Ibby Bell gaped at all the bright colored houses and wrought iron fences as they rolled slowly down Prytania Street in the Garden District of New Orleans. In her excitement to get a better look at the some of the mansions, she started to readjust her position on the green vinyl. Mistake. That embarrassing noise was coming from below her bare legs as she tried to move her sweat-cemented self from the front seat.
“Li-bar-tee Bell! Mind your manners,” said her mother, Vidrine, as she pulled in front of the dilapidated home. “You want to make a good impression. Right?”
Ibby grimaced as she looked at the once glorious home. It was a two story Victorian with an imposing cupola on top. Above the cupola sat a weather vane that was no longer vain. The racing horse would not turn into the wind. The horse’s hoof sat forever trapped in rust and one side of the propeller laid pointing to the sky in the gutter.
Her eyes fell down to the second story where she could see a window covered over with plywood in the turret. An old Oak Tree was leaning so close to the space that one could imagine the Spanish Moss tickling the house. Ibby figured it must have caused the broken window.
Ibby could barely make out the rocking chairs and swing on the front porch from the overgrown azaleas that pushed through the wrought iron enclosing it. She turned back to her mother, “Yes, Ma’am.”
Vidrine looked her in the eyes and asked her to repeat what they practiced. Ibby looked down and said, “I am to hand her Daddy and tell her it is a present from you. Aren’t you coming in?”
“No, darling. We have already talked about this for hundreds of miles.”
Ibby took the green handled urn from its place of honor between the two of them and opened the car door. As soon as she placed her red sneakers on the curb, Vidrine gave her a little push. She stood, urn in hand, and shut the door.
Once the car door was shut, Vidrine wasted no time leaving. She yelled out, “Now don’t forget to tell her what I said!” as the car squealed into the curve. Ibby turned toward the house wondering why she had to meet her grandmother alone.
Dollbaby is a unique story set in 1964 New Orleans by first time author, Laura Lane McNeal.