The Rag Doll’s Button Eye

Sydney Lane, Staff Writer

From afar you see the pale rag doll’s peachy cheeks, and in her neat, yellow yarn hair is a pretty pink bow. You see the hand-tailored baby pink dress, with a silky blush sash around her waist, a fabric rose sewn to her side. A soft thread smile.

You move closer and see her stitching up a hole. Ask her and she tells you how long each stitch took. She tells you the sharp needle she used. She tells the difficulty of getting the thread through the eye. She tells you the weight, denier, tex, and composition of her silk thread. The rag doll tells you how many stitches it took to patch up the tear, how much stuffing she had to replace.

But the pale little doll could not tell you why her stitches broke so easily. She could not tell you why her fabric was so thin, nor why the original thread frayed so quickly. She’s unable to tell you why her stuffing spilled so easily. The little rag doll could never tell you why she seemed to tear and rip and unravel at every turn.

You visit the rag doll again. This time you see her without a button eye. You ask where her eye had gone, but she’s not answering you. On days like these, the rag doll will not speak. Ask about the tex of her thread, or the type of her needles, but the rag doll will not answer; Not on days like these. But you’re patient, you want to know. You wait beside the one-button eyed doll. You wait for answers as she stares with that black button eye.

Patient visitors see why her silence is absolute. You see a giant, a towering man: back hunched with the weight of an oversized sack thrown over his curved shoulder. With a sigh, he starts a routine. He flips his belled top hat off with calloused hands, showing his balding head and places the house-sized hat beside the rag doll. You question, you speak, but neither reply. The giant continues, shaking off his grey jacket and sits in front of the little rag doll. Wordlessly, he holds out his creased hand. You’re quick to follow the rag doll onto his fleshy platform. He raises his hand to see the rag doll with is aged eyes. She speaks at last.

“Button Man.”

Two simple words. An ominous name. The Button Man hums. He doesn’t ask, he knows. Yet still he insists she tell him how. The rag doll bursts into sobs, no tears falling from her single button eye. The rag doll cries out her sad, angry, endless rambles too fast, you can’t find an answer through her tears. The Button Man remains unfazed. He waits and waits and waits, and eventually, the rag doll tires out, her sobs fading to hiccups. The Button Man nods, somehow understanding the jumbled mess of her confession. He sets her down, you scurry behind her. He opens the mountainous sack, its overflowing with identical black buttons. As he replaces the poor little doll’s eye, he speaks in a soft voice, a gentle earthquake rocking your eardrums.

“You tear so easily, my dear, because you were made to be soft. Any other cloth and your pale complexion would be far too coarse. Your thread freys so easily, my child, because you were made with the finest of thread. Any other string and your seams would be far too thick. Dear child of mine, every flaw you find, every tear you see, every stray thread that appears, it all is you.”

The Button Man shrugs on his jacket and tosses his hat to the top of his head. The rag doll watches him, her thread smile still sunk in a frown. He throws the sack over his shoulder. Before you realize it, he has gone. The rag doll stares with her black button eyes where he once stood. You stay, you expect an answer. She doesn’t utter a word. You ask, you speak. She tells you to leave or return on another day if you so desire. And you do so desire. Returning, seeking answers about the giant, about the Button Man. She doesn’t acknowledge him. But she tells you about her thread’s composition, her type of needles, her stitching. All while keeping her thin sewn smile.