In August 2019, I announced the publication of a story about a girl and a very special doll. One story has led to three, and now all three are available at Amazon.com in multiple formats — Kindle downloads ($1.99 each), Kindle Unlimited (free to members), and in paperback ($4.99 each). They can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=bob+welbaum&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
What make this relationship so special? Here are the first three chapters from A Doll Comes To Visit —
It’s an ordinary day. At least until I get home.
The school bus drops me off at the end of our driveway, and I’m very happy to be back. Fifth grade doesn’t seem as much fun now as it did at the start of the school year.
As soon as I get inside the door, I’m going straight to the kitchen for a snack of milk and cookies. I hope the cookies are chocolate chip. Then I’m going to my room and…
I stop. Something is laying on the front step. It looks like… It is a doll! A baby girl about a foot tall, wearing a bright purple dress. My favorite color! I’m wearing a purple dress, too.
I step closer. No, it looks older, like my age. The nose is small, and the mouth curves into a nice smile. The hair is dark brown, just like mine. But there is something about the eyes. Green, like my eyes, but they are large for the face. Very large.
I have never liked dolls that much. But someone always gives them to me for birthdays and Christmas. I put them in my room and might play with them once in a while. I’ve never gotten one I really like, so it’s no big deal.
I sure didn’t expect to find one on the front step. I look around. No one is in sight. I hesitate, then scoop the doll up and look it over. There is no note or tag. None of my friends could have left it. They were in school with me. But despite the eyes, I like this one. She seems so much like me. “What would be a good name for you?” I say, mostly to myself. “How about Heidi? Yes, I will call you Heidi.”
I find Mom in the kitchen. “Hello, Staci, how was school?” Then she sees the doll and frowns. “Where did you get that?”
“It… she was on the front step when I came home. Do you know who left her?”
Mom makes that face when something is not quite right, but she doesn’t know what to do.
“Maybe one of your friends came over and dropped it.”
“No, they were all in school with me.”
“Well, if someone comes and says it’s theirs, you will have to give it back.”
I smile. “So I can keep her?”
Mom stops right where she stands and stares at the doll for a few seconds. Is something wrong, I wonder? Then she decides. “Oh, well, yes, I guess you can if no one comes for it.”
Just then the door slams. Mom quickly yells “Jason, how many times have I told you not to slam the door?” (Jason is my older brother. He is two years older, so he’s in middle school and rides a different bus.)
“Oops, sorry, Mom.” He goes straight for the cookies on the kitchen table, then stops when he sees me. “Eww, where did you get that creepy doll?”
“She’s not that creepy,” I say defensively. “And she was waiting on the step for me when I got home.” I look at the doll in my arms. “And I’m going to keep her.”
“Well, I think she’s creepy. Especially since she looks like you.”
“JASON!” Mom yells. “Don’t you say that to your sister!” Then she gets that puzzled look again. “Although… she does look like you.”
“Yea, I think she does.” I grab a cookie and go upstairs to my room.
Alone at last! I prop Heidi up on the pillow on my bed, sit in my chair by my homework desk, and take a big bite of cookie. (Yes, they are chocolate chip.) Then I stare at Heidi. The more I look at her, the more I realize how much she’s like me. But those eyes are still creepy. “I sure would like to know where you came from,” I say, mostly to myself.
“I am afraid to tell you,” I hear a small voice say.
I drop the last bite of cookie and look at Heidi. “Did you say that?”
Heidi stares at the floor. “Yes, I am afraid I did.”
A talking doll! That just can’t be possible. The little voice in my head that tells me what I should do is saying I should be running out of the room, screaming for Mom and Dad. But Heidi sounds so helpless that I don’t move.
“You can talk! I think that’s wonderful. In fact, it’s wonderful times two!”
Heidi won’t look at me. “It is not supposed to be.”
I frown. “Well, I think it is. You can tell me what you’re feeling. We can tell each other stories. We’ll be best friends!”
“But that is not what I am supposed to do.”
I give Heidi a puzzled look. “What do you mean?”
“I am supposed to be scary. You know, creepy like that boy said.”
“Oh, that was just my brother. He doesn’t know anything about dolls.” Then I realize what Heidi is telling me. “I think you’re perfect. You even look like me! Why would you want to be scary?”
Finally Heidi looks up at me for a full minute, then the words start pouring out.
“My master made me to look like you because he said he hates the way children are today and he wanted something that would be creepy and scary and wanted to see what would happen when you saw me.”
I stare at Heidi, then say softly, “But that’s not what you want.”
“No. Something went wrong with the spell and I do not want to be creepy or scary like that boy said. I just want to be a doll.”
“And I want you for my doll.” I sit and think and look out the window. So many questions! I start with a simple one. “Who is your master?”
“I do not know.”
“Where does he live?”
“I am not… I do not know. Look, I am just a doll under a creepy spell. I do not know any more than that. I am sorry.”
I give Heidi a warm smile. “No, don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault.” Then I look out the window some more. “Are there any more dolls like you?”
“No, I do not think so. I did see some doll heads and arms and legs, but not dolls that were put together like me.”
“So maybe you were like a test? To see if he could make a scary doll?”
“I guess so, maybe.”
I should feel afraid. Afraid of her master and what he wants to do to me. Afraid of a doll that can talk. What else can she do? But Heidi seems so sad I can’t help but feel sorry for her. I look at her again. “I think we have two problems. First, we should try to find your master. Second, we must stop him from making any more scary dolls.”
“Yes, that is what we must do, I think.”
“Heidi, what can you do besides talk?”
“Nothing really. I have no muscles. Oh, wait, I can move my eyes.”
“That’s something, anyway. Do you know what your master looks like? Would you know him if you saw him again?”
For the first time, Heidi’s voice sounds cheerful. “Oh, yes, I do know what he looks like.”
“Good! In two days it will be Saturday. Mom will go shopping in the afternoon and I have nothing planned. We can start looking for him then.”
Saturday. For me it’s a day of resting up and helping Mom. But not today.
I have kept Heidi close to me. She sits on the desk while I do my homework. She sits by the pillow while I sleep. Am I afraid? A little bit at first. But nothing strange has happened, and I like having her with me now.
Who could her master be? It would have to be someone who knows me. My classmates? No, they would never do anything like this. My brother and his friends? Jason likes to bug me sometimes, but they have no time for me except for that. And Mom and Dad get along with all the neighbors.
But there is one house about two blocks away. I’ve walked by it a couple of times, and it certainly does look creepy. Bushes are overgrown, paint is peeling, and the whole house looks rundown. If I wanted to try making creepy things, this is where I would live.
So we need a plan. First we have to find an excuse get out of our house.
“My, you’re up early for a Saturday, Staci. Did you want to go shopping with me today?”
I try to act calm. “Is it that early? No thanks, Mom, not today. I’m just going for a walk. I want to show Heidi the neighborhood.”
“Heidi? Who is Heidi?”
“Oh, that’s what I named this doll. See?” I hold Heidi up for Mom.
“Okay, but you have to eat breakfast first. Come sit down.”
Oops! I am so excited I forgot about eating. But Mom is right, I need something. I quickly eat a bowl of cereal as Heidi watches from a chair next to me.
“My, aren’t we in a hurry today,” Mom says as I lay the empty bowl in the sink.
“Well, um, it is a big neighborhood.”
Mom lets out a soft chuckle. “I hope she doesn’t get too bored. Okay, just make sure you are back for lunch.”
“Thanks, we will.” Heidi and I make our escape through the front door.
Neither of us says a word as we walk to our target. There it is, looking as creepy as ever. I stop a half block away.
I hold Heidi so she has a good view of the house. “What do you think we should do?” I whisper.
“I do not know,” Heidi replied in a low voice. “Remember, I am just a doll. You will have to think for both of us.”
“Oh, yea.” I sigh, then study the house. “Those bushes are pretty big. I could hide you in a bush where you could watch the front door. When the man comes out, you could see if he is your master. I’ll come back for you later.”
“Where will you be?” Heidi asks.
I sigh again. I don’t want Heidi to know how scared I am. “Okay, I’ll stay here. I’ll be close enough to watch the bush, but far enough so no one will be able to see me.”
“Well, if that is the best you can think of, I guess we can try it.”
I smile at Heidi, give her a reassuring pat on the shoulder (although I don’t think she can feel anything), and start walking forward. I cut straight across the lawn to the bush that is closest to us but by the walkway, crouching down and running the last few steps. No one is around anywhere.
When I get to the bush, I gently lay Heidi underneath on her side, so she could see under the branches. “Can you see okay like this?” I whisper.
“Yes, I think so,” Heidi answers.
“Good, I’ll be close by. “
“What if no one comes out?”
“Then we’ll go home for lunch and come back this afternoon.”
With that, I slip back the way I came and make it to the sidewalk. Then I stand straight up and walk like I was leaving. When I get to the end of the block, I hesitate, then calmly begin to walk back toward the house. Closer, I seem uninterested. I look at the trees, then the sky. I turn around toward the end of the block and walk a bit more, then come back and do the whole thing again.
This detective work sure is boring! I bet nothing happens. We must have been here a whole hour already. I look at my watch. No, it’s only been ten minutes. I hope no one else sees me and wonders why I’m here.
Wait, what was that sound? It was a clank, but not like metal. It was more like wood on wood. Did it come from the creepy house?
It must have. Now there is a big black dog in the house’s front yard. He walks a bit, sniffs the grass, then walks a bit more.
I watch, too scared to move. He is on the far side of the lawn, away from Heidi’s hiding place. I try not to look interested as I walk a bit closer.
Now he’s moving toward this side of the yard. Sniffs the grass, then moves a bit more. Suddenly he turns toward the bush in the front of the yard. He stops, sniffs the air, then looks at the bush. Now he moves toward it, stops, looks, then sprints forward the last five feet to the base of the bush.
In one quick motion, he scoops up Heidi in his mouth, turns, and runs toward the front door. I hear that same wood-on-wood clank as he disappears.
Who — or what — is in that house? Will Staci ever see Heidi again? All three stories are available at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=bob+welbaum&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2.