Plush Plumbeous

excerpt PLUSH PLUMBEOUS RETURNS TO THE TOWN OF MORE-THAN-A-WEE-BIT Once upon a time, there was a place. It was formless and nameless, and no one had yet travelled through it on the tram. At that time, hundreds of thousands of abandoned dolls had begun to wander hither and thither, from town to town, begging food and water and a shelter for the night however small. It is a simple matter for a doll to be abandoned. At first, she is blonde, with long eyelashes and clean clothes. A little girl cradles her and tells her stories. One fine day, another little girl, a nasty little girl, pulls out the doll's hair and breaks her arm. What can the poor doll do? No one wants to look at her any more; no one asks her whether she is hungry or sleepy. So, in the end, she decides to leave. She is ready to go anywhere, as long as she leaves. Or let us take the example of a magic horse. A wind-up horse. You turn the key and the horse gallops and gives off sparks. But a key is like a handkerchief: one morning, you can no longer find it. For a magic horse without a key, the only thing left is to mount a toy motorcycle, if he still wants to go out to graze. And thus it happens that doctor-dolls, firemen-dolls, shepherd-dolls and sheep-dolls end up looking worn out. Even the actor-dolls, the ones employed at the doll theatres for high wages, the ones who are always acting on the stage, who have their strings pulled from above, even those exceptionally clever dolls sometimes have their problems. On no few occasions, a pussycat who was once given standing ovations can find herself removed from the theatre billings. And in her stead, a little white dog with blue eyes, who has only just left the doll-maker's workshop, begins to reap the bouquets and the applause. The pussycat would like to scratch someone, it would like to meow deafeningly in someone's ear, but it refrains from any of these: a pussycat-doll-actor is, whatever else one might say, highly civilised. Therefore, we may see that dolls – like people – can suffer too, can suffer misfortunes and, after all, can even burst into tears. Precisely because of such similarities – with people – when dolls are no longer able to bear the malice, they end up isolating themselves. So it happens that the place whose story I had begun to tell, the nameless and formless place, came to be besieged by all kinds of strange guests: patchwork crocodiles, half-deflated rubber ducks, one-legged ballerinas forced to do a permanent pirouette so that no one would observe their infirmity, a cockerel with a torn-off crest and wattle, who for that reason looked just like a hen, beakless birds forced to peck grain with only their eyes, whereas before they permitted themselves even to gobble it up, as well as other apparitions, each more worthy of interest and pity than the other. The place was given a name for a start; the first hapless dolls baptised it Woe-is-us. Water was brought from great distances. A scorching sun beat down on the crowns of their heads. A furious wind rent their garments and, in the drought-parched earth, no seed would sprout. In time, however, Woe-is-us became a respectable and rather prosperous little hamlet. There were seven wells. Water was drawn from the earth and, with the aid of a pump fashioned by the robot-doll, sprinkled over the first vineyards, orchards and fields. In a short while, a telephone line was also installed, and thus many dolls began to make calls to their doll friends, enticing them with the coolness of the Woe-is-us watermelons, which were renowned throughout the world for the fact that, as they were painted with a phosphorescent substance, they could guard themselves at night. And as for the grapes, the grapes were so large that if they had been eggs you could have made a hearty omelette out of a bunch of them. A hospital was built to repair the dolls who did not have limbs to be able to work, play or read. The director of the hospital, Gaffer Batik, after firstly repairing a few highly skilled doctors, set up a series of clinics, with departments and sub-departments and wards and corridors and beds and nightstands, so that in the end there was not a doll in all Woe-is-us who had not been operated on. The dolls began to live life to the full, to laugh, to be happy, and they unanimously demanded that their little hamlet should be elevated to the status of a town. And this was precisely what happened, since everything depended only upon them. The new town was called Just-a-wee-bit. I really must tell you about Just-a-wee-bit. Not everyone has had the privilege of admiring the products of the Snowflake Factory in Just-a-wee-bit. Otherwise everyone would have been able to appreciate the meticulousness that goes into crafting the snowflakes made there, the patience with which they are numbered with transparent numbers, their tasteless taste, and the chill with which they are wont to kiss you on the brow or the cheek. Since the dolls got on marvellously well with each other and put their whole heart into their work, the town of Just-a-wee-bit soon became too small for them. The town council decided to elevate it to the status of metropolis. Each doll was given the responsibility of adding another storey to her house and of excavating a basement. Even the name of the town seemed too small for them, so they replaced it with one more impressive: More-than-a-wee-bit. I do not think there is any point telling you about More-than-a-wee-bit. If not you yourselves, then your friends must certainly have glimpsed it at least once. And if they have glimpsed it once, they will not have forgotten it. How could you forget the houses with basements, first floors and ground floors? The streets with tunnels beneath and suspension roads above? The tree trunks with roots and crowns? This method of organising the metropolis on three levels proved to be very advantageous. The dolls who worked on the surface could be manipulated from underneath by the dolls who worked in the ground and whose purpose was precisely that: to manipulate those on the surface. The dolls on the upper storey also had a somewhat similar task: they assisted those on the surface, but not with wires and rods, as the ones in the ground did, but by pulling their strings. And nor did the dolls who worked on the surface sit twiddling their thumbs. They manipulated the dolls in the ground with the aid of strings, and the dolls on the first storey with the aid of rods and wires. In that way, no one was idle, all laboured equally, and each one felt assisted. Facla, 1981

by Tudor Vasiliu (b. 1944)