The Broken Doll: A Short Story of Explanation
I have to apologize to those who have asked how my new job is going. Honestly, it’s going very well. I have no complaints. When I’ve been asked about it, I have been sullen, cold, dull. I am not enthusiastic or excited. I’d like to offer an explanation as to why with a short story. I often express myself by writing fairy tales or stories that might be more pleasant than bursting out all of my caged up feelings at once.
The broken doll came to them one January morning. She was missing an eye, an arm, and her dress was torn. Her beautiful curled hair was tangled and matted. Her once pink lips faded and chipped. But the child loved her and had begged her mother to let her take her home. The child expressed how terribly she had been wishing for a doll just like this one! The broken doll had been in the Lost and Found for months and never been claimed. It was the only item left in the box. The daycare was thrilled to see it go.
The child plopped down on the carpet, hairbrush in hand. Her mother had insisted she clean the doll before playing with it and the child had nodded, promising she would. She removed the tattered dress and began to brush the knots from the doll’s hair. The rest of the toys watched as the doll’s curls began to soften and unfurl. The child took a wet rag and wiped it across the doll’s face, revealing delicately painted freckles and rosy cheeks. The child cooed to the doll, stroking her now smooth hair and saying she would take care of from now on. Her mother called up to her and she placed the doll in a small wooden chair and left the room.
The toys slowly approached the broken doll. They called out warm greetings and said how beautiful she looked with her newly brushed hair.
“The child is very kind to us,” they told her. “You needn’t worry anymore.”
But the doll did worry. The days went on and the child played with her and the other toys with love and care. The toys were welcoming and kind, always smiling and full of life. Not many had missing limbs or tears or chips in their paint and the doll felt like an outcast. She would watch as the child tossed them into the air and they did not cry out in fear. They trusted her to catch them. The child would make them dance and jump and fly and not once did the toys close their eyes and prepare themselves to crack open or shatter or stall out. The doll did not understand how they knew the child would keep them safe.
The child had replaced her torn dress with a brand new one that was blue with white lace on the sleeves. She even gave her a new eye by painting it on with strongly scented paint. Still, the doll lived in fear and worry that the tides would turn and she would once again be torn to pieces. She cried often at night once the child was asleep and never smiled when the child was out of the room and the toys were left to converse.
“What bothers you so?” the toys would ask her. “Are you unhappy here?”
“No, I am very happy here,” the doll would reply.
“Then what is it?”
The doll would shrug and return to her wooden chair to sit in silence.
After months of her sullen mood and the same answers, one of the bears came over and sat beside her. He put a furry paw on her cracked hand and when the doll looked down, she saw terrible scars of where he had been torn and sewn back up.
“I know what it is like to be broken,” he told her. “She found me on the side of the road, tossed out of a window. Mother let her keep me after I went through the wash. That was terrible.”
The doll nodded, her face still grim.
“It was a long while before I trusted her not to break me,” the bear continued. “When you’ve known nothing but pain, it is hard to recognize kindness.”
The doll perked up and nodded. “Yes, yes, that is it! I keep seeing my arm being torn off! What if the child does that to me again? I only have one left!”
“You have to believe that the good has finally found you,” the bear said. “It can be difficult to do so but the good finds us all at one time or another.”
“I’ve only known the bad ever since I was taken out of the box. I do not know what the good is like. How will I recognize it?”
“Do you feel happy? Safe? Clean and warm?”
The doll nodded.
“Do you hear her laughter when she plays with you?” Again the doll nodded. “Why don’t you try joining in that laughter next time? See how it feels.” The bear patted her hand and wobbled away. The doll considered what the bear had said and felt something shift inside her.
A few hours later, the child returned to her bedroom for the night. She went around to each toy, kissing them goodnight and telling them she loved them. When she got to the broken doll, she picked her up, stroked her hair, and kissed her on her painted eye.
“You’re so pretty, Dolly,” she whispered. “I love you!”
The doll felt a sudden surge of warmth and courage. That shift that had happened began to glow and course through her. As the girl squeezed her in a hug, the doll whispered, “I love you, too.” Of course, the child couldn’t hear her as we all know. But the child certainly felt it as all children are able to do.
From then on, the broken doll stopped living in the past. She had been broken and bruised but her new life was hopeful and bright. The doll finally learned that every experience did not need to be a painful one. The bear had been right; the good had found her.
Surprise, I am the doll. I have had horrendous job experiences in the past several years (the last job I had was good but I wasn’t in the leadership positions I’ve had in the past so it is not quite the same). I’ve felt uncomfortable and outcasted. I have been scolded for having ideas and speaking up. I’ve been told I am wrong, stupid, and entirely ignored. I’ve been whispered about when I leave a room and seen email and chats gossiping about me over shoulders. I am scarred and damaged and scared. Slowly I am realizing the good has found me and I’m at a place that wants me to succeed in a position I am good at and finally getting the opportunity to actually DO. I don’t answer with excitement because I am scared of losing another eye or arm. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far, it hasn’t. This is a shock to me and I am getting used to it.
Bear with me.