Doll Talk

Today she has us slanted to the right, as if we’re swerving on a merry-go-round.
There are three of us, in our frilly dresses and bonnets, with our goggle eyes always open, in a shock.
She’s owned us since she was a toddler. Along the way, we’ve seen wars, torment and bliss, and we’ve heard a gaggle of shrieks and sighs.
We were her grandmother’s originally, birthed in plastic, year 1920-something. Dates are difficult to recall when your head is filled with fouls, rubber-scented air.
We never speak, just listen and observe. We’d like to tell people that it’s better this way, that paying close attention is how you accumulate knowledge and understanding, which are, together, a kind of strength, if you think about it.
She’s older now. Quite old, really.
We watch her talk to herself in the vanity mirror on the wall opposite to her bed. We hear her talk to Dennis, who passed a decade ago, as if he’s standing right there with his clown nose and droopy gut, grinning like a jolly imbecile in love.
Other times she tries to arrange us so we’re standing on our heads, but we always flop and trundle to the floor, which can infuriate her.
Last week, she sat us face-to-face-to-face and screamed, “Well, say something, Goddamnit!” When we didn’t, couldn’t, she flung us to the floor and our thighs still feel bruised and gloomy even now.
I think she’s slanted us toward the window, nearest the light, because the sun has seen everything and it has so, so many secrets it is just dying to tell, yet no one ever listens.
We’ve discussed this very notion amongst ourselves without speaking, through our doll minds, because triplets have always been able to do that. Telepathy, it’s called.
But we’ve decided that, for once, we’ll do the talking. And what we’re going to say is really a question. We’re going to ask the sun if she can intervene instead of just standing there, all boastful and bored. We’re going to ask her to call a neighbor, call 911, call Jesus if she has to. We’ve got each other, but we know first-hand what it’s like to feel trapped and alone, with no one around to care or even notice.


  1. Sarah Freligh

    Len, this is just beautiful– the voice, quiet but so powerful, and the narrative as it rolls on, with its details and observations and the amazing characterization of the woman who owns the dolls. And yeah, the lovely irony that they’ve been in her care — or her family’s — for years and now she’s in their care, they’re worried, they have a plan.

    Such a great use of the collective voice. What could be mannered, cute or coy in lesser hands is profound and moving here. Brava. Just astounding.

    • Andrea Marcusa

      Perfection. Just love this. Not only do you tell a story about the lives of dolls, you also tell the story of their owner and then very satisfyingly tie the two stories together at the end. Wonderful

  2. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Len, this is a masterclass in anthropomorphism- bringing the inanimate to life!!! The dolls also add the deft touches of a terrific use of collective (“we”) voice, and though they could be dark or even creepy (think “Chucky!!!”) here we have deeper use of sentiments, attachments, and hope. How do the things in our house, our possessions, if you will, view us? Made me recall why I love Winnie-the-Pooh, or Watership Down… these other projects that bring life to non-human characters. Deep thanks for this!

  3. Koss Just Koss

    Love this, Len. Wonderful animation of dolls using the “we” POV. Perfectly paced. One small detail, celluloid might have been the material used from that era. Even in the talkiness, this was a really vivid, visual piece for me, given the spare use of details. Great stuff.

  4. Jayne Martin

    Could I possibly love this more? I don’t think so. Absolutely masterful, my friend. The single mind of the triplets through “telepathy.” Brilliant. Overall, it has such poignancy. Such wonderful story telling. Always such an absolute joy to read your work, Len.

    One teeny note. In this sentence: “…our thighs still feel bruised and gloomy even now.” You can cut “even now” because “still” does the work in that sentence.

    Send this out!

  5. Francine Witte

    Stunning piece, Len. So strong in the voice. And at the end so very poignant, how they know what it’s like to be trapped.

    I also love so many of the details, the rubber scented air. Bruised and gloomy. How she talked to David, with his clown nose and droopy gut.

    Really beautiful. Yes, send this out.

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