around a bit.”
“Really?” said the teacher. “You do know that she is not real, right?” Dolly tried to make her eyes even bigger as her face stared up at Vicki. “Okay, just for you, Vicki, I will move her around. From now on she can sit up against Byron and keep him company.”
“And move them every day,” demanded Vicki, who loved Disney movies and fantasy and every story that brought toys to life.
“Okay,” agreed the teacher, without too much conviction. After all, even Byron had been left in the same place for the past couple of days. It was only when he caught her eye that she remembered the little mouse that she had brought home and cleaned up.
“Hey, you’re the one that brought them home. And I bet you talk to them, too.” Vicki was beginning to believe they were more than just toys. But then she had always believed in toys.
The teacher smiled.
“Yeah, I talk to them.” She laughed, “maybe they are real?”
She took Dolly from Vicki, kissed her on the top of her little purple headband with the pink flower still strongly attached. If the teacher had known Dolly’s story, she would have been amazed that the pink flower was still there.
“Come on, pukana eyes,” she said. “Let’s be taking you to another view.”
“I think you should sit them outside for a while,” said Vicki. “Let them stay out until they get to see the stars again.”
“You think?” said the teacher, sarcastically, almost making Dolly proud of the teacher’s attitude. Except that this was aimed against her which left Dolly a little conflicted.
But in spite of the teacher laughing at Vicki’s want to treat toys as if they were truly real, that was just what she did. As Vicki was leaving to return to the school, needing to collect her own pile of papers, the teacher with Byron and Dolly in hand, walked her out.
“Thanks for bringing that stuff to me.” She smiled, giving a little wave, as Vicki headed across the rutted driveway, “oh saver of toys,” she added.
The teacher looked around the little veranda, the sand swept in by the wind now crunching under her bare feet, before propping the two soft toys up against each other, on an old, broken, fireside chair that had come from the dump a few months before.
“There you go, you two,” she said, leaning down to make sure they were firmly placed. “Is that better?”
“And make sure you take them in after they’ve seen the stars!” Vicki called back over her shoulder.
And so, that became the pattern of Byron and Dolly’s life after that. And even though Dolly pretended to shudder every time she was pushed up against Byron, she had never been so happy, not since the day she had been taken off the shelf at Kmart. Well, never been so happy, that was, until the day the teddy arrived and set them all on another adventure.
Inspired by the NZ Bear Hunt during the March/April lockdown 2020, I started posting a story (in instalments) in the front window of my cottage here in Oamaru.