Tag Archives: doll

Doll – Part IX

Thump, thump, thump, thump.

With Margie just behind him, Chalmers paused at the front door. He flexed his hand a couple of times as he slowly reached out for the knob. The approach was hesitant, as if he almost expected it to burn him the second he touched it.

He looked to Margie. She put her hand on his shoulder, first with a light squeeze and then with a slight rub back and forth. She offered a slight smile of encouragement. The gestures poured a flood of familiarity into him. It was a signature move for her and one he remembered finding great comfort in. They were never overly expressive back in the day, but the subtleties of their actions always spoke volumes. It was the shot of courage he needed.

Chalmers grabbed the now less than intimidating door handle, turned it and opened the door wide enough to include Margie in whatever awaited them.

“Sir. Ma’am.”

Officer Telly Granger filled the doorway in full uniform. With a clipboard and pen at the ready, he greeted the man and woman inside with a serious demeanor, but he hoped not without an essence of compassion. In his six years, he never had this duty before.

“Officer,” Chalmers said.

“Sir, I’m looking for a Chalmers Elk.”

“That’s me.”

“Sir, might I come in? I have some information I need to share with you.”

“What sort of information?”

“Sir, as you are probably aware, the recent flooding has caused a level of damage not common in this area.”

“My house was checked out. I was told I could return.”

“Yes, sir,” Granger said. “There is no known problem with either your house or your being back in the area sir.”

“Then I don’t understand.”

“Uh, the problem sir, is with the Cardington cemetery.”

Chalmers stiffened at the sound of the words. His breath hitched and his heart began to beat a little harder in response. Once again, a slight squeeze on his shoulder from Margie, triggered a greater calm in him that worked to quell the uprising of anxiety.

“Please,” Chalmers managed. “Come in.”

Margie offered coffee as they moved into the kitchen and toward the table. Granger declined. She couldn’t miss his eyes catching sight of the doll that sat perched at the far end of the small table.

Once seated, Granger first apologized, for as he understood it, this duty would not normally fall to him, but since recovery efforts were still underway and some parts of the area were still underwater, this task was his as part of the community relations effort.

With Granger on one side of the table, Chalmers and Margie sat on the other. Instinctively, their hands entwined.

“Sir,” Granger said. “The extraordinary flooding we’ve seen from recent storms has caused a substantial amount of damage to homes, businesses and other properties.”

Chalmers and Margie sat still and quiet.

“As the waters continue to recede, we’re finding unprecedented instances of disruption and destruction.”

“I’m sorry,” Chalmers said, interrupting. He had become more of a “pull the bandage off quickly kind of guy” over the years and grew weary of the build up. “What does this have to do with the cemetery? With us?”

“Yes, sir,” Granger said. “The cemetery saw water flow and activity that created a level of damage that might create certain health and safety concerns. You see … several of the burial plots were washed out or severely damaged. I understand you have a relative buried there.”

Chalmers bit down, his lips tightened. His hand tightened around Margie’s.

“Our daughter,” Margie managed softly.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Granger. “I’m terribly sorry to bring you this news, but if at all possible, we would like you to come down and help us identify the remains so that they can be returned to their proper resting place.”

Doll – Part VIII

“CJ?” Margie asked softly. “What’s wrong?”

Chalmers sat on the edge of the bed, half dressed. He started out all right, but something distracted him.

He knew he had to do this. He had to. It was one of those unfortunate things life threw at you and you had to stand there and take it. It might sting. It might hurt. Hell, it might break you in two and burn like hell, but life has very little interest in your discomforts when it decides to doll out its indiscriminate wisdom.

Still, when he shifted the suit that Margie laid out for him, she caught his eye.

They set the doll aside to make sure it would look perfect. Margie’s sister Pam even did the hair, which included working out a masterful snarl created the last time Paisley tried a style that was a little too exotic. Sitting on the nightstand, she stared at him with her long dark hair and bright blue eyes … smiling.

He took her in his hands and dropped to the bed. He stared into the glassy, careless gaze that looked back at him, and he grew envious of the times she got to stare back at Paisley as if they were secret sisters. He and Margie agreed that since Clarrissa was Paisley’s favorite, her “best friend in the world,” she would go with her to her rest. It made good sense. It did.

Chalmers stared into the doll’s face. His mind was mostly clear of the random thoughts that his brain was prone to conjuring. His head, his heart felt empty like an enormous vacant theatre where long ago, life used to play out before appreciative crowds of people nightly, but now sat hollow and stale and falling into disrepair.

He stared at the doll, longing to hear his daughter’s voice whisper just one last time, “Daddy, I love you.”

He stared at the doll, hoping against hope that she would give him a sign, some indication or reassurance that somewhere Paisley was fine, and safe, and happy, and that she would be all right … so the he could be all right.

Margie entered the room to see what was holding him up. They were late. And while they were both crushed right now, it was Chalmers who needed more from her. She recognized that. She respected that. She knew that when the time came, he would be there for her.

She found him sitting on the bed, not nearly ready, quietly holding the doll.

“Honey,” she said softly. “The car is here. It’s time.”

He sat still and stared into the glassy blue eyes.

“CJ, we need to go. Can you finish getting dressed? Everyone will be waiting.”

While is eyes never wavered from the doll’s, his head slowly shook once side-to-side, so subtly Margie might have missed it if she hadn’t been watching him so closely. She stepped closer to him and placed her hand on his shoulder. “Let me help you.”

The man’s head shook with more insistence, as a child might do when his mother was trying to feed him broccoli. Side-to-side it swung. No.

“Chalmers, please,” Margie said. “I know it’s hard. It’s so hard.” She started to cry. “Please. Get dressed and come with me. Paisley will want her doll.”

“I…” he whispered. He took a deep breath, which triggered a series of deep quick breaths. “I … I … can’t.” His head kept shaking side-to-side. “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” Tears streamed down his face as his sorrow contorted his features. He sobbed. “I can’t.”

“You need to say goodbye,” Margie whispered.

“I can’t.”

“If you don’t, you’ll regret it, for the rest of your life.”

“I can’t. I can’t.”

“Please. Come with me. Say goodbye with me,” Margie said, with a soft urgency through sobs of her own. “I can’t do this alone. Don’t leave me alone in this.”

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”

At that point, whatever Chalmers Elk had left in him, whatever was holding him so loosely together then, evaporated. His hands let go of the doll, which Margie caught, and he crumpled to the floor. Sobbing without limits, he curled into a ball, repeating, “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”

Doll – Part III

“Oh, daddy! She’s beautiful!”

Chalmers welcomed the attacking hug. He closed his eyes as she threw her arms around his neck and tried to squeeze into him all her feelings of love and gratitude. He held her, guiltily trying to prolong the moment, feeling a smile come to his face that he couldn’t have stopped if he wanted to. These moments are fleeting, but these moments are payback in full for becoming a father.

It seemed unfair, that so much pure, sweet and honest goodness could be crammed into one solitary now seven year-old girl. It might be a case of fatherly pride, but he was certain that if stacked against other girls of her age, his would be a standout.

Paisley Elk’s seventh birthday was an event in itself. Not a week and a half ago, thanks to a hard case of the flu, there was talk of canceling the whole thing. Sentenced to the couch with swollen, watery red eyes, a determined fever and a horrific cough, the poor little thing lay in misery as marathon sessions of Gladys and the Happy Toads played over and over again on the T.V.

It was hard to tell what she was taking in through her glazed stare, but the sight of her pained him to the point where he pleaded to the powers to give it all to him and take away any suffering she may have to endure.

As she got better and party time drew closer, the plans seemed to expand. He spent more than he wanted to. A list of five friends grew to eleven and some family came. There was a bouncy house, a four-tiered cake from Haggerman’s bakery and his daughter’s favorite, Dandy’s strawberry ice cream, which she claimed was the perfect shade of pink. He spared no expense.

Of course Margie helped. The bouncy house was her idea. Chalmers pushed back on it a little, saying it was certain to kill the grass or something equally lame, but the truth was, they could swing it so he agreed to it. Looking at it all, it seemed a bit much for a seven year old. What would she expect when she turned sixteen?

Paisley released him from her hug, but not before placing a hard kiss firmly on his cheek. The she jumped back to focus on the new doll. She held it before her with both arms outstretched before bringing it in for a classic Paisley hug. “I love it,” she squealed. She held the doll out in front of her and looked deep into its eyes. “I love you!”

Chalmers knew very little about dolls. He knew Paisley wanted what she called a “big girl doll,” one with lots of clothes, with hair that you could fix into different styles and with eyes that opened and closed.

Clarrissa, came from the Bennington Toy company’s “Silver Edition” collection. He remembered seeing a commercial for it when watching cartoons with Paisley one rainy Saturday morning. She never asked for it directly, but he heard her “ooh,” when the ad hit the air.

She was a pretty doll with long dark hair, a delicate, childlike mouth, pudgy fingers and deep blue eyes the rolled closed when you laid her down for her nap.

She came with two outfits, and Chalmers sprang for two more, despite the unreasonable cost. Now, Paisley could dress her new friend up as a dancer, and artist, a student and a cowgirl. The cowgirl hat was even a little extra.

After declaring her love, Paisley snuggled Clarrissa, gathered up the various outfits ran to the end of the yard and plunged into her group of friends to show off her new present and allowing them the time to “ooo” and “ah” at the wonder of her new, “best friend in the world!”

As he watched, smiling that dopey smile again, Margie stepped up softly behind him. She put her hand on his shoulder and gave him a slight rub and a squeeze. “You’re a hero,” She said. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Good job. Thank you.”