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Weird Words 2: “Mamma’s Dolly”

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Presented for your consideration, another tale in our WEIRD WORDS 2 short story contest. This one is a macabre little number by Kurt Krause called…”Mamma’s Dolly.”

MAMMA’S DOLLY

by Kurt Krause

Mamma always wanted a little girl that she could dress up in frilly things. But she
got my brother, Brian instead. That is, until I came. We’ve been in the Duplex
for as long as I can remember, and I don’t recall anybody ever living next
door. In fact, after Brian left, it was just me and Mamma and, of course, the
dolls. Mamma sure loved her dolls. They’re how she made her living; it was her
craft. And with her so preoccupied with them, it got lonely. What’s more, since
I was schooled at home, I rarely saw the outside of our cozy little house for
two. I’m not sure how old I am. Mamma didn’t believe in holidays, so I never
had a birthday. Neither did Brian, when he was here. Perhaps that’s why he was
so resentful. They used to argue something awful too. See, Brian was a very
sick boy growing up; and Mamma just had the hardest time keeping him from doing
things that might bring harm upon him—things like going to regular school and
playing with the other kids. It sure was quiet after he left.

I’m a young lady now, definitely not a little girl anymore,
albeit Mamma still treats me like one. I don’t remember our daddy. He and Mamma
split up before I was born.  Shortly
thereafter, she had her accident. I don’t know the details about it, just that
it changed her. She was misunderstood by most; an aging beauty, pretty but
scarred, polite but quick to temper. Moreover, there was a sorrow about her
that made me want to stay, made me want to take care of her. And oh how sad she
had been leading up to the days before Brian came back for a surprise
visit.

It was just after Halloween, and we were visited by an early
frost. Mamma lost her Aloe plants on account of it and was therefore in an
especially sour mood. She coveted their healing properties and dubbed them her
magic greens. Unfortunately, the frost’s bite didn’t stop at the plants; the
sudden shift in temperature proved enough to snap one or more of the pipes in
the Duplex as well, so not only did we have little to no water pressure for
hygienic purposes, the walls had begun to seep moisture and in doing so, stain Mamma‘s
pretty scenic murals—those which she painted when her and daddy were just
newlyweds.  Alas, the two unexpected
losses were enough to put Mamma in one of her incensed spells.  In fact, I hadn’t seen her this cross since
Brian left home. And when Mamma was in that way, it meant I had to be
especially “Barbie-like” as to avoid being put in the box, a punishment mamma
contrived when I was very young; kind of like time out or solitary confinement.
That is, she would make me get into a giant box with a hole cut out in the
middle, then wrap the front with cellophane and make me strike the pose of a
pretty little girl who, according to her, should be “as sinless as an angel’s
bottom.” I’d have to maintain that pose until Mamma said, otherwise she’d fill
two pots with water, bring them to a boil and dunk my hands in them. The more I
screamed, the longer she would hold them in there.  Brian used to try and stop her, but it only
caused her to turn aggression toward him. His punishments were even worse than
mine.

She tried to get Brian to come and look at the pipes for a
week or two but finally gave up and turned to the phonebook, dialing the first
plumber she came across. He showed up near dinnertime, and Mamma directed him
to the problem in our tiny Duplex.  She
didn’t introduce me, but she kept me near her side the entire time.  He unhooked a big old wrench from his side
and started tapping on the walls. Mamma giggled awkwardly and told him that it
was the first time we ever had a professional in the home.

“Yeah, it looks it,” he said. “Listen, lady… this is gonna
be a pretty big job. Hope you got home-owner‘s.”

“Actually,” she snickered, sipping from her muddied coffee
cup, “I wanted to talk to you about that. Being a single mom and all, money’s
uh… been kinda tight” She shuffled toward him, exploiting a gait I had never
seen Mamma use before, unfastening the first few buttons on her flannel pajama
top…  “But I’m sure we can work something
out.”

The plumber cleared his throat, saying: “Lady, please don’t
do that. I’m not in the business of doing or accepting favors. I can check out
your pipes and give you a free estimate. Whether you can afford the repairs is
on you. Now, I notice this is a duplex. Do you have access to the adjacent
home?”

Mamma said nothing at first, just gritted her teeth and gave
the man her most wicked scowl just like she always did to Brian and I when we
said or did something out of line. But it didn’t faze the plumber. He just
shrugged, clipped his wrench back in place and made his way for the door.

“It’s…” Mamma cried out, “vacant. No body’s lived there for
well over a decade.  I just use it for
storage.”

“Well,” the plumber grumbled, “Maybe we should take a
gander.”

Mamma nodded hesitantly, then grabbed her keys and led the
man away.  They were gone ten minutes or
so. I could hear them shuffling around on the other side of the walls. A couple
of knocks, thumps and bangs. Then a bit of laughter; but it didn’t last
long.  What followed had the timbre of an
argument, lots of yelling followed by screaming. I could only imagine what
over. I knew Mamma would scold me but good if I interfered or acted out of
role, so I waited with nervous anticipation. And waited and waited… Eventually,
Mamma stepped through the door.  But she
was the only one to return.  Shivering
and painted red, she looked at me and then began to laugh hysterically.

“Gotta call your brother again,” she said. “He has to pick
up this time, just has to. I won’t be able to clean this one up by myself.”

She spent hours dialing the phone, then hanging it up. Over
and over…

At last, she got through. It sounded as though it was Brian,
I couldn’t tell for sure.  The
conversation was short, tense and one-sided, but when it was finished Mamma
hung up and offered up a grin, a genuinely happy one. Then, she went outside
for a while. She let me look out the window like she always did when she left
for a spell. It was dark out, but I knew she was the one who got into the plumber’s
truck and drove it away. I fell asleep, waiting for her to come back again. The
whole thing seemed like a bad dream. When I awoke, Mamma was on the couch in
the living room; she had nodded off while knitting–a recent and worsening
habit. She must’ve relocated me to my bed when I was out and neatly tucked me
in. I called out for her to let me up. I hated when she tucked me in; she
pulled the blankets so tight that the procedure could be used in prisons for
unruly inmates.  Mamma’s eyes eased opened
with the urgency of a snail taking flight from a weed-whip; and once they were
finally focused, she seemed to have little concern about my current predicament.
She just sat there, staring.

Finally, she glanced my way and said, “Well little girl,
don’t ask mother how she did it, but your brother’s on his way. We’re going to
have ourselves a family reunion.”

She left the front room and me trapped beneath the blankets.
I could hear thumping in the walls and knew Mamma was running the hose outside.
The last couple of days she had been cleaning herself up with it; it made a
hell of a racket.

Shortly thereafter, there was a faint knock at the door.
Then, someone stepped inside. It didn’t startle me though. I knew who it was. Brian
always entered that way. He lightly stepped through the front room and then
made his way toward me.  He said nothing,
just quietly helped me from underneath the covers and carried me over to the
couch.

The both of us sat still and quiet, just like we did when we
were kids. After some time, he glanced over his shoulder and then back at me,
muttering, “Same old Mamma, huh?”

“And what’s that suppose to mean?!”

Both of us nearly jumped out of our seats. It was Mamma, of
course. She always knew exactly where to be so she could catch you doing or
saying something that might offend her in some way.

“Nothing, mother!” Brian popped off defensively.  “You’re the one who all but begged me to come
here, remember. I don’t have to stay.”

He got up and stepped toward the door.

Mamma’s disposition immediately shifted, and she was all
smiles: “Now, there’s no reason to start things off on such shaky ground. Why
don’t you sit back down, and mamma will put on a new pot of coffee.”

Brian turned to her, annoyed: “Just tell me what you want me
to do. I gotta get back by six. Robin and I have plans tonight.”

“Still with her?!” Mamma spouted.

Robin was Brian’s childhood sweetheart, the girl down the
street. They used to sit out front on the porch because Mamma wouldn’t let
anyone come inside. One day she got angry and chased Robin off. By and large,
that’s what prompted Brian to take flight under the moonlit sky one sticky
summer night.

“Unlike you, Mamma,” Brian hissed, “some of us can hang on
to those we love.”

Mamma slapped him across the face, but Brian didn’t flinch.

“You can’t hurt me anymore Mamma. I’m not afraid of you
anymore.”

Mamma started crying and came over to me for comfort. She
held me tight and vigorously rocked us both on the couch.

“Just tell me what you need me to do for you so I can do it
and get back home to my wife.”

“But you are home, son,” Mamma sobbed. “Don’t you see that?”

Brian shook his head with disgust, storming toward the door.
Mamma ran over and grabbed hold of him. He tried to pull away, but she wouldn’t
let go, wrapping her arms around him like a Bull Constrictor. She whispered
something in his ear that I couldn’t make out, and then he freed himself of her
grasp and left outside. Mamma stood in the doorway.  Her back was to me, and though she was
utterly silent and motionless, I knew she was weeping.

An hour or so went by before she sat back down beside me and
started knitting again. That’s when Brian returned, but this time he was
different from before; this time he oozed from his pours… the burden of
rage.

“You twisted witch!!!”

Mamma covered my ears, but I could still hear their muffled
conversation:

“Don’t talk like that in front of your sister.”

“She’s not my sister, Mamma. She’s just another one of your
dolls.”

“How dare you!”

“How dare me? I’m not a killer! I’m not the one who killed
father and the lady next door and her teenage daughter!!!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Your father left us
when you were just a little boy.”

“I may have been young, mamma–but I remember it. I finally
remember it all.”

Mamma picked me up and scurried the two of us away from my
enraged brother.  He rushed after us,
shouting horrible things:

“You were jealous because father’s affection was being given
to Ms. Dalia.  That was her name.  You found them in bed together. But you
weren’t alone. I was with you.  You
killed them both with…”

Mamma shook her head in denial, and with a Grrr pushed Brian
back. The next thing I knew she put me in time out and covered her own ears. She
may have tried to block him out, but I heard him loud and clear:

“We were raking the leaves, and you saw dad’s truck parked
down the street.  Curious, you went and
peaked through Ms. Dalia’s window. You squeezed my hand so tight I thought you
were going to break it off. Then you fetched a shovel from the toolshed and
dragged me inside Ms. Dalia‘s home. You hit dad with the shovel when he was
still on top of her. Then, you drove the sharp end of it into his throat, almost
took his head clean off. Ms. Dalia… God, you tortured her for hours before you
killed her. And her daughter…”

He looked over to me, then to Mamma.

“Is that why you killed the plumber? Because he found the
skeletal remains of two people in the walls? You need help mother! You
convinced me that I was the sick one all those years. You made me drink your
awful elixirs and wouldn’t let me go to school. And all along, it was you. Well,
no more.”

He turned and stepped toward the phone. Then, Mamma, who had
all but curled up in the corner like a frightened little girl, raised her
knitting needle in front of her face and ceased her tears. Brian picked up the
phone and started dialing. Quivering and with clenched teeth, Mamma rushed
Brian like a tribal huntress, jumped on his back and plunged the tool, with
which she made her living, into her son over and over again–until he, at last,
found the strength to push her off of him. She hit the kitchen wall like a
hamburger-patty getting slapped by a spatula, dropping to the floor at once.

Brian was bleeding something terrible. He cried out Mamma’s
name and staggered over to her. She was limp in his arms. Her eyes were wild
and crazed. He held her for a spell, and then gently set her to rest on the
floor.

He tried to make it over to the phone but tripped and fell
in front of the coffee table on which I stood in my box. He reached up toward
me, his hands trembling and dripping blood.
He tried to talk, but what mostly came out was the gurgling semblance
of: “Help Me…”

But I knew not to move a muscle. Mamma would be back. We
were family. We would always be family. Somewhere she was watching. My
brother’s bloody fingers stained the cellophane on my box as he begged for his
life. Mamma wouldn’t like that; she always expected me to be my best: pretty,
quiet, perfect. Her little Dolly.

 

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