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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University Wellington. Vol. 23. No. 1. 1960

Just A Doll

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.