So Gaby takes the Pieces Of Princess Valerie's Body back to Screamin' Meemie's Dolls & Preemies so that neck-cameo-sporting Meemie can reattach the arm -- "This is why people should never let children play with dolls," she says, just batshit crazy right out the gate -- and while she's there Gaby wonders aloud, just hypothetically, whether a grown woman pretending that her doll is her baby and best friend, while brutally ignoring and abusing her very real, very awesome children, might be a sign of a deeper issue. Not the person to ask, Solis.
Screamin' Meemie's like, "Um, no! That's poppycock! Balderdash! Grown women play with dolls all the time! Substituting artificial children for real children and doll relationships for real relationships is a common and natural American thing, not unlike talking on the telephone or eating a salad. It's not 'real,' but it's something better: It's full-on crazy as shit."
Meemie takes Gaby back into a secret dungeon hung with the life-sized clothes of all the little children who were naughty in her store and now live with Jesus, and presses a secret combination into the soft and rubbery face of one silly clown doll. It giggles with a curiously deep, man's voice, and behind them a door opens up, revealing a spiral staircase down which they process in a hush. Only the dripping and a constant susurration -- is that a whisper you hear, calling your name? -- are their companions in the echo, as they head deeper and deeper into the dark warmth below Screamin' Meemie's Dolls & Preemies.
Behind the dour dusty portrait of a long-dead toymaker lies a fur-lined chamber, in which there is a box of gleaming glass, which contains Meemie's own "special friend," a burnt-looking dowager whose painted features have long since been worn off by the insistent, clutching, scrabbling fingers of the lonely Ms. Meemie, who explains [verbatim], holding her friend aloft:
"This is Mrs. Humphries. I saw her in a window in a tiny shop in Ohio and fell in love. And the more time we spent together, the more I got to know her story. Every doll has a story, and it turns out Mrs. Humphries started her own business, just like I did! She has a music shop, and she teaches piano."
The piano shoppe stands empty, the music lessons are no more. The Hall of the Mountain King no longer crashes and hums with the industry of kobolds, the frantic machinations of their underground kindred. And if you were to go to that corner, in Ohio, you would find that there is no tiny doll shop there. You would find that there never was. In no registry, at the Chamber of Commerce, extant phone books or photographs of the time, can a doll shop be found. Old-timers who have lived in that neighborhood for decades would look askance at you, were you to ask. "Dolls? That's been a frozen yogurt place since Eisenhower," they'd say, and return to their boardgames, their cribbage and mah jongg, shaking their heads and wheezing quietly.