I had my reasons.
That’s what I told my son when he called angry with me for putting Christie’s doll in the burning can. I hadn’t heard him that hot since I told Judy Wakeland that he had taken a shining to her youngest daughter.
When I got off the phone, I looked to see if Jody was still out burying the heifer that died that morning. I saw his old yellow pick-up at the edge of the pasture and felt grateful for a minute to collect myself. I never told him about the call.
That summer was a scorcher. We watched helplessly as corn withered in sun-burnt husks, and tomatoes went from green to rotten in a single afternoon. The worst day was always Sunday because I had to wear nylons, and there was too much time between hymns to worry about money and Jody’s cough. That cough didn’t sound good. I kept asking Jody to see Dr. Goodall, but he just mumbled about cutting out salt, which meant we couldn’t go to the picture show because you can’t have popcorn without salt, and you can’t watch a picture without popcorn.
Christie had come to stay with us right after her third birthday. I had been eyeing a doll at Marchman’s all spring. The one I could afford had a pink pinafore, Shirley Temple curls, and black Mary Janes. She was the prettiest doll under $12.00 that was brand new. I thought Paul’s girl should have a new doll, so I bought her with money from our tax return.
At first, Christie was shy, but she warmed up when she saw my candy dish full of stuck-together Fig Newtons. Her sweet tooth! I started praying that summer that she would turn out skinny like her mama. The world isn’t good to big girls, especially in the city where there’s no use for extra meat on the bone.
Christie always had that doll– not the new one I bought her, but her old one that looked like the devil himself up and beat it about the head. Christie had loved the hair clean off her head.
Looking at that doll spoiled my appetite. I knew everyone was making a fool out of Christie, letting her drag that ugly thing around.
One time I heard Dolly Parton on TV talking about growing up so poor that her only toy was a corn cob doll. Dolly was giggling and making it sound good, but I knew her laughter was a lie. There’s nothing funny about having a doll made of food no one wants to eat. I changed the channel.
So I did it.
Early that morning before Christie woke up, I took her sad doll straight to the burning can. I was still in my nightgown. I was tired of looking at her and remembering things I tried hard to forget.
I wanted to eat some biscuits and bacon, and see pretty things. Everything else—I wanted to burn.