My mother has a friend, Brenda Glickstein, who collects miniature dolls.
“They live on her bed,” my mother tells me. “Thirteen, fourteen, maybe even more. Every morning she has to line them up there by the pillows and every night she has to take them and put them someplace else.”
“Maybe she sleeps with them,” I say.
“No, she doesn’t. I asked her. She said that she would, but Wally’s afraid. So she has to move them twice a day."
“Wally’s afraid of the dolls?”
“It's more like he's concerned. He doesn't want to crush them. He's actually very fond of them. In fact, Wally's the one who names them.”
“No, Ma, don’t tell me the dolls all have names.”
“Of course they do, they came with names when they arrived, in their tiny boxes. But Wally didn’t like those names so he gave them new ones. First and middle.”
“All the dolls have two names?”
“They have three names. They have a first name, a middle name, and a last name.”
“What’s their last name?”
“Glickstein. What do you think? Like Brenda and Wally. They’re all Glicksteins.”
"Does Brenda buy them stuff?"
"What kind of stuff do dolls need?"
"I don't know, clothes maybe?"
"Sweetheart, they came dressed, they are respectable dolls."
"Furniture, then. I've seen it in antique stores, itsy bitsy furniture for itsy bitsy dolls."
"What do they want with itsy bitsy furniture? They use the Glickstein's furniture. A very nice bed, I'm sure. If they want to sit in a chair, or on the couch, Brenda and Wally wouldn't say no. If they're hungry, all they have to do is ask, the refrigerator's well-stocked."
"You're kidding me. Right?"
"What do you think, sweetheart?"
“I think this is all so weird.”
“Wait, it gets weirder. Remember their dog, Fudgie?”
“Of course I remember him, Fudgie the Hideous.”
“Don’t even say that as a joke. They thought their dog was beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, remember that.”
“Fudgie’s dead, Ma, we can speak the truth, just between us.”
“Who knows who might be listening? Anyway, in case you’re interested, Fudgie has Perpetual Care.”
“In the cemetery, where he’s buried, he has Perpetual Care. You know what that means?”
“I don’t, Ma, I don't have a clue.”
“It means that somebody will put flowers on his grave every year, on the anniversary of his death, until the planet is no more. That’s Perpetual Care. Grandma and Grandpa don’t have that. Daddy and I aren’t going to have that. But Fudgie, he has that.”
"Do the little dolls have Perpetual Care?"
"I never thought to ask. But it wouldn't surprise me if they do."
“The Glicksteins are wackodoos, Ma.”
“Let’s just say they develop strong emotional attachments to things. And really, when it comes right down to it, who are we to judge? We’re just fortunate to be normal.”
“Yes, we are.”
“Well, actually, I was talking more about myself. You still have room for improvement. I’m not criticizing, you know I never criticize. I’m just giving you some constructive feedback.”