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Drama Friendship Kids

The dolls

Mr. Eddie Todd was a man of average intellect, a kind family man, one of those who married late because he had never shown the necessary determination in this matter. To be honest, he had never considered the institution of marriage to be something so significant as to invest time in. A diligent student in high school, one of the few who didn't try smoking weed in college, he quickly lost his drive for life and career ambitions, replacing them with leisurely lunches and hanging out with friends. In the last years of his family life, which caught up with him at the age of thirty-five, he lived in his parents' home, long in need of repair, realizing that the time for proving something to himself had long passed.

A provincial journalist, once filled with great ambitions and aspirations, now settled for more modest goals, making a meager living from short but well-crafted reports, which were beautiful yet monotonous. Alongside him, his whole family was affected: perpetually grumbling wife and two beautiful daughters, aged 4 and 6, who brought him solace.

The older daughter, a restless soul with light reddish hair and big gray-green eyes that burned with never-ending curiosity and concealed an unconscious cunning, had a face adorned with ever-present scrapes. Her name was Anna. She was madly fond of hugging the shaggy four-legged creatures around the area, which led her to constantly wear green ointment to soothe the bites and various annoyances that abounded in stray animals. Moreover, she loved to show off that she was smarter and older than her sister.

The younger daughter, Elsa, imitated Anna in everything, but often, she had enough prudence to wait and see what punishment her sister would receive for her actions before repeating them herself, as if to accompany her, so that Anna wouldn't feel hurt for being punished alone.

Elsa was completely different, both externally - with her brown eyes, slightly upturned nose, and dark russet hair - and internally. She was more thoughtful, and her cunning existed harmoniously and subtly, though she was not adept at keeping secrets because, for her, secrecy was a source of popularity, something to boast about in front of others.

One hot September evening, while Mrs. Todd claimed she was heading to her cousin's house, she actually embarked on yet another attempt to find a new husband. Mr. Todd locked himself in the small bathroom, deciding to sketch the outline of an upcoming article about the local farmer O'Neill, who had achieved an excellent corn harvest that season.

His workspace was not in an office; there simply wasn't one. All his stories were born in this little laboratory under the stairs on the ground floor. Such houses, with darkened and faded sidings, old and sometimes broken gutters, were still easily found in small towns across the USA, on the outskirts of major cities, and certainly in the state of Oklahoma if you drove off Route 44 and 40.

Currently, Mr. Todd sat in his bunker, continuously pressing the flush button to drown out the children's cries, which, at such moments, could distract him. He worked by making pencil marks on yellow pages of an old album, occasionally using the eraser stub on the other end of the pencil to erase unsuitable phrases and words, of which there seemed to be plenty today.

"You can sink deeper, Eddie," he told himself, "or you can try to swim up."

"But I'll only sink a little lower, just to push off from this damn bottom properly," someone else inside him said.

"Don't play with it, Eddie; you might simply run out of oxygen to reach the surface," the first voice seconded.

"You're not the hero of a novel; you might not get a second chance, and you must understand that, the sooner you do, the better things will go for you."

"Curses!" said the second voice, always the follower and never trying to be the leader. "Curses!"

"Why are you upset?" asked the first voice calmly, as if belonging to Eddie Todd, but one slightly over 20 years old.

"I'm upset because I haven't belonged to myself for a long time. I live in debt, with enormous obligations to the banks. My credit cards have long exceeded their limits, and I swear to myself I'll pay off all the fines for the toll roads each following month. I have an old unpaid car and a bunch of overdue bills. I depend on my wife's mood, on my children's whims, on a huge Saint Bernard who loves to spoil the air when you're eating. Have you seen his eyes when he farts?"

"Yes, I have," calmly replied the first voice, "they look just like yours when you do it. And stop complaining about fate; it's what you make of it. We all depend on someone, live off someone. The main thing is to live your life in such a way that you won't be ashamed."

"Well, I am ashamed!" erupted the second voice. "What if I am ashamed?"

"Get dressed if you're ashamed. Write a worthwhile novel if you're ashamed. Get your ass off the toilet lid you're sitting on if you're ashamed."

"Darn that farmer and his freaking corn!" Eddie cursed in his heart and began to erase another passage of his writing when suddenly, there was a knock on the door.

"Who's there?" the man asked, pressing the flush button as an automatic response. Water rushed down the porcelain walls, and behind the door, a muffled laughter ensued – the kind that bursts out of a child when they play a harmless prank, seeking attention from an adult.

No one replied to him, but after a few seconds, the knock was heard again.

"Who's there?" Mr. Todd repeated in the same unruffled voice, continuing to make notes in the album.

Now, along with the laughter from behind the door, there was also whispering. Two intruders were likely discussing their plan for further action, and judging by the fact that the knock came a third time, they didn't seem to come up with any new ideas.

"If it's my little dolls," said Mr. Todd, mentally noting and writing down, "this year, O'Neill's farm was not bothered by butterfly parasites and locusts." Out loud, he continued, "if it's two brave pirates of the Northern Seas, then I surrender, you may come in."

The door handle was lowered slowly, as if the pirates were cautiously trying to sneak into the captain's cabin to catch him off guard.

"And what are you doing here?" asked the elder daughter, her head appearing in the tiny strip of the opening first.

"Working," answered the man without looking up from the paper.

"While sitting on the toilet?" the younger one asked, her head poking out from the very bottom, as if she were on all fours – maybe she was.

"Yes, sitting on the toilet," Eddie said slowly, trying not to lose the thread of his narration, and added thoughtfully, "I think better here."

"Daddy, are you a writer?" the older girl continued, standing on all fours.

"No, sweetheart, your daddy is a journalist," the man said and crossed out the last word he had written.

"But I tell everyone you're a writer," Anna said with a smile.

"Me too," Elsa chimed in.

"Because our daddy constantly writes stories for grown-ups, and they pay him big money for that," the elder daughter explained to the younger one, looking down at her with a hint of disdain. Then she continued, "When I grow up, I'll be a writer like dad."

"Me too," Elsa hastened to add to the previous statement.

"But you won't be a writer because you're dumb," Anna said angrily, "and dumb kids can't become writers."

"I'll still be a writer," the girl from below mocked, playing along.

"No, I say you won't!" Anna stomped her foot behind the door, raising her voice, "because you're dumb and stupid. And anyway, I'll tell dad what bad words you said today."

"Alright, that's enough arguing," intervened the father, setting aside the album sheets and lifting both girls in his arms. "Both of you will be great writers, just like Joanne Rowling or Ursula Le Guin. You'll write a tremendous number of bestsellers, make a lot of money, and live in a big, fancy house, and drive a beautiful car."

"A pink one?" Anna immediately asked, adjusting her hair in her usual way – tossing it back along with her head.

"Whichever you want," the man replied, catching her nose and planting a kiss on it.

"Then it'll be pink," Anna declared with an air of importance and snuggled against her father's neck.

"I'll have a pink car too," Elsa chimed in, and another argument erupted between them. Elsa was labeled as a repeat, a dummy, the one who couldn't come up with anything on her own. But Mr. Todd understood that the younger daughter was just teasing her sister this way, finding pleasure in seeing her getting angry, blushing, puffing up her cheeks, trying to swing at her. Afterward, Elsa would always go and complain to Anna, and after the second time when Anna got punished for it, she would enjoy watching the punishment process.

Eddie Todd knew about this and always tried to reconcile them.

"Daddy, why don't you want to be a writer?" the elder daughter asked when they were already sitting on the couch in the living room watching TV.

"Because Dad needs to earn money and feed such voracious pirates like you. Unfortunately, writing doesn't bring in money, and Dad's stories are not needed by anyone."

"Not even by Mom?"

And he wanted to answer, "Especially by Mom," but instead, he bit his lip to stay silent.

"Daddy-dad! You know what? You know what? You know?" The younger daughter hopped in place as if she were electrified. Her hair bounced in rhythm with her movements, and Anna hugged her, leaning her whole body to try and stop her, but understanding she wouldn't be able to, she jumped along with her.

"No, I don't know. Calm down and tell me what happened."

Elsa stopped jumping and tried to free herself from her older sister's clingy embrace.

"I just wanted to say that I need your stories."

Mr. Todd smiled at his daughter and felt tears welling up on the inside of his eyelids.

"Me too," Anna quickly added and stuck her tongue out at her sister, then immediately said, "Write a story about Sam, Daddy."

"And who is Sam?" the father asked and guessed, "Your little admirer?

He started tickling the elder daughter, and she squirmed, writhing in his attempts, and laughing at the same time. The younger daughter laughed along with her.

When the tickling subsided, Anna, still giggling at Elsa's laughter, pushed her sister's shoulder and spoke up, "No, Daddy, Sam is my Hagi-Wagi toy. He's my protector, and I can only sleep with him because he guards me all night against evil wizards. You can't imagine how brave and strong Sam is. Well, not as strong as you or Mom, but Sam isn't afraid of anything, and he sees what adults can't."

"Alright, and what does he see that adults can't?" the father asked with curiosity.

"The unclean force," Anna replied, enunciating each syllable, her eyes wide open, showing her teeth. Elsa sat next to her, seemingly enchanted by her sister's tale, her mouth slightly agape in astonishment, glancing back and forth between her father and Anna.

"What on earth are you saying?!" Mr. Todd played along. "Unclean force?"

"Oh, yeees," Anna drawled out slowly, her eyes widening even further.

"When you and Mom are asleep, it comes into our bedroom and crawls under our beds," Anna continued, "and you have to be careful not to accidentally let your hand down onto the floor while sleeping."

"I'm scared, Daddy," Elsa said and began to crawl under the blanket covering the couch, trying to snuggle as close to her father as possible. However, the blanket was short, and she could only hide halfway, with her bottom sticking out, and her legs dangling in the air.

"Coward," Anna sneered contemptuously at her sister.

"So, what happened then?" Mr. Todd asked. "Did Sam lose his hand in a fight with the unclean force?"

"No," the elder daughter replied almost indifferently, "the terrible monster bit his hand off."

This terrible monster, a Saint Bernard breed, was lying by the entrance door on a mat, snoring deeply, pretending to be asleep.

"So, you want me to write a book about Sam's adventures," Mr. Todd said, still considering, and added, "You know, there's already a story about Winnie-the-Pooh written by the British author A.A. Milne, where the main character was based on his little son Christopher."

"Well, what of it?" the elder daughter responded, playing the role of a professor, looking condescendingly from under her brows at her father, "We'll have One-Handed Sam - the vanquisher of the unclean force."

She stamped her foot.

"Alright, alright," the father raised his hands in surrender.

"And little Silvia," Elsa added, emerging from under the blanket and fixing the tangle of hair on her face, "Silvia is Sam's bride. She's also fearless and can control time."

"No, she can't," Anna protested, pursing her lips into a little tube.

"She can!" Elsa shouted and stomped her foot too. "She can very well! You know it yourself. Last time, Silvia did something, and we woke up at 10 AM, and when Mom called us for lunch, it was still 10 o'clock on the clock. She stopped time."

"I moved the clock, you dummy. She didn't do anything!" Anna retorted, making a face, and tears welled up in Elsa's eyes.

Mr. Todd hugged the almost-crying girl and wagged his finger at the elder one, who sat down next to them, frowning.

"I promise you, darling," he said to Elsa, "that I will come up with a spell in the book about Silvia and Sam, and thanks to this spell, Silvia will be able to control time now and even when you grow up."

"Really?" Elsa asked with a smile.

"Absolutely true," Eddie Todd replied, kissing both daughters on the tops of their heads.

The same evening, Mrs. Todd announced that she was leaving him. She said all the things people say in such situations, something like: "I'm so sorry. It hurts so much. Even more so knowing that I'm causing you pain. Please forgive me."

And he said something like: "I don't understand anything... Why are you doing this? Whose advice is this? What's behind all this..."

The children were in their room and could hear their parents' conversation through the gap under the door. Each of them tightly hugged their dolls - Silvia and Sam - and silently looked at each other, trying not to cry. They understood everything, even though they were still very young.

When the house emptied, just like Mr. Todd's soul did, the man wandered around the rooms for a long time, aimlessly going up to the second floor and coming back down to the first. He smoked a lot, drank a lot of whiskey left over from Independence Day, and cursed a lot. He cursed himself, cursed life, cursed the editor and his wife Emma, cursed farmer O'Neil, and especially cursed Mrs. Todd. He cursed the terrible monster that seemed to follow him everywhere, never for a moment leaving him alone. Finally, Eddie stopped in front of the children's room, leaned his forehead against the door, and tried to hear his daughters' voices, which he now missed so much. Then he turned the doorknob and entered. It was dark in the room, the outlines of the cabinets and beds pressing in on him, as if some unclean force indeed lived inside and under them. The man pressed the switch button, and the light on the ceiling flashed with an almost sunny yellow color. And then he saw two dolls lying on the floor, hugging each other - One-Handed Sam and Silvia.

Tears rolled down his hollow cheeks and disappeared into the thick forest of three-day-old stubble. Mr. Todd picked up Sam and Silvia, sat them on the bed, and they both looked at him - at a man who had sunk to the bottom of a deep and ancient lake, like a karst crevice, into darkness, into the unknown, into lifelessness. There, where no life existed, and even the most merciless aquatic predators avoided staying for too long. They stared at him with the buttons of their black eyes, as if assessing him and trying to connect with him, waiting.

The man opened the drawer of the bedside table, among the chaos inside, he eventually found a pair of markers and a half-empty notebook. "Okay," Mr. Todd said with a lump in his throat and sat down opposite the dolls. He rubbed his face with his hands, trying to compose himself. When he looked at the toys again, it suddenly seemed to him that they were much closer to him than he had placed them before.

The writer, now holding his breath, stared at the faces of Silvia and Sam, not paying attention to the Saint Bernard that was lying beside him. And suddenly, for himself, Eddie Todd began:

"Once upon a time, many years ago, in a kingdom at the edge of the Earth, there lived a brave warrior named Sam and his beloved Silvia, who could control time..."

Flagstaff, AZ

July 26, 2023 21:15

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2 comments

Nicki Nance
01:23 Jul 31, 2023

This is a sweet and poignant story. My favorite scene is one sister jumping with the other because she couldn't hold her still.

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03:03 Aug 05, 2023

Thank you very much! I am deeply touched that you were moved by the story!🙏🙏🙏

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