Canto 6 – The Porcelain Doll
Brittany’s head was swimming as she walked into the coffee shop with the doll still cradled in her arms.
“Lady, you look a little pale and peaked. How about you sit down at the counter, and I give you a free first cup of java?” The broad-faced man behind the counter had a huge and welcoming smile. It made her heart stop fluttering just a bit.
“World War Two is going on?” she tried not to gasp as she asked it. But she was sure the three other people in the place, all older than dirt, knew she was rattled to the point that she was about to shake herself to pieces.
“Husband fighting in Italy is he? We all think it’s almost over there. Patton is wiping out the bad guys. But it will be a while before Germany falls too. Or is he in the Pacific?”
“No… ah, my husband is… well, he’s not in this world anymore.”
“Oh! We’re so sorry for your loss.” The shop owner had tears in his eyes as he poured her coffee.
“That why you bought the doll over at Aunt Phillia’s place?” asked the old man three seats down from her at the counter. “It’s nice… um… an antique… but it’s naked…”
“Weren’t a good idea, Miss. The toys from that store are all cursed,” said the old woman sitting next to him.
“Hush, Mabel. She just told us her husband died a war hero. You gotta have more respect than that.”
“No, my husband didn’t die in the war… He just hasn’t been born yet.”
“You can’t tell them that,” said the doll. “They won’t believe you. And they will never understand the truth from your point of view.”
“Did you hear the doll talk just now?” she asked the shop owner.
“He can’t hear me,” said the doll.
“Listen, Ma’am, I know the world doesn’t make any sense for a while after you lose someone. Especially if you lose them overseas and far from home. You need something to eat? It’s on the house in view of your loss.”
“He’s being kind. You need to accept and be grateful,” said the doll.
“Maybe… the sausage smells good.” She tried to smile, but the tears were real.
“Certainly. Not real easy to come by with the war on, but certainly what you need about now.” The shop owner took the sausage out of the frying pan and put it on a plate for her.
“Where did he die, Sweetie,” said the old woman, trying to be more considerate.
“I can’t… I mean… I don’t…”
“You don’t have to say anything. Just eat. Mabel is being nosy. You need to recover from your loss.”
“It’s me you need to talk to,” said the doll. “But not here. They already think you’ve gone nuts from grief. Finish eating and then take me somewhere private.”
Brittany wolfed down the sausage, which really was savory and delicious, and then tried to get out of the shop and leave the doll behind.
“Miss, don’t forget your doll. She’s probably valuable. And you really shouldn’t be completely alone now.”
The old woman snatched up the porcelain doll and put it directly into her arms. She smiled at Brittany with a toothless smile.
“Please don’t leave me, Mommy,” said the doll. “I can’t lose you now. You are my last hope.”
Brittany burst into tears, hugged the doll to her, and started to run.