Maisha Z. JohnsonMom¶s CueBefore I shoved the doll into my cubby for the last time, I stopped to wonder if my mom hadn¶tembedded her eyes into the thing, too. As ballerinas bustled around me, busy like pink ants slick with hairspray, the doll watched me with black beady eyes both dark and bright, in a way Ithought only my mother¶s eyes could be. As if they could see all, as I knew my mother¶s eyescould.She hadn¶t let the doll go by unseen. For all the other girls, the dolls were a treasure. We¶dmoved up in the Nutcracker world ± just last year, some of us were crawling around on the stage playing Babies or Mice. But we would be regarded as undignified babies no more. Now, asfourth and fifth graders, we were old enough to have a proper role, as the Girls who danced withthe star of the show. These dolls, our props, our pride, were our ticket to the world of ballet, aworld we¶d been crawling beneath as mere children ± now, we would point our toes and dance asreal ballerinas. Or something.It wasn¶t this way for me, of course. Not anymore. My doll was the only one of its kind, the onlyfreak. It wasn¶t like that the day I got it. I remembered being thrilled as the others that day,climbing into the back of my mom¶s van after rehearsal, stroking the doll¶s peach face, lookinginto her eyes, which seemed less bright then, and smiling until my mom looked over her shoulder at me and pressed her foot on the brake, in spite of the line of cars behind us.³What is that?´ she said, and immediately the doll felt wrong in my hands, like it was growingwarm, like a hot potato. Cars were honking behind us, waiting for my answer, since she wouldn¶tmove without it, and I was suddenly tempted to toss the doll out the window, though I wasn¶tsure why.³It¶s my doll,´ I said. ³For the show.´³That¶s the doll they gave you? You don¶t see anything wrong with that?´ She looked me in theeye as she said this, but this time she wasn¶t waiting for my answer. She turned the van around,right there in the middle of the road, and went back to the ballet studio to make a fuss. Mymother, always the only one to make a fuss.So there I was, the day of opening night, my mother¶s fuss replacing my pride with shame. Asmy mother explained with satisfaction after she returned from arguing with Miss Pierce, my ballet instructor, now the doll would look like me.I looked up, found a space in the mirror that didn¶t have a dancer applying makeup in it, frownedand touched my own face. Did this thing really look like me? Dark brown dye was sticking to its peach skin like tar on an unfinished road. It gathered in gobs at the corners of its eyes, asforgotten streaks of it dried in drips on the doll¶s backside. I couldn¶t help feeling that this dollwas destroyed, never meant to be seen on the grand Nutcracker stage.³Come on, we¶re on in two minutes!´ one of other Girls called to me as she rushed by.