When my daughter became old enough to stay overnight with my mom in order to give me and my wife a break and a chance to go out the first thing Nana did was go out and buy a big box of dollar store toys. She figured the kid wouldn't know or care where they came from, and since she was probably going to break it all anyway at some point what was the difference? My mom is kind of awesome like that.
So over the years mom has added to the box here and there whenever it runs low, and this past weekend one of the new additions to Toy Story 4: Story in the Hood was a knock-off Barbie doll with a pretty braid that my daughter named Amber. Knock off Barbies are always interesting to me because they generally have closer to normal waists and other measurements. Almost as if some factory in China was sending out a message to the poor girls of America that while they will never be the television image of rich perfection they can still have their own adventures just the way they are.
Or they're calling us fat. One or the other.
So there was Amber, my cherub's new best thing in the world, but there was also the fact that my mother recently adopted two small puppies. Don't ask me what kind they are... some sort of cross breeding of a Dalmation, a baby goat, and possibly a bulbasaur is my guess. The point is that they are young and dollar store plastic is not particularly tough. Before my daughter or mother could stop them they had slowly removed Amber's right leg at the calf and her left foot at the ankle. Blown, chewed stumps were all that remained.
When I came to pick her up from my mother she was still holding onto Amber very tightly, unwilling to let the doll go even though it was now maimed pretty badly.
"Can you fix Amber, Daddy?" she asked?
I actually did have an idea.
The first stop was Michaels because I thought I remembered them selling bags of doll parts there, but I was informed that this was not so and also that running into a store screaming "I NEED SEVERED DOLL PARTS" was not really appropriate customer behavior.
So instead I had the bright idea of getting another donor doll from the dollar store near my house. The kid was willing, especially after I offered to let her pick out another toy and some candy if she was good.
"Now Daddy's color blind, sweetheart, so you're going to have to help me pick out matching legs, OK?"
Problem was, they didn't have any dolls with legs! All they had were mermaids. What the hell was I going to do? I placated the kid by allowing her to pick out a ninja bow and arrow and a small hollow chocolate rabbit before sitting her down and explaining my new brilliant idea.
"OK, heart, here's the deal," I said. "They don't have any dolls with legs, and Amber needs a transplant immediately. The only course of action for her is a full species transplant. We can make her a mermaid and she can live in your bathtub. She'll never walk again, but she'll have a full life as a siren. She's yours, and it's your decision. What do you say?"
"Maker her a mermaid!"
So off we went home with the donor doll and her mermaid tale. On the little plastic table that serves as coffee table and craft workbench I laid out Amber and the donor doll. The kid ran off briefly and returned with one of her many doctor's kits. Together, we operated by first removing the mermaid tail from the donor, then the damaged lower half of Amber, before gently reattaching the donor tail where Amber's hips and legs had been.
The kid held put two Spider-Man Band-Aids around Amber's waist, and voila, her doll had a new lease on life.
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It was really only at this point that I became aware of how monumentally creepy this all was. Sure, kids play doctor all the time but they rarely play emergency room. I had a brief fearful moment at the end there as the kid looked over at the donor doll with the ruined legs lying beside her. I held my breath to see if my daughter would suddenly think that we had killed another doll to sustain the life of Amber.
"Can Amber have some of my chocolate bunny?" she asked?