June 23, 2014 at 6:09 AM
This is the second in a series of pieces from Millburn High School's award-winning literary magazine, WORD, that will be published on TAPIntoMillburn once a week.
Mountain of the Dolls
When I was young, I was the matriarch of a family of dolls. My children were dolls with porcelain faces, Barbies with maniacal smiles, American Girls with lustrous hair. My family tree was large and lovely, but its branches were breaking.
Although I loved my dolls, I was a terrible mother. Each child eventually sickened, died and found her way to the mass grave in the corner of my room. There, slumped against the wall, was a hill of beaten baby dolls, disembodied limbs, and chipped china children. After a few years, even my strongest dolls became feeble with age and illness. So onto the pile they went.
Some lasted longer than others. Molly McIntire was a bespectacled babe whom the American Girl Company had plucked from World War II America. When she arrived at my house, she had two long, smooth braids secured with clear elastic bands. I liked neat hair; it made dowdy Molly look almost pretty. I kept Molly’s factory-made braids for years, and Molly, a survivor, stayed healthy. She and her braids seemed destined for old age.
Then one day one of my friends undid Molly’s braids, leaving her hair tangled and frizzy. Horrified, I put Molly in time-out, sitting her at the side of the room. To pass time until my friend left, I pulled some of my older toys from what was supposed to be their final resting place. We played zombies. I remained calm, but not for long. When she left, I slammed the door to my room, found a brush, and started to rip at Molly’s hair to get the snarls out. I had to re-braid it.
I pulled a good portion of hair out of her head before it was straight enough for me to work with, and then opened my girl-scout manual to its section on hair. Sitting Indian-style, I propped the book under my feet and forced Molly into a back bend so I could bind up her loose locks. I separated her hair into three (mostly) equal sections and looked back to the book. In the picture, a floating hand pulled the rightmost section of the braid over the center section. I tried to imitate, but while readjusting my hands, I dropped Molly and cracked her little silver glasses. Fine, then. She didn’t need them anyway; they weren’t even prescription. So I collected her from the floor and started over.
This time I managed to pull the right section over the center, then the left section over the center. The motion was repetitive and difficult; pull the right over the center, then the left, then the right, then the left again. Each overlap created a chain-like tail of hair that covered half of Molly’s face. When one section became too short to cross over any of the others, I stopped and reached for the clear elastic that had kept Molly’s hair pristinely in place for years, stretching it once around the braid, then twice. Then the band snapped, and I dropped Molly on her head. I soothed her and tried the other band. Same result.
I hoisted Molly from the ground, and her gray eyes looked at me plaintively. Her broken glasses had lodged themselves in her braid, her clothes had collected crud from my floor, and her hair had snapped off into my brush. According to her American Girl back-story, Molly had lived through the Great Depression and survived a World War, all the while avoiding harm. After dealing with me, though, she lost most of her hair and eyesight, and she was probably hemorrhaging from multiple concussions. Even I knew her chances of recovery were slim.
It was a sad day when I placed Molly on top of her dead sisters. For a silent moment I stood in front of the pile, regarding my now-balding doll tearfully. I was a terrible person. I had killed my friend.
But maybe I could find another. I didn’t have any rag dolls, after all.
The Millburn High School Literary Magazine, Word, is a juried publication that showcases the extraordinary talents of this school's writers, artists, photographers, craftspeople and illustrators. The editors and staff take the process of creating the magazine very seriously. We hold regular open meetings from September to February to read submissions and to identify potential pieces for inclusion in the next volume. Then we choose selections that exemplify the diversity and strength of our student body and spend several months working on a unifying theme, on layout and production. Since we are constantly amazed by the abilities of our peers, we consider the magazine a tribute to the virtuosity, skill and creativity of our student body.
To download the 2014 edition, click here.
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