Theóphilus Malum was a maker of dolls and a taker of falls.
He did each in equal measure
and was quite adept at both.
He’d been slighted and spited so many times that he had grown accustomed to it.
His natural state was unnatural hate:
He hated with such a fury, such a fervor, that it affected every aspect of his life,
even his work.
Especially his work.
He made dolls for the people who wronged him,
fashioning them with the finest cloth and porcelain he could get his hands on.
Forged in the fiery furnace of his burning resentments,
his dolls were of an exceptional and unrivaled quality.
He made one for the girl who had made a fool out of him,
who was a darling of the stage,
but really nothing more than a ballet tart masquerading as theatre star.
He molded the eyes from emerald and thought of the lies their flesh and blood counterparts contained,
formed the lips from rosewood and remembered the rouses they had reeled him in with,
powdered the cheeks with pink as his head pounded with the memory of the way hers felt.
He named the doll Lust and set it aside.
Next he made a doll for his erstwhile business partner,
who had unfairly cut him out of a profitable business deal.
He gave it silver dollars for eyes,
except he had scratched the heads with a dull razor blade until they were unrecognizable
effigies in erasure.
He clothed the doll’s back in a suit of greenback dollars
and branded the forehead with a dollar sign.
He named the doll Greed and set it aside.
He then thought upon an acquaintance he once had,
who had become his romantic adversary,
before stealing Minnie Mené away from him.
He dressed the doll the way he himself would like to dress
if he could afford to:
In a purple tuxedo with green bowtie
and shiny, fancy shoes.
He named the doll Envy and set it aside.
He remembered a round of fisticuffs he had once exchanged with a local ruffian in a barroom.
Lester Pugilé had bestowed upon him a thorough and embarrassing thrashing,
blackening his eye and splitting his lip
before laughing off the entire affair
and returning to the bar for
He gave this doll eyes of black obsidian,
teeth of white pearls,
and a crimson silk suit,
before smashing the teeth and eyes beyond recognition with a hammer
and cutting the silk finery to shreds with a penknife.
He named the doll Wrath and set it aside.
He spit as he thought about the Doll-Maker Social Club,
who had laughed him out of membership
because of his staunch refusal to acknowledge puppetry
as a valid artform,
and especially of
who had replaced him as club president
after stealing all of his trade secrets and passing them off as his own.
He made a doll with gaping black holes for eyes
and a red red tongue that was thirteen inches long
and dangled to the floor
because this doll was also legless.
He named the doll Pride and set it aside.
Then he thought of his mother,
who never let him make dolls as a child,
saying that dolls were for girls
before taking all of his creations for herself,
locking them up in a glass case
where he could always see them but
never touch them,
never play with them.
But she would show them off to her friends at her extravagant dinner parties,
boasting of their value and their
He made a doll for her now
with a toothless smile that took up the entire bloated face,
with a corpulent torso
and pudgy limbs to match.
He named the doll Gluttony and set it aside.
Then he thought of his father,
who never spoke up for his son
or lifted a finger so he could keep even one of the dolls
that he so desired,
preferring instead to sit and watch television,
the same syndicated reruns night after night,
barely speaking a word to his son,
kind or otherwise,
unless he made the terrible mistake of walking in front of the
whilst it was preaching,
in which case he would hurl the nearest object at him
without even rising from his lazy chair.
So he made this doll with vacant and static eyes
and a mouth that was stitched shut in yellow thread,
with atrophied, misshapen, useless limbs
and a brown potato sack jerkin
which he had first stained with mustard.
He named the doll Sloth and set it aside.
He stood back and surveyed all that he had done,
looking at the coterie of vicious injustice that now sat before him in
He had planned on delivering each doll
to the abominations that had inspired them,
along with more than a few unkind and candid words
which he had,
rehearsed over and over again
in his head
and muttered aloud
But now the very thought of parting with these terrible beauties,
these magnificently ugly and horrific scoundrels in miniature,
made him feel panicked, anxious, and melancholy.
How could he,
part with these things that he had poured every ounce of his hatred and resentment into?
It was an abysmal art,
but art nonetheless.
So he kissed them all on their little porcelain foreheads,
bade them good night,
and went to sleep as he had awoken:
maker of dolls.