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Tanko-Mankie, the mischievous yellow ryl, is inspired to play a practical joke when he sees a wax mannequin in a display window of Floman's department store. Breathing twice upon her forehead, he endows her with life — then goes on his way.
The wax figure is so surprised at this sudden life that she remains still, watching the women who stare at her from the street. Fortunately it is nearly closing time; soon the blinds are drawn and the staff departs for the evening. The wax woman sits and thinks for hours; in her largely vacant mind, the one idea that forms is to be like the real women she has seen. She equips herself with a hat, parasol, and gloves from the store's merchandise. When the janitor opens the doors the next morning, she boldly strides out into the world.
She imitates the people around her, but with limited success. Her first cup of coffee blisters her wax lips, and she has no money to pay for it. When she confesses she can't read, a newsboy calls her a dummy. When people realize she is made of wax, she causes a near-riot on a streetcar; she ends up in an accident that damages her. To a policeman's astonishment, she is still alive and mobile with a great hole in her head.
The cops call a "hurry-up wagon" and take her to the station, where she is locked in a cell. The police inspector refuses to believe his patrolmen's reports about her. Mr. Floman arrives to complain about his missing dummy; he wants compensation for his lost merchandise. In the cell, they find her inanimate once again; Tanko-Mankie, passing by, has removed her gift of life.
"The Dummy That Lived" is one of the eight stories in the collection illustrated by Ike Morgan.
The subject of the story is a natural one for Baum, given his major interest department-store window displays. See The Show Window. The similar story "The Enchanted Types" is rooted in the same interest.