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  • Lindsay King-Miller

Hello, Dolly

by Lindsay King-Miller




When he travels, he brings back dolls for his daughter. He doesn't know we ride inside them, slipping into his home in Trojan horses of cotton or porcelain or plastic. He doesn't know we are here still, planning our revenge.

We are his work. Not his job, the reason he travels the country collecting air miles and drinking bad hotel coffee, but what he thinks of as his real work, his true passion, his calling. We are the women he kills.

In Chicago, he cuts a jogger’s throat and leaves her under a park bench, then brings home a fashion doll with a real leather jacket. In Phoenix, after crawling through an open window and strangling a woman asleep on her couch, he picks up a baby doll wrapped in a yellow blanket. In a Philadelphia parking garage, he creeps up behind a security guard and slips a loop of wire around her neck. From that trip, he brings home an Amish rag doll without a face.

Every time he kills a woman, he buys a doll. His daughter has quite the collection. They’re his tally marks, placeholders for the graves he doesn’t dare visit.

The little girl rarely plays with us. She mostly keeps us in our boxes, although she has given us each names, and sometimes she recites them in her prayers before bed. “God bless Baby Alice. God bless Shoshanna. God bless Rosalie.” Our old names from life and our new names as dolls get mixed up in our minds. We lose the threads of our own identities.

All we remember is that we hate him.

The plan springs not from any one of us, but from all of us at once. It’s his shadow that does it, falling across the girl’s bed from the doorway, as it fell across so many of us. The girl has a mother; we’ve heard her moving through the house, and sometimes she comes into the bedroom to put folded laundry into drawers. But some of us are mothers, too. We know what mothers are made of, and how quickly they can be broken.

We talk to the girl in her sleep. We tell her about footsteps in the dark. The creak of a floorboard in a room that should be empty. We tell her about the sound a broken neck makes, the sour taste of a last breath. These things we remember well, much clearer than the details of our lives.

And we tell her about him. The weight of him holding us down. The smile on his face as we died.

We tell her the same stories, night after night, whispering them in her ears until they play in her dreams. The shape of his fingernail digging into a shoulder. The sound of his laughter, close and quiet. He is not a man who laughs often. His daughter is the only one besides us who knows the sound.

We tell her about the things he used: leather gloves, pocketknife, spool of utility rope. Some of them are in the house still. She collects them and brings them to us, piles them on the shelf under our blank glass eyes. They feed our rage, and our rage feeds hers.

He has used her, she whispers furiously. He has made her an accomplice, an unwitting curator in the museum of his depravity.

Yes, we tell her as our revenge takes root and begins to drink. Yes, he has.

He comes into her room one night. He is thinking about women’s bodies and the many interesting ways of taking them apart, and he comes to look at the dolls because it soothes the itch in his chest. Not forever, he knows. There will be a new doll on the shelf soon. He likes this part, the anticipation.

His daughter is not asleep. She looks up at him from the bed. She sees what happens to his face as he remembers the things he did to us.

What will he do next? we whisper. Will he do it to you?

She sits up. Our rage fills her; our hatred animates her. She is our doll, our puppet. We make her stand. We make her walk.

What are you doing? her father asks.

She takes the knife from the shelf. Once it opened a woman’s throat like a second mouth, and he kissed the lips of the wound. Now his daughter swings it up toward his heart.

But she misses. She hasn’t practiced this like he has. The blade goes into his shoulder, and he roars like an animal and slaps her, knocking it from her hand.

The girl reaches for the knife again, our hands guiding hers, clawing on the carpet. Her father, bleeding, dizzy with pain and fury, grabs it away from her. He pushes her, but she’s on him again, wrapping her hands around his throat. He can’t breathe. He can’t think. He has to break her hold.

He shoves her, hard, but he is still holding the knife. His aim is better by instinct than hers was with effort. The blade goes right between her ribs, neatly, as if they were made for each other. Like fitting a doll’s foot into a shoe.

His hand comes away dark with blood.

Of all the times he’s held a dying girl in his arms, this is the first time he’s cried. The first time he’s screamed. The first time he’s howled to his ragged, reeking gods that he’ll do anything, give anything, if they let him take it back.

We look down from our shelves and smile our painted-on smiles, because we have our revenge.


 

Lindsay King-Miller is the author of Ask A Queer Chick: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life for Girls who Dig Girls (Plume, 2016). She lives in Denver with her partner, two children, and two cats.

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