XIII. C ORALINE’S PARENTS NEVER SEEMED
to remember anything about their time in the snow
globe. At least, they never said anything about it, and Coraline never mentioned it to them.
Sometimes she wondered whether they had ever noticed that they had lost two days in the real
world, and came to the eventual conclusion that they had not. Then again, there are some people
who keep track of every day and every hour, and there are people who don’t, and Coraline’s
parents were solidly in the second camp.
Coraline had placed the marbles beneath her pillow before she went to sleep that first night home
in her own room once more. She went back to bed after she saw the other mother’s hand,
although there was not much time left for sleeping, and she rested her head back on that pillow.
Something scrunched gently as she did.
She sat up, and lifted the pillow. The fragments of the glass marbles that she saw looked like the
remains of eggshells one finds beneath trees in springtime: like empty, broken robin’s eggs, or
even more delicate—wren’s eggs, perhaps.
Whatever had been inside the glass spheres had gone. Coraline thought of the three children
waving good-bye to her in the moonlight, waving before they crossed that silver stream.
She gathered up the eggshell-thin fragments with care and placed them in a small blue box which
had once held a bracelet that her grandmother had given her when she was a little girl. The
bracelet was long lost, but the box remained.
Miss Spink and Miss Forcible came back from visiting Miss Spink’s niece, and Coraline went
down to their flat for tea. It was a Monday. On Wednesday Coraline would go back to school: a
whole new school year would begin.
Miss Forcible insisted on reading Coraline’s tea leaves.
“Well, looks like everything’s mostly shipshape and Bristol fashion, luvvy,” said Miss Forcible.
“Sorry?” said Coraline.
“Everything is coming up roses,” said Miss Forcible. “Well, almost everything. I’m not sure
what that is.” She pointed to a clump of tea leaves sticking to the side of the cup.
Miss Spink tutted and reached for the cup. “Honestly, Miriam. Give it over here. Let me
see. . . .”
She blinked through her thick spectacles. “Oh dear. No, I have no idea what that signifies. It
looks almost like a hand.”
Coraline looked. The clump of leaves did look a little like a hand, reaching for something.
Hamish the Scottie dog was hiding under Miss Forcible’s chair, and he wouldn’t come out.
“I think he was in some sort of fight,” said Miss Spink. “He has a deep gash in his side, poor
dear. We’ll take him to the vet later this afternoon. I wish I knew what could have done it.”
Something, Coraline knew, would have to be done.
That final week of the holidays, the weather was magnificent, as if the summer itself were trying
to make up for the miserable weather they had been having by giving them some bright and
glorious days before it ended.
The crazy old man upstairs called down to Coraline when he saw her coming out of Miss Spink
and Miss Forcible’s flat.
“Hey! Hi! You! Caroline!” he shouted over the railing.
“It’s Coraline,” she said. “How are the mice?”
“Something has frightened them,” said the old man, scratching his mustache. “I think maybe
there is a weasel in the house. Something is about. I heard it in the night. In my country we
would have put down a trap for it, maybe put down a little meat or hamburger, and when the
creature comes to feast, then—bam!—it would be caught and never bother us more. The mice
are so scared they will not even pick up their little musical instruments.”
“I don’t think it wants meat,” said Coraline. She put her hand up and touched the black key that
hung about her neck. Then she went inside.
She bathed herself, and kept the key around her neck the whole time she was in the bath. She
never took it off anymore.
Something scratched at her bedroom window after she went to bed. Coraline was almost asleep,
but she slipped out of her bed and pulled open the curtains. A white hand with crimson
fingernails leapt from the window ledge onto a drainpipe and was immediately out of sight.
There were deep gouges in the glass on the other side of the window.
Coraline slept uneasily that night, waking from time to time to plot and plan and ponder, then
falling back into sleep, never quite certain where her pondering ended and the dream began, one
ear always open for the sound of something scratching at her windowpane or at her bedroom
In the morning Coraline said to her mother, “I’m going to have a picnic with my dolls today. Can
I borrow a sheet—an old one, one you don’t need any longer—as a tablecloth?”
“I don’t think we have one of those,” said her mother. She opened the kitchen drawer that held
the napkins and the tablecloths, and she prodded about in it. “Hold on. Will this do?”
It was a folded-up disposable paper tablecloth covered with red flowers, left over from some
picnic they had been on several years before.
“That’s perfect,” said Coraline.
“I didn’t think you played with your dolls anymore,” said Mrs. Jones.
“I don’t,” admitted Coraline. “They’re protective color-ation.”
“Well, be back in time for lunch,” said her mother. “Have a good time.”
Coraline filled a cardboard box with dolls and with several plastic doll’s teacups. She filled a jug
Then she went outside. She walked down to the road, just as if she were going to the shops.
Before she reached the supermarket she cut across a fence into some wasteland and along an old
drive, then crawled under a hedge. She had to go under the hedge in two journeys in order not to
spill the water from the jug.
It was a long, roundabout looping journey, but at the end of it Coraline was satisfied that she had
not been followed.
She came out behind the dilapidated old tennis court. She crossed over it, to the meadow where
the long grass swayed. She found the planks on the edge of the meadow. They were
astonishingly heavy—almost too heavy for a girl to lift, even using all her strength, but she
managed. She didn’t have any choice. She pulled the planks out of the way, one by one, grunting
and sweating with the effort, revealing a deep, round, brick-lined hole in the ground. It smelled
of damp and the dark. The bricks were greenish, and slippery.
She spread out the tablecloth and laid it, carefully, over the top of the well. She put a plastic
doll’s cup every foot or so, at the edge of the well, and she weighed each cup down with water
from the jug.
She put a doll in the grass beside each cup, making it look as much like a doll’s tea party as she
could. Then she retraced her steps, back under the hedge, along the dusty yellow drive, around
the back of the shops, back to her house.
She reached up and took the key from around her neck. She dangled it from the string, as if the
key were just something she liked to play with. Then she knocked on the door of Miss Spink and
Miss Forcible’s flat.
Miss Spink opened the door.
“Hello dear,” she said.
“I don’t want to come in,” said Coraline. “I just wanted to find out how Hamish was doing.”
Miss Spink sighed. “The vet says that Hamish is a brave little soldier,” she said. “Luckily, the cut
doesn’t seem to be infected. We cannot imagine what could have done it. The vet says some
animal, he thinks, but has no idea what. Mister Bobo says he thinks it might have been a
“The man in the top flat. Mister Bobo. Fine old circus family, I believe. Romanian or Slovenian
or Livonian, or one of those countries. Bless me, I can never remember them anymore.”
It had never occurred to Coraline that the crazy old man upstairs actually had a name, she
realized. If she’d known his name was Mr. Bobo she would have said it every chance she got.
How often do you get to say a name like “Mr. Bobo” aloud?
“Oh,” said Coraline to Miss Spink. “Mister Bobo. Right. Well,” she said, a little louder, “I’m
going to go and play with my dolls now, over by the old tennis court, round the back.”
“That’s nice, dear,” said Miss Spink. Then she added confidentially, “Make sure you keep an eye
out for the old well. Mister Lovat, who was here before your time, said that he thought it might
go down for half a mile or more.”
Coraline hoped that the hand had not heard this last, and she changed the subject. “This key?”
said Coraline loudly. “Oh, it’s just some old key from our house. It’s part of my game. That’s
why I’m carrying it around with me on this piece of string. Well, good-bye now.”
“What an extraordinary child,” said Miss Spink to herself as she closed the door.
Coraline ambled across the meadow toward the old tennis court, dangling and swinging the black
key on its piece of string as she walked.
Several times she thought she saw something the color of bone in the undergrowth. It was
keeping pace with her, about thirty feet away.
She tried to whistle, but nothing happened, so she sang out loud instead, a song her father had
made up for her when she was a little baby and which had always made her laugh. It went,