Welcome to Part IV of my BeBoodle fictional series. Parts I through III are available on this blog in the archive section or follow the links at the end of this installment. Be sure to check out how I make real BeBoodles, too. Happy Reading!
Of course, Mrs. Witherspoon’s demise hit the town with mega gusto. From aliens to a serial killers, the rumors flooded through every restaurant, church, and country shop like white lightning at a Fourth of July Picnic. Even when the authorities ruled her death accidental, the wild scenarios kept right on going. Only four people knew what really happened. One was dead. The rest of us weren’t talking.
I mean, we really weren’t talking. Marlene, Riva, and I didn’t speak for three weeks. I’m not exactly sure why. The shock? The horror we shared? The idea that maybe we were messing with something we shouldn’t?
Although part of me felt guilty (the upstanding good person portion of me) another part of me felt that Mrs. Witherspoon got what was coming to her. She did try to kill us, and if it hadn’t been for…whatever…good fortune?…angels?…well! We’d all be dead!
Trying to explain my injuries to my husband presented a problem. We’ve been married a long time. Lying just isn’t part of our relationship, and I didn’t want to start now. Finally, I said, “Cornie? You really don’t want to know.”
He looked at me funny. Opened his mouth. Shut it. Cocked his head, opened his mouth again, then abruptly turned and walked away. “Tell me when you’re ready,” he said over his shoulder.
That’ll never happen.
I knew one thing for sure. I was done with this BeBoodle nonsense.
On Sunday morning I went to the flea market alone. Unseasonably warm temperatures cooked venders and shoppers alike. I was just about ready to call it quits when I saw it. I stopped, licked my lips and peered across the row, craning my head around milling folks of every size, shape, and color trying to get a better look.
It couldn’t be.
Slowly I walked across the gravel, my sensible shoes crunching on the stones and my eyes squinting from the glaring sunlight. My little metal wire cart bumped and pitched as I navigated my way around a distraught mother trying to calm a screaming toddler. After almost colliding with a couple and their seriously panting dog, I reached the tables littered with household junk. There, beside a jar of dirty buttons and a box of yellowed lace sat a very bedraggled BeBoodle.
I looked right. I looked left. No one but me seemed interested in the doll, this one adorned with a faded red dress and a necklace of…shark’s teeth? I reached toward it, then drew my hand back. Something wasn’t right with that doll.
“Like it?” asked a gruff, female voice floating from the depths of the pop-up behind the row of tables.
I looked up, my eyes trying to adjust to the dimness under the canopy and the black maw of the open, rusted blue and grey primer van beyond. I didn’t see anyone at first. The van rocked and creaked as a large woman in a voluminous powder blue shirt exited the vehicle, fanning herself with a piece of newspaper. “Ain’t another one like it,” she said, walking up to the table. “Fifty-cents and the doll is yours.”
I blinked. Too cheap. Something was up.
“Looks like a pretty old doll,” I said. “Handmade, too. The eyes are very expressive.” Actually, the doll looked royally pissed off.
“Don’t know,” she answered.
“Do you know any of its history?”
She laid the newspaper on the table, and leaned forward. “Nope.”
I was not about to give up. “How did you come by it?”
She pinched the material of her blouse at both of her shoulders with her fingers and lifted the material several times. “Damned sticky,” she said. “Awful hot here today. Where’d it come from?” she shrugged, shifting from foot to foot. “All this stuff,” she swept her big hand over the table, “is either from an estate sale or an abandoned storage locker. I bid on the boxes, I bring ’em here. I don’t separate one from t’other. I just load it all in the van. Sometimes the stuff sells right away. Sometimes it don’t sell a’tall. I’m having a dry spell. Fifty-cents.”
Although her words seemed true enough, I didn’t like that she wouldn’t look me in the eye. Normally, I would have walked away by now; but, something kept me glued to the spot. “Do you know the name of the person that owned the doll?”
“Whats-it matter? They’s dead or took off. One quarter. Twenty-five cents. That’s the lowest I’ll go.”
I have this little person inside my head? When things are really not right? He waves bright red flags like crazy, trying to get my attention. On occasion he sends trills of energy across the back of my neck that zoom into my shoulders. He screams “Eeek!” repetitively. I should listen to him, really I should.
I dug into my pocket and handed her a quarter. She shoved the doll in my hands so fast I almost dropped it. Or, maybe I fumbled because it felt…well…gross. Upon closer inspection I realized it wasn’t a BeBoodle at all. This was something else. Similar, but not the same. And the eyes were a mock imitation of Peg’s original work. I almost handed it back with the idea of telling her to keep her quarter. Instead, not wanting to embarrass myself, I shoved the doll in my wire basket, then raised my head to thank the woman for my purchase even though in reality, she probably should be thanking me for getting rid of the doll. She was nowhere to be seen and I supposed she’d crawled back in the van. I frowned, turned and tried to remember where the heck I parked my car.
I swear my bad luck started the moment I purchased that doll. The right wheel on my little metal cart got stuck in a pot hole and tore off on my way back to the vehicle. The battery of my car wouldn’t start and I had to have the guy from Knaub’s Garage come out and take care of it in the parking lot of the flea market. I waited a good hour and a half in the boiling sun. I lost my wallet at the convenience store where I stopped to pick up milk (which was sour I later discovered), and when I pulled into the driveway of my house, Cornie was waiting to tell me that he’d wrecked the riding mower into my favorite willow tree while I was gone.
It didn’t stop there. I burned the dinner, my washer flooded the mud room, and Cornie’s mother called to say she’d be dropping in next week on her way to vacation at his brother’s house. She’s ninety and I despise her. Cornie doesn’t like her either.
With hands on my hips, I stared at the knockoff BeBoodle, still stuffed in my little wire cart parked temporarily in the mud room. “What gives?” I asked. It merely leered back at me. I puckered my mouth then whipped out my cell phone from my back pocket. “Marlene? Yeah. Long time. We gotta talk.”
Marlene met me at the door, her demeanor stiff. “I can’t believe you waited so long to call me,” she said, walking into the living room.
“You could have called me,” I said.
“Oh.” I swallowed hard. “When?”
“Three weeks ago. I tried several times. You didn’t pick up.”
I stared at Marlene’s carpet. Finally, I said. “I’m sorry. It was so ghastly. I guess I just wanted to forget…somehow.”
She sat down on the sofa, her elbow on the armrest, chin cupped in her hand. “It was pretty grisly,” she said. “I had nightmares for a week.”
“Me, too,” I said, sitting down in the chair opposite her. “Heard from Riva?”
Marlene nodded. “Yes, I stopped at her shop to pick up the Kyphi oil.”
“You’re not seriously going to make those dolls!”
“I certainly am! I was just waiting for you to come around.”
“Well, I’m not!”
“Not to make a doll!”
“Come out to the car with me. I need to show you what I found at the flea market this morning.”
Twilight tickled the sky as Marlene and I walked to my car. Frogs peeped and something chittered in the shadows just beyond the driveway. Birds chirped. Bugs zipped this way and that in the fragrant air.
“What’s all the mystery?” Marlene asked as I raised the hatch of my pumpkin orange Focus and dug in a paper bag.
“I found this at the flea market today,” I said, as I brought the doll out of the bag with a flourish.
Marlene’s eyes widened. “It’s a Be…no…wait. That’s not one of Peg’s dolls.” She took it from me and examined it. “But, it sure looks like one, doesn’t it?”
“I think its creepy,” I said.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Marlene, flopping the doll upside down. “You think BeBoodles are creepy, too. But, you’re right, there’s something wrong with this one. Maybe its the shark’s teeth. It doesn’t have any bells, either.”
“You’re right,” I said. “I hadn’t noticed that.”
“So, how’d you get it?”
I explained my strange encounter with the vender.
Marlene pulled the dress up to examine the back of the doll. “There’s some sort of signature here,” she said tilting the doll in the fading light. “I can’t make it out. Maybe Riva will know where this doll came from, or better, who might have made it.”
I then told Marlene about my string of bad luck since I bought the doll.
She frowned, moving the doll from one hand to another. “I suppose you don’t want to take it home with you until we figure out where it came from.”
“I don’t want it in my house. Let’s keep it in your car.”
Marlene rolled her eyes, “You know, for not believing in BeBoodles, you’re acting pretty weird about this doll.” She shook it at me for emphasis. I swear the thing glared at me.
I backed away and raised my nose. “Mrs. Witherspoon’s death was simply bad timing. Forces of nature. Wrong place at the wrong moment.”
Marlene shook her head, a disgusted look on her face. “Right.”
“What about your grandmother’s book? Does she say anything in there about any other dolls, or doll makers?”
“I don’t think so,” replied Marlene, “although I did skip over some of the journal entries — there was a section on the blizzard in 1952, and something about a town fair that they don’t seem to have anymore. I’ll take another look. Some of the handwriting is so faded its hard to make out. Tell you what, let’s put this doll in the potting shed, we’ll go inside and have some iced tea. I’ll look through the book. If we can’t find anything in there, we’ll call Riva.”
She marched off toward the back of the property. I watched her round the edge of her house with a small feeling of disquiet. A nasty chill ran up and down my arms. I rubbed them as I watched the sun dip below the rim of South Mountain, lighting the tips of the trees with hot orange and red rays. Then the light was gone and I realized that the peeping frogs weren’t peeping anymore. The birds weren’t chirping. Not a single bug whizzed through the air.
“Not a thing,” said Marlene, leafing through the old green notebook. “Wait. Maybe…yeah! Here!” She pointed a finger at one particular page.
“What’s it say?” I asked leaning forward so fast I almost spilled my iced tea on the kitchen table.
Marlene tilted her head. Her lips flat lined. “Well…for one thing, there’s a page missing.”
“Nope. See?” She held the book out so I could see the ragged edge of the paper torn close to the binding.
“What’s it say right before that?”
Marlene peered at the handwriting. “It looks like someone spilled something on it. Wait. It says, ‘Be.’ No, it says, ‘Beware’. Can’t make out…looks like an ‘of the’. Darn!” She got up from the table and went over to the kitchen drawer by her BeBoodle. It sat quietly on its stool. I tried to avoid looking at it. After much clanging and rummaging she returned with a magnifying glass. “Okay, let me try this again,” she said. “No, still can’t read it. You try.” She shoved the book toward me.
I leaned over, peering at the spidery, faded writing as Marlene held the magnifying glass. We read the first three words together — Beware of the… “Let’s spell it out,” I said. “Looks like ‘S, P'”.
“No,” said Marlene, “that’s a ‘T”.
“Okay, ‘S, T, R, I, K, E, R’. Striker! It says, Striker!”
“What’s that last word?” asked Marlene.
“I think it says ‘doll’. Beware of the Striker Doll.”
“What the hell is a Striker Doll?”
At that moment, the BeBoodle fell off its perch, bells jingling nonstop. I turned my head and caught a good whiff of…smoke? I rose from the table and rushed to the kitchen window. “My God Marlene, call the fire department!”
“911!” I screamed. “Your potting shed is on fire!”