Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University Wellington. Vol. 23. No. 1. 1960
Two Short Stories - Poles Apart
Two Short Stories - Poles Apart
Just A Doll
The store was crowded, and he hated being in a crowd. He felt so damned rushed. His wife, calmly oblivious to the hustle, leaned over a counter, examining toys. She always took so long. Looking for the simplest thing.
He nudged her elbow sharply, "Come on, let's be going."
She continued picking over the gaudily coloured playthings. "I've got to get something nice," she protested mildly.
"Well, don't take all night. Here, get a doll. One of these." He waited, "Look, just a doll, Joan. Here, this One." He grabbed a long black golliwog and thrust it into her hand.
She looked at it. Then she held it out and tilted her head, and smiled. "She might like that."
You'd think she had all blasted night, he thought
She turned the golliwog over. "Oh, look, David. It's got little buttons down the back. She'll love that, it's just like her pink jumper."
She frowned. "She's got two dolls already. But not one like this. I suppose ..."
He beckoned to the shopgirl, motioned toward the golliwog and paid for it
The child was still awake when they got home. She stood in her cot, reaching out her arms towards them. He stood in the doorway while his wife hurried over and embraced the small shoulders.
"Mummy's got something for you, Sue."
"Is it lollies?"
"No. It's this."
"Ohooo, it's a golly!"
"D'you like him?"
The child clutched the doll to her face. "Ohoo yes." She giggled and jigged the golliwog about. "He's got a funny face and look, Mummy, little buttons down his back. Just like my pink cardy; isn't it just like my pink cardy!"
When she went to sleep the golliwog lay beside her.
In their bedroom he lay listening to his wife's breathing, and thinking about Yvonne. It made him angry, tense with the bitterness of frustration.
* * *
Two weeks later he made the decision. He would not live without Yvonne, and Joan would be happier without him.
Dick, his closest friend, seemed somehow to know it was coming. It made no difference when Dick lost his temper and said some harsh things, because Dick couldn't understand.
He knew it was Dick who prompted Ray to apeak gently to him about the matter. That made no difference either, because all men like Ray, who wore his collar reversed, merely recited the formula.
He told her he was going away for a week-end conference, and of course she packed his bag. Watching her, he thought in a pecular detached way that it was the last time she would do it for him.
He got up early to catch the first train. Dressing and silently completing his preparations, he thought only of the immediate actions he performed.
He crept from the bedroom without disturbing her and quickly descended the dark stairs. He must ring for a taxi and go. It was the best thing for everyone. He must go. In the hall he fumbled for the light switch and turned to pick up the telephone from the stand. The black gloss of the telephone gleamed; he reached for the receiver.
Then, on the stand beside the telephone, he saw the golliwog lying face down. One of its frayed legs dangled over the edge, and he saw that a button was missing from the line down the golliwog's back.
With one hand resting on the telephone he stared at the golliwog, at the gap in the line of buttons.
After a while, he went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.
Grunda Mist was not a pretty girl; she was, in fact, a rather ugly girl, but she was fascinated by the Arctic, had a good appetite and glowed in the dark. She had one good eyebrow, a very responsive Adam's apple, and on the whole a noticeable anatomy.
She was enrolled at the university in Animal, Vegetable and Mineral Studies, 3S, with the emphasis on the vegetable, and excelled in many different types of athletic activities, the foremost of which was underwater growths. Unfortunately, Grunda had no outlet for her emotions. She had tried her studies, was unsuccessful; she had tried her professor but he was never mare than understanding. All in all, she was very unhappy until that wonderful day when Someone Else was enrolled in her course!
His name was Granite Ford; he was terribly masculine; even the way he blinked was aggressive. He wanted to become a movie star, not because he had any talent, but because he felt he would not have to change his name. Grunda, her latent feminity coming to the fore, fell in love with him the first day she saw him in the Food Chemistry lecture, wearing his black leather jacket with brass studs all over it. Unfortunately his hair was so long he rarely saw her except, on exceptionally windy days, when Grunda opened all the windows in the laboratory, and his hair was blown off his cheeks. They rarely talked, because Granite's vocabulary was limited to three and four-letter words which Grunda could not understand, although she thought they ware very basic, and therefore to be admired, and also because Grunda would get so excited when he did speak to her that she had to terminate the conversation, before it was too late. However, she did manage to write to him, and she did this very often, expressing herself as she had never done before (a thing which was indeed fortunate). She wrote him a series of rhyming couplets, the best of which were as follows:
Oh, Granite Ford, you have my soul in hock;
In minerals, you are my favourite rock!
Oh, Granite, you have torn my heart asunda;
Comb back your hair; take heed of grieving Grunda!
Oh, when I saw you in your jacket, Granite,
I was transported to another planet!
Granite never mentioned these couplets to Grunda, something which upset her considerably. She tried to convince herself that he had been so moved by these displays of affection that he could not fully express his gratitude. However, deep, deep, deep down within her she fell this couldn't be true, and she had to sit through many months of "The Rake's Progress" lectures—which in the less distinguished colleges on campus were known as the "How to Build a Rock Garden" lectures—until she received a startlingly verbose piece of poetry from her love:
Oh, Grunda, you mentioned another planet,
Whither you were transported with your Granite;
If this is true, then tell me to my face
That you will live with me in Outer Space.
Then he went on to say that he had loved her devotedly, ever since he had seen her in her cloth of gold pinafore—would she elope with him? Grunda, overwhelmed with joy, did not hesitate to say yes, and without waiting to complete her course in Animal, Vegetable and Mineral Studies, 3S, she left the university, promising her professor that she would not give up her work entirely, but that from that day on the emphasis would be on the Animal.
Unfortunately for Grunda, Granite had not been telling the truth. He was not really interested in her responsive Adam's apple; indeed, he was really only interested in her money, far she was extremely well-off. One only had to look at her dentures to see this. The old image of "pearly teeth" had never been more true. "Does he love me for my teeth?" thought grisly Grunda; she began to let her appearance go ever more to pot, which was fine for gardening class, but did little to endear her to Granite. Upset, distraught, and looking thoroughly seedy, she decided that she would have to have the whole thing out with Granite, who was becoming very adamant indeed. He told her to her face that the only thing he wanted out, was her teeth. Crushed as she was by Granite, she returned to the university, where she worked with renewed vigour, rarely thinking of her unhappy love affair, although sometimes wishing that Granite had returned the engagement ring she had bought him.
However, she does not regret her experience with Granite Ford. She now realises that the only outlet for an unhappy emotional experience is wrok, something which we alt should consider, as a last resort.