I Miss Dorothy

By Bub 
I remember the building she was in the orphanage at. It wasn’t a horrible one, like in all those grotesque tales. It wasn’t anything special either really. I mean, it was clean and bright, like a hospital. The floors were tiled and recently mopped. The walls were clean, painted cement. It was a normal urban institution. We entered the main room and there were so many of them. They were so sad. Even the ones that weren’t – they didn’t have the luxury of understanding why they should be. This sterile catacomb was their life and they had thrived. So we made sure to pick a morose looking one. Not the saddest, or even the third saddest – there was probably a sadness to mental instability curve in effect that we were not ready to challenge. She was a sweet little girl, our adopted daughter. She sat their contemplatively coloring her coloring book, eyes glued to her work even as we approached. I saw a redeeming innocence in her, a purity. My wife said she looked like a hard worker, driven, that she could be successful with the right stewardship.

The ‘courtship process’ began and it was joyous, tedious, and nauseating. It was lovely to get to know this special little soul, but after so many times taking a child to the park in front of a captive audience – read, social worker – you become more of a performer than a human being trying to make a connection. You are trying to tick off your own mental checklist – push the swing at the appropriate height and speed, watch those hands, smile genuinely, give a chuckle, make a joke, when that fails take a prat fall, anything to solicit a laugh. It was hard work. But it paid off.

The day we got notice that we were eligible to adopt little Dorothy I remember taking her out for ice cream. We went to a ColdStone and I tipped the workers because Dorothy always loved a song. When she finished her cup of birthday cake ice cream we asked her straight out – would it be okay if I became your daddy and Cherise became your mommy? She answered matter-of-factly ‘yes’ because she was more cognizant of the reality of the relationship than we were. This wasn’t a privilege being bestowed upon her in her eyes, but rather an opportunity for her life to stabilize. Which isn’t as uplifting as ‘rescuing a soul from solitude’ or all the other silly phrases I would rehearse to myself for later conversations. This little girl was there for us, even though we had it the other way around.

She died in a freak sledding accident and I was nowhere near ready to deal with the grief. Once you experience love from a child of real innocence you never recover from losing it, to teenager-dom, death, a cult, a gang, what-have-you. I was no different. I was so crushed that I would wake up with a burning feeling throughout my body every morning and I would have to put it out by drinking everclear or taking prescription mood stabilizers that I was not prescribed. Cherise left me and I eventually overdosed and realized this was not a sustainable lifestyle. On a bus-ride home I picked up a throw-away reader from the bus floor and browsed it. Serendipitously I came across this ad:

“Need closure? Rent a loved one. We offer peace of mind one actor at a time.”

I called the number. I had no clear idea what the ad meant, but I needed closure, and I had nothing serious against actors.

‘Hello. I lost a loved one. She was a beautiful six-year old girl. She was adopted and she liked classical music. She had that over me. I loved her with a fire in my gut. She didn’t appreciate it so I guess that’s what I had over her.’ I said.

‘Have you ever been convicted of or plead guilty to a felony?’ The operator asked.

I suppose my enthusiasm warranted the question. ‘No, of course not.’

‘We do check criminal records and background histories of all our clients.’ The operator said in a mildly threatening tone.

‘That’s fine, I swear I just loved my daughter. Now she’s dead. I can’t go on and I need help.’

‘Alright sir, let me transfer you.’

Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice’ played as the on-hold music.

‘Hello, female toddler department.’

‘Yes, my little girl had just turned six, is this the right, division?’

‘Was she in Kindergarten yet or no?’

‘No, she was just about to start, when…’

‘Okay sir, you’re at the right place. Now, let me check the fax to see if the main office has sent over a description’.

‘Oh, well I can tell you…’

‘Where Do The Children Play’ by Cat Stevens comes on as I realize I am on hold again.

‘Alright sir, you are in luck. We have a dead-ringer of sorts, oh goodness, I’m sorry I’ve been working on that for months. We have someone that matches your description to a T. We’ll send her over at her next available convenience. Wait patiently and please sir, don’t try anything, these are little girls we’re dealing with.’

I hung up the phone and waited for, well, ‘Dorothy’.

I watched TV and YouTube. I swilled Brandy mixed with Everclear. I fell asleep in the same clothes, in a recliner, for days. Just when I thought she wouldn’t show up, I got a knock at the door.

I answered it. I opened my front door which is accessible through a dungeon-like mud-room from my basement apartment. When I opened it the sunshine from outside contrasted with the dark and dankness behind me and rendered ‘Dorothy’ a blurry silhouette.

‘Hi you must be Dorothy.’

‘Hello. You must be my Dad.’

‘Come in sweetheart, I’ve been waiting so long to see you.’

I backed up into the dungeon-foyer and the sun-beams dulled. I could see her. She looked just like Dorothy. My dear sweet Dorothy. The Dorothy that I forced myself to love at first, learned to love eventually, then when I finally accepted my responsibility for her total well-being, had to watch her die, well, figuratively. I don't sled. This little person that I had not experienced a greater love for before encountering was now standing before me in judgment for letting her young life slip away before her.

We went to the living room. I sat in the LaZBoy. ‘Dorothy’ stood awkwardly and fidgeted.

‘Do you want me to sit in your lap?’ She finally asked.

‘Well, yes, I suppose that… No have a seat over there dear.’ And I pointed at the sofa.

She did.

Without saying anything I turned on PBS.

‘Curious George’ was on. It took ten minutes or so, but ‘Dorothy’s attention eventually focused from her shoes to the comic monkey and his yellow-hatted tender. Twenty minutes into the ordeal she was laughing just the way Dorothy used to laugh. It twisted my belly to hear it.

This series of events recurred for six weeks. ‘Dorothy’ had weekends off and Mondays she would have to unlock my apartment herself and shake me awake in time for Curious George. I grew to love and hate that monkey as he became representative of everything I loved in life and all of the pain I would soon re-experience. I thought having a chance to ‘have closure’ would make a difference. But with a six year old 'closure' just doesn't seem right.

‘So this is our last session ‘Dorothy’. And I want to say goodbye this time. I know you don’t know what that means, but to be able to be around you and experience the things that my Dorothy would have been experiencing if she were still here has, well, extended my enjoyable life by six weeks. It’s not that it’s over now, but it will definitely be on hiatus for some time. I didn’t know what to think hiring some actor to play my dead daughter, but actor or not I got to see a human being experience the emotion and pleasure that my sweet Dorothy would have experienced had she been here still. So, thank you.’

‘No problem, Mister’

‘Dorothy’ left.

I shot myself a few hours later.


  1. Jesus, I started out trying to write a funny story... maybe dark humor??

  2. Maybe. A good story nevertheless. Hopefully people will take the time to read it and perhaps comment.

  3. i shot myself a few hours after reading this. i read it last night. this is ghost maddie. gr8 story.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hahah! That is fantastic. I forget how fatalistic I come across especially to you James.

  6. I like this morbid creation that just seems to've slipped out of your birth canal, which you find not only shocks others, BUT EVEN YOURSELF. It's very funny, in a dark, mocking-life-and-death kinda way. And, also, and of course, I analyze literature from the perspective of the Marxist dialectic, and read this story as a scathing critique of our consumer-capitalist society, where sometimes an imitation of the Real is realer, or just as real to us as the Real, and something something. The mocking of bourgeois sentimentality, especially in the telling of the adoption, underscores the bourgeoisie social-imperative to save others, which is only another means of social-psychological and economic control.

    This story high-lights the tragic situation we all face in such a society, where human dignity is mocked, and the Real is substituted with a parody of itself, and shows us the only way out is suicide.

  7. My last comment was from the future!!

  8. haha. I know it's only one of many feelings you harbor, though. Where there is a pessimist in you, there is also an optimist, and none of them are separate, but different parts of one person, who is Bub, although some sentiments find a louder voice than others sometimes, depending on conditions.

    It is well written and funny, containing several layers of comedy and tragedy. Some of us are not so blessed (by Diamond Jay himself) to have such talent.

    I deleted my comment because some wording was weird, and I re-posted it. Just to let ya'll know.

  9. I also thought it would be funny to write, "it is fitting that the story should be told by a dead man, because in a way, even as we all tell our stories and live them, we are also already dead."

  10. i thought i post a comment earlier, but i guess it didn't go through.

    it said: "jesus christ, bub."

  11. Yeah I really liked this. Dorothy is Jake and the author is Kaleena. The analogy was crystal clear to me.