"You never should have left it on the porch," says mother.
"Now stop crying. We can get another doll."
"She GOT to be here somewhere!"
"Honey, it's gone. We've looked all morning."
"No! No no NO!" Screaming, out the door she runs and keeps
on running down the block, clumsily stomping, until, tear blinded,
she goes BOOMP! against a pole and falls, or rather sits down on
the sidewalk, and keeps sitting, sobbing.
"Are you hurt?" asks...someone, bending over her, a man's
voice. "Sorry I didn't see you coming..." She sobs and
sobs and chokes and sobs some more, seeing or not seeing the blurred
form kneeling beside her. "Where does it hurt?" A gentle
voice, though anxious.
"Nothing...hur urts. Suzie's...go o one!"
"My Dollie, she's lost, she's gone, I losted her." The
wail rises, abates. "We looked EVERYwhere. Last night she sat
out on the porch with me. Mommy says someone must of took her. She
could walk and cry and open her eyes and talk and now she's gone
forever!" She sobs until she hears a barking noise, looks up
to see a tall, skinny man really a pole almost who coughs into a
rumpled, brown spotted handkerchief, his body wracked and shivering,
loose gray suit with each cough shaking. She watches and forgets
He finishes, catches his breath and her eyes; "Excuse me,"
he says, "I have a cold," and quickly stuffs the reddened
cloth into a pocket inside his suit, his eyes holding hers, curious
eyes, soft, pink rimmed, deep, sad, but also like her Daddy's when
he's about to say a funny thing, but Daddy's eyes are old and grown
up. This man looks at her like...a child? or like a giant wise old
bunny rabbit. He smiles. He reaches down and takes her hand. She
stands up. "Your dollie..."
"Suzie...was she about so big?" He puts his hand level
about two feet above the sidewalk a long and slender hand, smooth.
It bends and ripples when he talks. (Later she will remember the
hand, the eyes that made her want to laugh when she had wanted to
sit and sob and never laugh again.)
"Yes, even bigger like this:..." She lifts his hand an
inch. It stays right where she put it. She holds the thumb. "Just
as I thought. Well..." (His eyes shine darkly from the bony,
sallow face) "I have good news for you: Suzie's not lost!"
"She's NOT! Where IS she? Where?"
"Why I just met her earlier today, taking my walk just a few
blocks from here. She saw I was heading this way and asked me, if
I saw a girl named...what's your name?"
"I'm Nancy Jane Conroy!"
"Yes, surely you're the one she just said Nancy..."
"Why then it must have been your Suzie..."
"What'd she say!"
"She said to tell Nancy how sorry she was to have to leave
so suddenly no time to say goodbye but she had gotten a free ticket
for a trip all over the world, and had to run to catch the plane..."
"A trip can't I go too!"
"I asked her that. She said she knew it would break your mother's
heart to take you away, and also you must go back to school...and
also she only had a ticket just for her...she didn't say who gave
it to her, but she begged for one for you as well, and he said it
is all very well for dolls to fly about, but girls should finish
"Why should I?"
"Well...she said she'd write, explain it all and tell you all
about the countries that she sees she knows your address, doesn't
"Of course, it's right down there, 1048 Elm Street."
"Why then, she'll write and tell you all about it! she said
she would and she looked like a very honest doll."
"When will she write?"
"Why...look in two days in your mailbox see if there's a letter
there for Nancy Jane Conroy I'm sure it will be there."
"But I can't read...so can my Mommy read it to me?"
"Of course tell your mommy about it, but no one else."
"Oh! Is it a secret?"
"Yes! Suzie said so."
"But," she thinks, tears forgotten, "dolls can't
write," but says nothing of this for fear his eyes might lose
their mischief and be only sad, the gaunt body shake again with
coughing. Were he a child her age, she'd scoff, explain: "Dolls
can't write!" Were he an older child or an adult, knowing he
teased, she'd tease him back, but he is neither child nor adult,
perhaps, like a doll, can never be, can never have been either.
Because of his eyes, his nervous speaking hands, she neither believes
nor disbe lieves, but wonders what will come to her and where in
two days Suzie will have gone.
But how can a doll travel? Well, she's gone, isn't she? Beside the
man, who slows his long stride, she skips and steps, chatters about
her older brother and her best friend, Pat, and how she once had
measles, but has never gone round the world. In front of her house,
they say goodbye, she so eager to run into the house and tell her
Mom about the secret letter she hardly notices him walk away (though
later she knows he turned once more to wave; and that's the last
she ever sees of him, though she looks down the block in later years
to see him walking and sometimes thinks it's he, but always it is
someone else). She never asked his name. But now she has no time
to think if someone's gone; her doll is found.
"My, you've cheered up who was that man?" asks Mother.
"He met my Suzie! Suzie isn't losted she's on an airplane,
on a trip all over! She said so!"
"That's nice that's what he told you?"
"He said he saw her and she'll write me letters I get one in
"Ohhh..., I see," says Mother, frowning slightly. "Go
wash up it's time for lunch."
Dull tink of dropped mailbox lid, clatter of feet on the stairs:
"It's HERE! It's HERE! That's my name, Nancy! Look! The letter's
Setting down a basket of dirty clothes in the hall, she takes the
envelope no return address, for Nancy Jane Conroy, each letter printed
in ink. She strokes her daughter's hair: "Calm down it is for
you let's find out what it says."
Now she sits on the bed her daughter's bed, the child kneeling behind
her, chin touching her shoulder, but unable to stop bouncing lightly
on the mattress, excited, waiting... "There that's my name
"Yes, Dear Nancy, it says...," a spidery penmanship, but
plain, as if the writer went out of his way to write slowly and
"Is it from Suzie?"
"So it says see at the end, 'All my love, Suzie.'" "I
knew it! Read it! Read it, please!"
First Suzie says she's sorry she had to leave so suddenly, but on
the way to the plane, she met a funny looking man and gave him a
message "He was NOT funny looking! He was NICE!" which
she hopes was received. "It was. By me!"
"And now I'm in the most exciting place, New York! The buildings
touch the sky, the police ride horses, and the streets! So many
people and cars go every which way that sometimes they jam up so
none can move at all, but up above, a policeman in a yellow helicopter
with red stripes..." ("See there's a drawing of a helicopter.")
"...sees everything stop still, so he flies down, picks up
a person with his person plucker it doesn't hurt..." ("See
there's the people plucker" a drawing of retractable tongs)
"... and that makes a hole in the crowd so one can move and
then one more and then another one, and soon ALL the people, cars
and stores (for they have moving food stores on the street) can
move again, so the policeman gives the man he plucked an ice cream
cone and sets him down near where he wants to go the ice cream cone
is so he won't feel bad, for it is quite a shock to suddenly be
hanging in the sky when you thought you were standing in the street."
(Much later in New York she sees the buildings, the crowds, a policeman
on a horse, and even a helicopter hovering overhead, knows it has
no tongs, but gets stiff necked watching the helicopter, wondering.)
Suzie says much much more about New York, the peacocks in the park
who talk like parrots, trains that run underground and a giant statue
that holds a torch "Statues," says Suzie, "can talk
to dolls; they're much the same, but old and wise and very tired.
The statue with a torch talked very slowly, said her arm was stiff
from holding up the torch so long, but she liked doing it. And every
hundred years a strong man holds the torch for her a while so she
can rest. But she was sad she couldn't travel like me, so I told
her about our house and all my friends, especially Nancy, and having
tea parties on the porch and streets with wooden houses and elm
trees. She said she couldn't visit you, but hoped you'd visit her
someday I said you would. I wish you could be here with me right
now, but the man who brought me the ticket Tuesday night when I
was sleeping out on the front porch said it was only good for dolls.
He was a fat man with a mustache, very jolly. He wore a big tall
hat..." ("See here's a drawing.") "...and pants
with stripes. He said, 'But we must hurry! Come, come! We're late!'
I said I wouldn't go without YOU, but he told me you would want
me to go and see the world and tell you all about it. Besides, he
said no doll could move by itself unless the lady who cared for
it (he called you the lady) wanted it to. So you must want me to,
because I can. The dolls I've met in New York just lie still. I
talked to one she talked to me, but the girl she was with didn't
hear a thing. This doll couldn't walk or travel by herself, quite
sad, I thought, because the girl didn't think she could. I'm glad
you've made me able to take this trip. I know someday you'll see
these places too. Tomorrow I'll be in London, and I'll write you
all about it."
"When will the letter come?"
"We'll have to wait and see maybe tomorrow."
"Will Suzie ever come home?"
"She doesn't say I don't know we'll have to wait and see."
"Will I really get to go to New York someday?"
"Of course, when you're bigger, you can travel by yourself,
or we'll go there for a visit..."
"Honey, I don't know; I've got a lot to do. I just don't know
right now. We'll see."
"But aren't we s'posed to write a letter back?"
"Where would we send it to?"
"To Suzie...in London! Will you write it and send it for me?"
"All right What shall I say?"
"But don't you have to have paper to write it on?"
Now Mother sits at the kitchen table, Nancy perched on a chair beside
her. "Tell her I miss her, but it's good she gets to travel
and tell her to try and see the King in London and that I'll never
get another doll, so she better come home sometime and that..."
"Hold on let me catch up..."
"...And that Billy is fine, he's in school but she knows that
well, tell her to write some more, with lots of pictures and that
the man was nice, not really funny looking. I think he was the nicest
man I ever saw...that's all."
"OK would you like to write something?"
"How? I don't know how."
"You know your name, see, that's an N, an A..." She prints
the letters on a napkin, big "Just copy that and that will
"Ok and I can make a picture too!"
"Here it is all done, so you can send it now."
"Let's see...it's very nice is that a boy?" (The drawing
shows a circle on two long sticks, two big circles for eyes, the
ears on top...)
"I tried to draw that man, but I don't think it's very good,
but she'll know who it is."
(Years later, finding her letters to her doll in a box in a drawer,
she reads them over and over and cries because she never saw the
man again, then laughs, thinking, "He's on a trip he writes
For two weeks the letters dome every day and sometimes Mother gets
to the mailbox first, and, with as much excitement as the child,
cries out, "Look, here's your letter!" And now the letters
always start by thanking Nancy for her letter, hoping Billy is doing
well in school, and hoping Nancy has made her bed, is brushing her
teeth, and so forth (these letters are in the drawer too, and as
she'd suspected even as a child, but been too polite to say, none
of these things were written there; her mother made them up). But
then...as soon as Nancy begins to squirm and squawk "Suzie
says THAT!", her mother says, "But here, listen to this!"
And the real letter begins, about chimney sweeps and fog and bridges
with castles and ghosts in London, and the King and Queen, who turn
out to be dolls like Suzie, but much bigger it's kept a secret from
the English people who take care of them, but they tell Suzie. And
the restaurants with tables in the middle of the street in Paris,
so they have to have small cars able to drive under tables; places
with funny names: Budapest, Bagdad, Moscow, Tibet every day a new
letter, a new place, and all a secret she doesn't even tell Pat,
although at times she's bursting just to tell, as when, across the
sandbox, she describes the palace you can row with oars in Venice,
and Pat says, "How do you know?"
"My...Mommy told me I'm gonna go and see it someday myself."
It would be fun to tell, but it's more fun not to. She almost hopes
her dollie never comes back, but can keep on sending her letters
Dear Nancy, something very strange has happened: My plane has landed
on a green and purple island in the middle of the ocean I don't
know its name. When I walked out of the plane, why, who do you think
was there? The fat man with the big mustache! He took me to his
house it's like an apple with a door, but inside it's full of rooms
and stairs that go round and round as they go up and windows that
He said that I had been a very good doll. He said you must have
taken very good care of me, since I turned out so good. So as a
reward, he said, he'd have me made into a little girl a real one!
Then I could have my own doll and go to school and grow up, be a
mommy and have my own little girl someday, and she could have a
doll like me! He said this island is the only place in the world
where dolls can become little girls. He said it's a secret place,
but I could tell you, he said, because he knew you wouldn't tell.
I asked him if I were a girl could I go back to you? He said, "No
no, a little girl can't have a little girl. We know a mother who
cries every night because she doesn't have a little girl. We'd give
you to her. Nancy will grow up and have her own little girls."
I said, "If I can't go home to Nancy as a little girl, I'll
stay a doll." He said that wouldn't be right, that you weren't
selfish, you wouldn't want to stop me from getting more real. And
besides, he said, someday when we're both people, we might meet
and remember each other, and then I could really talk and eat and
tickle you back when you tickle me.
I said, "But how can a doll become a girl?"
"How can a doll write letters?" he asked "you can
because you're a special doll, because you have a girl named Nancy
who believes in you. And that's why we can make you real. It takes
a very special doll to become a girl."
So I decided you would want it, too and so I'm glad, but also I'm
so sad! Tomorrow I will be a little girl in a new home. He says
it wouldn't do to write more letters I'll be much too young and
won't remember how. He doesn't know if I'll remember your name,
but I know I'll always remember someone loved me so much she let
me go so I could be myself. The change is already starting, and
the world feels different. I can see things clearly, and much I
used to see is faint like dreams just before waking. So when you
go to all the places I've described, some of the things I saw there
won't be there unless you can dream.
Soon I'll be real like you, I feel it happening, but I still remember
you, I won't forget. I don't know if we'll ever meet again, but
I'll always love you and thank you for this great happiness that
fills me up like a red balloon! It makes me dizzy! If we don't meet
as girls or grown ups, maybe there is something still more real
than people that we can become, and we'll meet that way. Now I must
lie down to sleep. When I wake up, I'll be a girl like you, but
younger. This is all I can write. Thank you, Nancy, for letting
me live. Goodbye until we meet again. All my love, Suzie.
"Why are you crying, Mommy? It's OK, she gets to be real!"
"I'm sorry, Honey, sometimes Mommies are silly."
(When she reads the letters later, she sees how the writing toward
the end grows faint and jerky, as if the hand had trembled.)
"Mommy," she asked that night, "Do you think that
really Suzie could write and change into a girl? Or did the man
I met write all the letters so I wouldn't cry?"
"Which do you think?"
"Both. I think both did it. Yes they did!"
"Maybe it's the same thing but if the man did it, do you think
it was only to stop you from crying?"
"Well...maybe he wanted to be my dollie or a little girl or
maybe to go all over the world and tell me about it..., but anyway
both of them did it, because if he did, then Suzie did too."
She never asked again about the man. She kept her promise to Suzie
and never got another doll. Her mother was never sure how much the
child believed or had decided to believe, which is the same, and
years later, when they discussed it, Nancy no longer knew herself.
She did not cry again for the loss of her doll until she reread
the letters, wept, then laughed by then she'd traveled, seeing always
the oddest things! dreaming always of someday becoming real.