“I’ve watched a lot of TV in my time,” the doll was saying as Heero propped him up against the lamp on the end table beside the sofa in front of the television, “– and by that I mean more TV than anyone should ever watch in a single lifetime — but not much basketball.” The propping took longer than Heero had expected, since the paper towel skirt, which he’d replaced, didn’t want to behave.
“What kind of TV do you prefer?” Apparently Quatre had decided to play along.
Heero, who hadn’t decided anything yet, rolled his eyes.
“I like sci-fi,” the doll stated. “I used to watch that channel all day at my last house. The girl would leave me where I could see the TV, and the remote next to me where I could reach it, when she went to school; I just had to make sure to turn the TV off if her mom came into the room!”
“‘The girl?'” Quatre echoed curiously.
“Yeah, my last kid; the last person who was taking care of me.” With a disconcerting swiveling motion, the doll shook his head. “She liked to dress me up, and she liked to alter the clothes she had for me. She’d put sequins on them and stripes with markers and stuff like that — creative little kid. The problem was that she’d take off my clothing to do something to it, and then forget to put it back on me, so I’d be laying around naked.
“She was a little too young to appreciate my fine physique… she just forgot. But her mom hated finding me around naked all the time. I didn’t talk to the mom, because she was touchy and would have freaked out, so she didn’t know why I’m so detailed in certain areas, and she didn’t like it. She told the kid that if she found me somewhere naked one more time, she was taking me to Goodwill. Well, guess what happened.”
Quatre was standing beside the table now, looking down at the doll in silent fascination. Heero found that he too was staring, inordinately interested in the narrative.
The doll wrapped up his story with, “So I have no idea what’s been happening on Dr. Who lately, and it’s driving me crazy.”
“Very convincing,” Quatre murmured, shaking his head. “Somebody’s done a really good job on this.”
Heero nodded. “How did you supposedly get from Goodwill to the gutter?” he asked the doll as Quatre turned on the TV and settled onto the couch beside him.
“Oh… well…” The doll seemed a little annoyed, though whether at Heero’s choice of words or what he was about to relate Heero wasn’t sure. “I always try talking to the person who gets ahold of me, but it doesn’t always work very well. They all think I’m a reality TV thing or some kind of walkie-talkie, like you guys do. I usually change hands a bunch of times before I end up anywhere I can stay for a while. Some woman buys me and then throws me out for the usual reasons… some kid she’s babysitting picks me out of the garbage, tries to hide me from her mom on the way home, and drops me… some dog chews on me and carries me around… dogs love to chew on me… sometimes it goes on for days and days.”
“How long do you usually stay somewhere?” Having found the channel, Quatre was now digging through his shopping bag and pulling out cheese dip and chips.
“It varies,” said the doll in his ‘shrug’ tone. “Days, months, years… depends on how long it takes people to decide I’m an unhealthy figment of their imaginations and get rid of me.”
The sincerity in Quatre’s tone as he replied, “Oh, I see,” struck Heero as rather worrisome. Quatre wasn’t necessarily gullible, but he was kind-hearted almost to a fault, and it might be problematic if he started believing this weirdness, even just a little, simply because it seemed so pathetic.
“All right, enough about the doll,” Heero commanded stonily.
“Duo,” said the doll.
“That’s my name. Duo Maxwell.”
“Not Ken?” wondered Heero dryly, having eventually remembered the name of Barbie’s boyfriend.
“Ken’s got nothing on me,” the doll — Duo — grinned. “Did you ever see a well-hung Ken doll?”
“Well, I’m sorry we’re not watching Dr. Who,” Quatre broke in, addressing Duo, “but maybe you’ll enjoy the basketball game.” It was a pointed reminder that the latter was starting.
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” the doll replied, waving one arm stiffly up and down. “Just explain the rules and I’ll be fine.”
Paying full attention to basketball with a talking doll on the end table was something of a challenge. Duo — or, more accurately, whoever was controlling the doll — was a quick learner: it only took a couple of commercial break lectures on the rules and a few comments about events during the game to get him just as involved as they were, and he readily joined in cheering on the team they were supporting… but that was only natural for someone trying to win their trust in order to further the practical joke or whatever this was.
“That was great!” he was saying enthusiastically once it was over. “It’s too bad I’ve never watched basketball before! There was one guy I watched a lot of football with a couple of years ago, but he wasn’t a basketball fan.”
“Did he throw you away too?” Quatre wondered.
“He Goodwilled me,” replied Duo a little bitterly. “You know I fucking hate Goodwill? Yeah, his girlfriend thought it was weird how he kept an anatomically-correct man doll around, and he didn’t want to tell her that I talked because he was afraid she’d think he was crazy. I could have just talked to her, but he thought it wasn’t a good idea, so he just got rid of me.”
“It makes sense, I’m afraid,” Quatre said apologetically.
“Well…” Duo swiveled his plastic head toward them, his tone thoughtful. “I know you two still don’t believe me, but–”
“Believe what, exactly?” Heero broke in. “Are you inclined to tell yet?”
“That I have no cameras or microphones in me… nobody’s talking through me or recording you… and I’m not a piece of advanced technology designed to have conversations with bored little girls while they dress me up.”
“All right,” said the skeptical Heero. “Then what supposedly are you?”
Seriously Duo replied, “I’m a human. Or I was. These days I’m just a creepy doll. But I’m supposed to be human. See, I’m under a curse.”
I never had Barbies growing up, because my mother disapproved of them. This was partly because she didn’t like the image they presented to impressionable young minds (in which I really can’t disagree with her), and partly because she just knew they’d end up lying around naked, and she hated that thought…. and, to be honest, I can’t really disagree with her there either. Oh, Barbies…