The Man Who Fixed Dolls


The Man Who Fixed Dolls

The sound of the bell above the shop door
Passes from audible into the echo of memory
As the vibration from the door banging shut
Subsides with the settling dust
Once again stillness fills the small workshop
Standing silently with expressionless face
Looking at the now empty shop window
Waiting in solemn resignation for the next broken doll

Those same old questions flash behind his blank stare
Why are there so many,
So damaged in so many ways,
Never worn out from being loved,
Just mistreated, abused, then cast aside?
It’s not his job, nor his vocation
Yet the heart beats heavy in his chest when he sees them
And he cannot refuse to care

Clearing away the flotsam from the last repaired doll
He wonders what task he’ll face next
Each doll tells a different story
The last became a labour of love
More complex than anything attempted before
But now he feels so very tired
Half hoping for something less taxing
A doll who has simply lost her voice perhaps
But more and more they test him
Some are completely torn apart
These are the ones that break his heart

Most arrive looking fine but not functioning right
A confusing defect for the untrained eye
But as with all of them they are broken inside
The work that superficial people cannot see
Slowly and carefully reconnecting the internal workings
Painting new life into their faces
Long lasting and better than new, leaving no traces

His eyes again drawn back to the empty shop window
Thoughts return to the doll that just left
Gone before his work was complete
Outwardly fine but not fully functional
Too often society makes this mistake
So long and hard he worked to mend and improve
Adding new abilities just ready to be unlocked
But the triggers remained unfixed
And he wonders how long it will be cared for
Until they wonder why it doesn’t fully work and discard it

The window displayed the work in progress
The fruits of every spare hour he possessed
Transforming the doll day by day
Until a day just like today
When someone takes his latest masterpiece away
And he cries when they leave
Wishing he could keep them
But not out of sight
Why fix them if not so they can play again
Just once though, just once
He would like to keep just one
Hold on to his proudest work
The one he put all his skill and love into
For him to enjoy instead of somebody else

But each one takes a piece of him with them
Some only a little but others much more
And every time he feels a little more depleted
After so long and so many
He feels like he has nothing left inside
No magic left to give the dolls life
And finally he stands there in the workshop
Tired and empty, and very alone

Glancing over at the glass panelled front door
He sees the colours in the street
Bright new people confidently going about their business
Many times he has stared out
Watching life pass by his door
And now a new thought enters his head
He reaches behind his back, wanting to take off this apron
Step outside and pass the time of day
Looking into smiling eyes full of life
Instead of making the dulled worn dolls’ eyes shine again
No more mending and fixing
No more need to breathe life into them
A last chance to soak up the outside world
Where people are new and perfect

Still holding the apron strings
His mind starts to race through old memories
From a time long ago when he lived out there
With the careless and the carefree ones
Trying to be like them but becoming ever harder
As he slowly realised his true nature
The more people noticed he could fix things
The more they noticed he couldn’t say no
Until one day the first doll entered his workshop

As he contemplates stepping away from his work
He sees one of his recent departees
Passing by in someone else’s hand
Already a little less pristine than when she left this place
And he wondered how long it could take
That she might end up back here and in need again
Tears well in his eyes
As he reties his apron behind his waist
A hostage to his own nature
And he starts to clean down the workbench
As he has done so many times before
Arranging his tools and wondering
What new ones he might need should another doll arrive

And he quietly waits
To hear the bell ring over the glass panelled front door
An old thought returns to his mind
Perhaps the next doll will be his last
Maybe he will get to keep this one

©Copyrighted by Colin Ryan (2014)


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