Cousin Joyce

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending an annual creative retreat hosted by my agent. Some other writers and I stayed up one night telling stories. This was mine…

WARNING: The faint of heart should read on at their own risk.

My grandmother lives in Florida for most of the year, and comes home to us in New England for a few months each summer. When she arrived in May about a year or so ago, she brought with her a doll.

The fact that my nonagenarian grandmother has recently developed a penchant for dolls and resin ballerina figurines and stuffed animals is another story for another time. This story is about this particular doll, and the fact that it possesses the following attributes of increasing creepiness (photos supplied for non-believers):

1. Not satisfied with the doll’s original wardrobe, my grandmother went out and bought it actual toddler clothes and shoes. To wit, a pastel windsuit and dirty white sneakers.

2. Not satisfied with the doll’s original pigtailed hairstyle, my grandmother took it to a friend of hers in Florida who worked as a hairdresser. The doll now sports a layered ‘do, and a big pink bow in its hair.

3. The doll is posed with its arms up, elbows bent, and it’s meant to be leaned against a wall with its back to the viewer, as if it’s counting down for a game of Hide and Seek. Or serving a harsh sentence of Time Out.

4. And, most important, and disturbing…

…the doll has no face. And has white stumps for hands.

(I’ll pause here while you all go and change your underwear.)

While the rest of us were disturbed by this new addition to our family, and its position in the front room of my grandmother’s house (so it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door), my grandmother could not be prouder. She named the doll “Joyce,” because, as she says, “She brings me so much joy.” As a coping mechanism, my sister and I jokingly refer to the doll as “Cousin Joyce.”

And when we stay at my grandmother’s house, we sleep with the lights on.

Photo credit: Jenna LaReau (who took one for the team in getting this close)