Puppeteer Beatrice Snowdrop is well used to chatty dolls with attitude. Fortunately, headmistressy Miss Beatti knows how to discipline naughty toys. And how!
A failed relationship forces Beatti to shut up shop and hunker down for winter. The days become lonely and cold. She misses crafting dolls, but she isn’t going to make another puppet or date another woman. Definitely not!
Come springtime, old flame Evie Fine offers a cash prize for the best Easter doll. Beatti wonders if her ex wants to lure her back to the toy business or if she seeks to rekindle their relationship. Either way, temptation is difficult to resist and Beatti eventually crafts a new doll.
Pokio ... Oh, Pokio, a feisty doll with cheek aplenty. She insults Beatti from the get-go and proves to be more than a handful. Worse, Pokio can read her mistress’s innermost thoughts, and can spot a fib a mile away.
Quite soon the strings controlling Pokio are abandoned. It’s Miss Beatti who does as she’s told and Pokio who calls the shots. Switching roles is fun! They forget every rule of doll making and instead notice each other as women.
Pokio develops into a loving, thoughtful doll who adores her mistress. Exactly what Beatti needs. It’s only natural and right when affection blossoms like the spring flowers.
A kiss is shared, an ancient spell released. Can a doll become a real woman? What does real even mean?
It wasn’t that Pokio was resistant to my approach. On the contrary she sat quietly while I explained why it was important to make humans feel valued, before asking if I’d like a coffee and a biscuit, newly baked. The truth was she already possessed excellent skills and qualities of which any human would be proud. There was nothing to teach -- she out-trumped me in every way and was more intelligent, insightful and empathic than most humans.
She watched my feeble efforts to be in charge as if she were the teacher and I the student -- with words of praise and encouragement always waiting to fall from her wooden lips. “Good, Beatti! You taught me how to say thank you really well. It’s brilliant, of course -- no, it is. But even dogs know about thank you. How about we move into new territory?” Her head cocked to one side. By then, I understood the gesture meant she was about to make me laugh.
I held myself in readiness for yet another bout of hilarity. “Sure. Like what?”
She skipped across and sat on my feet. The pressure of her wooden body was reassuring and pleasant. After two years with nobody but Honey for company, I enjoyed the security that came from the sensation. More than anything, I yearned to feel the ground beneath my feet and know I wasn’t going to fall into nothingness once more.
She giggled in peels of pure cheeky sweetness. “How about asking what I think about string theory?”
I didn’t understand the reference to science and thought she meant her puppet strings. Most Kinder dolls questioned their purpose -- they could walk pretty well unaided. “What’s string theory?”
She wobbled her body, fiddled with her hooks and went floppy. “Being a puppeteer, you should know about strings.”
“I didn’t know there was a theory about it,” I said, laughing. Thinking how fascinating she was and how she kept me on my toes. “Who knew?”
Pokio didn’t need threads. But as was our way in Kindle, hoops covered her body in readiness for the competition and subsequent buyer. Thinking of the prize fee, I’d attached extra loop holes at her pelvis, chin and feet. Pokio had more strings than any other doll I’d crafted. She could even use them to perform acrobatics and had once created a zip wire across the bathroom.
She laughed silently while I wracked my brain trying to work through whatever she meant. Strings were a necessary part of being a successful puppet. “So what do you think about string theories? Is it a chart or something?”
She scrambled up and kissed me soundly on the cheek. “Kinda. You need to get out more, B. See the wider picture.”
Much later, I discovered string theory had nothing whatsoever to do with puppets and was amazed at her wit and intellect, as well as feeling rather stupid. It didn’t escape my attention too, how she’d let me find out on my own, rather than mocking me for my lack of worldly knowledge. When I asked her why she hid her face in her hands.
“I don’t want you to feel rubbish. I’m not like Evil Evie.”
She didn’t tell me because she cared about my self-esteem. Normally dolls were selfish creatures who sought affirmation and never thought of others. It made me wonder if the way we at Kinder treated the dolls had become out-dated. Pokio had empathy and compassion aplenty, whereas I’d offered her neither.
I rewarded her by offering to buy some jewellery I knew she had her eye on. “You’re nothing like Evie, so don’t worry. Would you like a pretty bracelet to match your purple nails?”
Her eyes widened at the offer, but she shook her head. “No thank you. I didn’t expect a reward. Being kind is free.”
Once again, I was the student while she the teacher. There were other changes too. Instead of seeking adoration from my puppet, I spent my days wanting to make Pokio happy. I spent hours looking through the doll brochures with Juna and chose a necklace for her made from shells. Somehow, her intelligence and kindness had found a way into my heart. Reminded me of my own humanity and compassion, not to mention loneliness.