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I Have Always Played With Dolls

I have always played with dolls. I have a whole closet full of them. When I was a little girl, it was baby dolls of course, but as I got older I began to play with other kinds, Barbie and Ken dolls, superhero dolls, soldier dolls, and any other kind. I did not baby them, I just took them out and looked at them and sometimes arranged them like in a movie or a play.

Now, there is what happened.

Where I live, whenever you try to go through a door, if there is someone else who might be trying to go through the door, you have to draw back and invite the other person to go through first. Then the other person does the same thing. It can take quite a while to get through that door! It was once made into a comedy routine, but people are often mean about it. They want to show that they have better manners than the other person. There are a lot of things like that.

I was trying to get through the back door of the high school, because I thought I had forgotten something, when four or five boys from around there were also trying to get through the door. They grabbed me, threw me on my face, and jumped on me. Then they told the big dumb boy, Swit, to do something to me. I don't know what it was, but it hurt. But Mr. Bregha who lives across the street saw them and came out and yelled at them. Then he called the police. The police were very serious and took me to the hospital for an examination. It was awful but they had to do it, they said.

The next day I had to go to the police station to give a statement about what happened. There was not much to say, because I really didn't know what happened. Then they said the assistant district attorney had to interview me. I had to sit around for a long time on a bench in a hallway waiting for that. Finally a policeman and a policewoman showed up and told me to come with them.

The assistant district attorney was a young man with bright eyes and a little moustache. He had a paper which was probably my statement, typed up. 'Just tell me in your own words what happened,' he said.

'I can't,' I said. 'I don't have any words for what happened.'

I could see the assistant district attorney was very frustrated by my answer, but I couldn't help it.

'So, who did whatever they did?' he finally asked.

'I can't tell you that either,' I said. 'They knocked me down so I was lying on my face. They threw something over my head. I think I know who they were, but I couldn't see them. Mr. Bregha saw them. He saw everything, he said.' Actually I knew from their voices, but I knew people would not believe me unless I said I actually saw them. Later, I heard they even bragged about it in school, so I knew who they were. But I couldn't say it.

The assistant district attorney read the paper for a while, and then some other papers. Then he said, 'I don't know how to prosecute this case, if it is a case. The victim, if she is a victim, can't say what happened. Mr. Bregha saw the crime, if it was a crime, but he is not quite right in the head and has told several different versions of the story around town. There's no direct physical evidence.'

'The hospital said she had injuries “consistent with her statement,”' said the policeman. 'And this Mr. Bregha has talked up the story to a lot of people all over the place. That's what we have to deal with.'

The assistant district attorney leaned over to the policeman said something in a very low voice. Even though I was right there I couldn't hear what he said. The policeman looked very solemn and nodded.

Then the assistant district attorney looked at me as if I had done something wrong. 'Do you want this case to be prosecuted or not?' he asked.

'I don't care what you do,' I said, which was true. 'I would just like to go home.'

The assitant district attorney sat back in his chair. 'What can I say?' he asked, looking at the policeman and the policewoman.

'According to her statement, she didn't give consent,' said the policewoman. 'They just knocked her down. That's what she said.'

'There's consent and there's consent,' said the assitant district attorney. 'She didn't fight or resist or yell or call for help. The defense will say she invited the boys to do what they did, whatever that was, which we don't know. Maybe it was just horseplay. The victim did not make the complaint. All we know is that our friend Mr. Bregha saw them doing something and called the police. And Mr. Bregha is a known story-teller and a crank and a drunk.' He spread his hands out on the table, palms up, to show that he had done all he could. 'This is the kind of case where you can't do right,' he said. He wanted everyone to feel sorry for him.

I could see the assitant district attorney and the police people were very unhappy with me, so I asked them again if I could go home. They said I could, but not to leave town, as if I could.

I would have to talk to my father. He would not get it.

My father is a civil engineer. He is not well liked around here because he was against the war, because of his religion. They can't do anything to ruin his job because he gets his work from the Federal government, and he owns a lot of property they want to use, but if they can do a little something bad and get away with it, they do it. It is funny because he thinks if you think the right thing and say the right thing and do the right thing, everything will eventually come out all right, even though it never has for him or for me or for anyone else I know.

Anyway he was disappointed in the assistant district attorney and had a lawyer come over. The lawyer explained that the boys identified by Mr. Bregha or who had bragged about what they had done in school came from very, very important families so that the assistant district attorney would not do anything against them unless he had an 'iron-clad case' which he did not have apparently.

I liked 'iron-clad', though. I wanted to be iron-clad.

My father started talking about me going back to school. I told him I would not go back. He said, 'You have to go back and show them you're not afraid of them.' I said, 'But I am afraid of them.' So I didn't go back. My father said things would 'blow over.' I told him nothing was going to 'blow over.' And so on, that kind of conversation. Like I said, he does not get it. He is a kind man and a good man, but he does not get it.

Anyway, my sisters went back to school, and they got beaten up and made fun of by the friends of the boys who attacked me. They wound up going to another school.

But my teacher, Miss Ianelli, felt sorry for me and said I did not have to go back. Miss Ianelli feels sorry for everybody. She has a big chest and a big heart and wants to be everybody's mother. She and my father should get together. But I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I want them to be afraid of me.

Anyway Miss Ianelli said she would send my books and assignments to my house and I could turn in homework and take tests at home and so on. One of my friends of which I still had a few would do the carrying. So I agreed. Also I had another purpose in mind for the friend.

After awhile it turned out that the only person who could be prosecuted was the dumb boy, Swit, and he would get off because he probably didn't know what he was doing. This was true, he is that dumb, and now will probably have to go to a special school for dumb people forever. The assistant district attorney came to our house to apologize and blame me for preventing him from succeeding. I told him again that I didn't care what he did because he couldn't make what happened not happen. He said no one could do that. He went through his story a few times more and left.

I thought something could be done, though. You can do things if you can concentrate hard enough. I went up to my room and opened my big doll closet and took out a doll that looked most like one of the boys, Peter Vulko, and got out my paint brushes and painted it to look more like him. You don't really need a doll, but it helps you concentrate. Then I got my father's power drill from the basement and drilled a hole through the chest of the doll. Then I painted a big nail with red paint and pushed it in the hole I had drilled while the paint was still tacky. After that I waited until it was dark, and I buried it in the yard.

A few days later I heard that Peter Vulko had suddenly vomited blood all over the place, and then fell down and died.

People don't believe in this, but you can read about it in books. It's there.

I thought maybe I had come on too strong. I did not want them to just die, I wanted them to suffer a lot first, and to know who was doing things to them without them being able to do anything about it. So I had to consider what to do more carefully. On the other hand what happened to Peter Vulko would make people afraid, so it was good.

So the next thing I did was get a doll that looked sort of like another one of the boys, whose name is seriously Dignam. He is pretty fat and ugly and has a crew cut so I made the doll look like that. Then I stuck a pin in its head and put it back on the shelf. He didn't die. Maybe he got a headache. But now I knew how much was too little and how much was too much. So with the next one, first I had my friend get a mysterious message (which I printed) to that boy, that I had done what happened to Peter Vulko and that something was going to happen to him, too. Then I got a doll out and after I fixed it up, I painted the eyes black. Then I got some white worms I know about from a certain place in the woods, because I read in a poem that these white worms are a sign of guilt and don't die ever. I wrapped up the worms with the doll and went out when it got dark and buried it.

About a week later my friend said that the boy was no longer coming to school and that he had had a big screaming fight with his parents that everyone in his neighborhood heard, where he was going to tell the police everything that happened, and they sent him to a psychiatrist and then to an institution. But the institution won't help him as long as that doll is buried with the worms, which is going to be a long time.

I probably don't need to tell you about the other things I did. Everything went along pretty well.

But then one more thing happened I should tell about. Old Mrs. Murchie came up to me when I was alone on the street, just walking around and minding my business. But Mrs. Murchie minds everybody else's business. She looked at me foxy-like and said, 'I know what you did to those boys.'

I stared at her. She started in again, 'I know what you did....'

It is rude to interrupt, to push through the door first, but I interrupted anyway. I was tired of that door.

'I wouldn't talk about it if I were you,' I said.

'Oh, really?' she said. 'And why is that?'

'If I did something to those boys, I can do something to you, can't I?' I said.

'Well!' she said, all huffy-like. But she was thinking about it. After a minute, she said, 'All right. But just answer me one question.'

'What?' I asked.

'Did you use dolls?' she asked.

'I have always played with dolls,' I said.



The title of this story reflects, and is homage to, 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson.