“You’ll have to lock your closet tightly,” says Del Monver, “or the itchy-scritchy wiggle-waggle cut-up doll’ll get out.”
Sometimes father’s so silly, she thinks.
So she gives him a bright big smile and she says, “No problem.”
She even makes the OK sign with her hand.
Ellona shakes her head sadly. She’s been a little girl like Oriane. She knows how unreliable the OK sign can be. But Del Monver, he’s completely fooled!
So Oriane goes off to bed and she doesn’t lock her closet tight.
A legend about wounds.
Oriane is the most perfect cherub of a girl. She’s unmarred in every portion. Her limbs are very light but she is also aware of pressures. Where a heavy antelope might struggle, she floats. Where a foamy spongecake girl might stumble unheeding into discomfort, she is alert to the world. Her skin is smooth, her muscles are strong, and her eyes are periwinkle blue.
She goes to bed every night in a nest of wings— ten thousand wings, cunningly assembled. There are giraffe wings and ibex wings and zebra wings, the wings of bumblebees and butterflies, the wings of cardinals and robins. There are wings jointed such that they shift in the slightest breeze and wings as stolid as granite pillars.
Most of the wings spread out like the base of a clamshell and atop them Del Monver has installed a boxspring, mattress, corrugated foam, bedpad, sheets, and blankets. Over the whole great gondola-wings flutter and tiny firefly wings sparkle to protect her from the dark.
Oriane unties a long string from around her neck. She lays it down on her dresser. She changes into her long laced nightgown. She goes to sleep and the lights go dim.
In the night her closet door rattles, tikili, tikili, tik.
Oriane squinches open her eyes.
Her closet door rattles, tikili, tikili, tik.
Oriane wriggles upright. She turns herself around. She crouches, looking at the closet door.
Beyond the closet door there is a dresser and the drawer is open and in the drawer there stands the cut-up doll. She’s small and gestureful, her hands are padded mitts, and she’s all-over wounds. She’s all-over wounds: scored like sheet music, sawn up like notched lumber, shredded like wheat. She’s barely keeping her stuffing in. One eye hangs off as a button on a string.
She wiggles. She waggles. She jumps from the drawer and begins to walk across the room.
Oriane doesn’t know what to do. There’s no protocol for this in the little girl’s handbook. She’s supposed to ignore Del Monver’s warning but nobody ever explained what she should do when it turns out to be correct.
The wiggle-waggle cut-up doll climbs up onto Oriane’s dresser.
She makes itchy-scritchy noises as she climbs.
Then the doll says, “String!”
It’s a happy burble of a voice. It’s clear that this is a doll that loves string, loves the potential of it, loves the sheer impactful power that rests within it like the fissive power of unkindled uranium.
The doll picks up the string.
Oriane makes a strangled noise of protest. It sounds like this: “‘uk!”
The ‘ is a click her tongue she makes when she accidentally uses a silence as the first sound in her word.
“String, string, string,” carols the cut-up doll. She turns around. Then she winks at Oriane with her one good eye, jumps down from the dresser, and runs back towards the closet.
“‘uk!” Oriane says again.
Oriane flounders out of bed.
Oriane jumps to her feet.
The doll jumps into the drawer in the closet.
“I’ve got you now!” says Oriane, rushing forward.
The doll looks back. She says, “Oh!” in a startled voice. Then Oriane and the doll fall into her closet’s dresser drawer and it snaps shut with a bang.
It is very dark.
“It’s very dark,” says Oriane.
The cut-up doll lights a match.
There in the great hollow cavern the walls are slick wet stone and striped like tigers and the wind blows in little tufts towards the ceiling high above.
“Oh, dear,” says Oriane.
The cut-up doll consults its cut-up arm. It begins to walk.
Her footsteps are soft little clicks but she thinks that to the doll they must sound like a giant’s dreadful pounding. Still, the cut-up doll just tosses Oriane a merry grin over her shoulder and walks on. Every now and then she consults some part of her body.
“What are you doing?” Oriane asks.
“I’m following the map,” says the cut-up doll.
“To my hideout.”
Oriane looks around. “There should be more of my socks in this drawer,” she says.
“I moved them,” the doll says. “They were very heavy and socky. Like mountains.”
“A long time ago,” says the doll, “there was a great shifting in the magma beneath the world. One of the plates tilted—suddenly, like when china decides to fall off the shelf. Suddenly your drawer of socks swung down to form a fissure in the world.”
“Is that where my sock drawer came from?”
The doll picks up a bit of lint from the cave floor. She holds it up next to the match. “Yes,” she says. “You can tell by the striations.”
The doll tosses the lint aside. “Lint is like a storybook,” she says. “It tells the history of the earth.”
Oriane nods. She picks up the lint. She tucks it behind her ear.
“Hey!” says the doll.
“That’s my lint.”
The doll puffs up her cheeks and then blows out air. The air leaks out of the side of one cheek where there’s a cut-up place.
“Never mind,” she says.
The cut-up doll delicately lifts up her skirt so she can check the wound on her thigh. She lowers it and nods to herself and walks purposefully in the indicated direction.
“You shouldn’t cut yourself up to make a map,” Oriane says.
The doll looks back at her. The doll’s eye is solemn.
“I wouldn’t do that,” the cut-up doll says. “I only get cut up by other people. But I made it a map, later, so that it would be useful.”
“Oh,” says Oriane.
The doll walks on. They pass walls of blank granite, rocks festering with bats, and a place where the earth rings loud and hollowly like a bell.
“It’s supper-time,” says the cut-up doll, “for the squinchy grod-things deep below the world.”
“And left!” the cut-up doll exclaims.
She turns abruptly left and Oriane follows and they walk out into the sunshine.
She covers her eyes with a hand.
She looks out on it.
“It’s a little beach,” she says. “It’s a marvelous splooshy little beach with a treasure pile!”
“It’s a cave oasis.”
The doll walks over and puts the string in the treasure pile. It goes on top of the gold and the octopus but kind of partly under the scrinkled map and the box of rubies.
The cut-up doll flops in her recliner and sighs.
“It was a good trip,” she says. “I got string.”
“Technically,” says Oriane. “That’s my string.”
“Technically,” dismisses the cut-up doll.
“If you have a phone,” says Oriane, “I will take my string and I will call Del Monver and he will come and pick me up and he will laugh and say, ‘Oh, little Oriane, you didn’t lock your closet and the itchy-scritchy wiggle-waggle cut-up doll got out.'”
The doll looks dubious.
“I can’t just give you the string,” she says.
“But it’s mine.”
“It’s totally mine.”
“It was given me by Mom Ellona!” says Oriane.
“You left your closet door open and the itchy-scritchy wiggle-waggle cut-up doll got out and took your string,” says the doll. “Open and shut.”
Oriane considers. The arguments appear to be of equal value in the absence of a mutually binding social contract.
“Open and shut,” the cut-up doll repeats.
So Oriane sniffles.
“Ten cents,” the doll says.
“Ten cents fungible value. For string!”
Oriane begins to cry.
The cut-up doll folds her arms. She looks stern.
“Ten cents,” she says.
Oriane bursts into wailing.
And when she is done the doll brings her the string and says, “Ten cents is the fungible value for such tears.”
So Oriane sniffling takes the string and she hugs it tight and she calls Del Monver who comes and picks her up and takes her home and puts her to bed.
“I told you so,” he says, and he kisses her forehead, and he locks her closet tight.
“You did,” Oriane concedes.
In the morning she ties her Oriane wings on with string and she goes flying.