This is part of a series on Asher’s Writing
By Asher Wolfstein
“See what I mean?” Alex asked quietly.
“Sort of,” his companion whispered.
They watched as the man blew on each unlit candle. As quick as the breath graced them a little flame sprang to flickering life. He proceeded around the room, filling it with dancing shadows.
Alex, the boy with the black hair, and his companion Podge, the talking teddy dog, both hid in the darkness looking through a small circular glass porthole.
You see, Alex was a funny boy with an elf-like nose and a penchant for wearing plaid pajamas with a black necktie and a sailor’s hat. He had green eyes which were odd as they clashed with his blue eyebrows. His favorite food was bread with jam and his favorite drink was tea, so it only followed that he was gaga over teabread. It had an odd kinship with teddy dogs. His only vice, although his favorite activity, was spying on people. Right now his latest target was Old Man McGregor, whose unfortunate mistake was offering his teabread to the wily boy. Wily, like a cat… with black hair.
Podge sat back and almost fell over from the weight of his slightly overstuffed head. He had to watch out for such things. Pushing his rose-colored glasses back up a bit he remarked, “Well, that seems special enough but is it so special to warrant spying?”
“Well, uh, yee-ees,” Alex with the black hair returned, “But that’s not all there’s more!”
Podge clapped his paws together producing a fuzzy rustling sound, “Ooh, what can I win?”
They peered further into the porthole. Alex’s sneakers grated against the ground. Old Man McGregor had sat down in the middle of a white circle. He muttered, “Oh, Old Man Whitaker, why must you continually get into trouble?” Then he rested his elbows on his cross-legged knees. He formed his hands into okay signs, sighed, “Ohm”, and disappeared.
Alex grinned like a tooth fairy back at the teddy dog, “See, I told you!”
Podge squinted his black beady eyes, then covered them with his ears, “I’ll have to take my eyes word on it.”
Alex poked the fuzzy softness, “Aw, what do you mean old dog?”
Podge raised an ear, “Who you calling old?” He slowly lifted the other ear, “Besides, it’s experience before age.” He looked away.
Alex thrust his arms out in exasperation, “It happened right in front of you.”
Podge looked down, his paw fiddling with his plaid neck ribbon, “I can’t believe impossible things.”
The boy with the black hair stood up and declared, brushing himself off, “Well, you don’t have to believe it. You can just know it happened.”
Podge raised his arms and Alex picked him up. They started their walk home. It was dark but the full moon was out and illuminated their way. They walked past the Marjoram Trees who reached out their branches towards them. Podge made sure to hold his glasses securely in place. Then it was around aptly named Lake Erietrievable, over Jumping Bridge, and finally home.
Alex’s Mom was waiting for them, and patiently asked, “Where have you two been?” You see, Alex’s Mom was the kind of person that wore scarves on their head, sported t-shirts, and liked to flex all the time; particularly her biceps. That’s just the kind of woman she was: full of life’s spices. She had a tasty personality.
Alex smartly replied in answer, “Spying on Old Man McGregor.”
His Mom scolded him, “He’s not old! He’s only fifteen years older than I am.”
Podge interjected, “What is old anyway? I’m 107 in teddy dog years.”
Alex stumbled, “Well, you see, it’s not really a number… it’s when you… past a certain point… when you…”
His Mom stopped him, “Maybe old doesn’t exist. You ever think of that?”
Podge quipped, “And I can’t believe impossible things.”
Alex caved, “That may be, but everyone knows what it is!”
“It’s time for bed my little spy,” Mom gently reminded, flexing her right arm.
“Good form Mrs. H,” Podge said encouragingly. Alex grabbed his arm and whisked him upstairs.
There they laid in bed gazing up at the pulsating glowing stars traveling across the ceiling.
“I have to wonder Podge,” Alex sighed.
“What?”, the teddy dog sleepily replied.
“What makes Old Man McGregor disappear? What does he do, how can I disappear?”
Podge squeezed Alex with all his might, “Oh! I don’t want you to disappear; I want you to be around forever!”
Alex squeezed Podge back, though more gently so as not to rip him, “I won’t disappear, I don’t plan on disappearing. But things like disappearing, that would be interesting. That’s what I want to know.”
Podge yawned, “Maybe it’s magic.”
“I thought you couldn’t believe impossible things.”
“I can’t, but that doesn’t stop me from talking about them.”
Alex stared upwards and followed a shooting star that ran down the wall, “Magic… that sounds promising.”
Podge muttered almost unintelligibly, “Don’t hold your breath.”
Alex and Podge floated along in a green wooden rowboat on the surface of Lake Discarded. This was the only local lake at which one could really successfully fish. That is if one was aiming for real success, as opposed to fake success. You just couldn’t get anything out of Lake Erietrievable which is why nobody swam there.
They were fishing with their friend Grace, who sang country tunes and was made out of ceramic. Alex hadn’t really appreciated her at first, being his Mom’s and all, but once he heard her sing he had newfound respect.
Only Podge, and Alex, the wily black-haired boy, were holding fishing poles. Grace was just there for the fresh air, sun, and humidity. It was good for her lungs, not to count her rheumatoid arthritis.
Podge tugged on his fishing pole and reeled in the line. His catch quickly emerged from the water.
“Nice catch Podge!” Alex cheered.
Podge put the beaten-up leather boot next to the bike tire at his feet.
“Oh boys, try to catch something pretty. You know something fit for a lady like me.”
“Like what?” Alex grunted as he pulled on his fishing line. A wolf head door knocker emerged from the murky depths. Alex grabbed it and brought it into the boat.
“Oh you know, earrings, a dress, a hat… a 22″ flatscreen. Any of those would be nice.”
They floated there for a moment. The bell crickets song filled the air, accenting the sparkbugs’ glows amidst the branches of the swaying Marjoram Trees. A few day stars got too hot near the sun and fell, plopping into the placid caliginous lake.
Podge pulled on his pole, but couldn’t seem to bring anything up. Alex watched him for a moment, because he had blue eyebrows, and decided that he needed help, “Grace, help Podge pull that up.”
“Are you crazy? Have you seen my delicate petite arms? I’d crack my nubile bosom!” Grace balked in horror.
Alex sighed and grabbed Podge’s pole, “Fine. I guess a man will have to do it.”
They both pulled and pulled, finally their newfound treasure dislodged itself in the dark depths and floated toward the surface.
Grace’s eyes lit up as she exclaimed, “Oh! Even better! It’s a new house just for me!”
A Victorian baby pink and blue dollhouse with white trim hung from the line, just the right size for Grace to decorate in a tacky southwestern style. Podge observed astutely, “My leather boot should make an excellent lawn ornament. Consider it my housewarming gift to you.”
Alex blushed, then grabbed his wolf door knocker, “I’d give you this, but…”
“Oh no, too big!” Grace wrinkled her nose, then remembered her composure, “But thank you for the generous offer.”
They hauled the dollhouse into the boat, setting it next to Grace. She stepped inside while the two boys, their guile not particularly interested in interior redecorating, returned to fishing.
And so the day passed slowly. The sun slowly lowered itself to the horizon, its smiling face becoming less clear and more blinding; like a halogen headlight. The sparkbugs descended from their restless perches and unfolded out onto the lake’s landscape. Alex and Podge hooked up treasures and discarded what they didn’t like or need.
Eventually, the black-haired wonder sighed, and looking around at the lit-up water declared, “Alright, one more catch, and then we’ll go.”
He yanked on his line, bringing up a medium-sized leather-bound box. It had a gold keyhole, but no key. Strapped on top of it was a little red book.
Alex furrowed his brow, “That’s odd. Things aren’t usually so well strapped together like that.”
He brought it into the boat and examined it further. The little red book had a gold inscription of a star on it and the title, “The Secret of Magic for the Unaware.” Obviously, this was a keeper.
Slowly they rowed back to shore, parting the glittering sparkbugs before them. They climbed back onto the crystal-laden black sand beach and loaded their findings into a brown and white polka-dotted wagon. Alex went through a Jackson Pollack phase when he was younger. It was a little tough to fit the dollhouse, but they did. Grace was still bustling inside, the hum of the vacuum drowning out the outside world. Along with the dollhouse traveled a bike tire, a leather boot, a wolf head door knocker, an old 70’s style radio, television bunny ears, and a synthesizer.
They once again walked home, teasing the reaches of the Marjoram Trees.
Later that day, as Grace was busy redecorating the victorian dollhouse in a tacky southwestern style, Alex was busy with a screwdriver.
He had attached the bunny ears to the radio, reversed the radio’s polarity, and hooked up the synthesizer in a dazzling array of electronics. Podge had watched patiently through his rose-colored glasses.
Finally, Alex turned to him and said, “Alright, good friend. Now we see if it works.”
“What does it do?” The teddy dog inquired.
“Well, isn’t it obvious?” Alex objected, “Whatever I play on the keyboard gets transmitted into space. Then I flip this little switch here and wait for musical signals to come back.”
“That’s impossible! I don’t believe in it.” Podge objected right back, crossing his arms.
“Watch…” Alex turned everything on. A small hum came over the radio speakers. He placed his hands on the keyboard and began playing a videogame theme. Podge rolled his eyes. Once he was done, the black-haired boy with blue eyebrows flipped the switch and leaned back.
A whole moment passed with nothing. Podge could see the disappointment growing in his friend’s eyes. Suddenly the keyboard began producing various sounds that gradually synced together.
Podge perked an eyebrow, “Huh, Bach’s Diverse Kanons. It sounds like you’ve got something there.
“Dude, I’ve got an intergalactic jam session. This is awesome.”
For the remainder of the evening and into a few wee hours the young boy transmitted his melodies and received four-part variations on them in return.
Lying in bed Alex asked Podge, “Podge where did you get your rose-colored glasses?”
The brown fuzzy teddy dog put his paw up to his chin for a while then replied, “I don’t know. They’ve always been with me. They’re part of me I guess.”
Alex yawned and asked sleepily, “Do you like ’em?”
“Sure. They make the world a better place.”
The boy closed his eyes and smiled, “I think I’d like a pair.”
The next day it was raining, so it was an inside day, with inside voices. Whenever it was an inside day there were more things around to be bored with, as they all sat in Alex’s room. There was Grace who rocked in her chair outside her pride-filled new home. And of course, Podge, who himself stared forlornly through the window, his glasses turning the pluvious landscape into various shades of the rainbow. But there was also Chuck, the real teddy bear who was made out of real bear skin (a point of pride) and who wore a corduroy vest and an inconsequentially green top hat. Then there were also Toddy the china dog, Junker the skin horse, the wooden pull train, and Rolly and Polly the two fat in love sand-filled bunnies. Of particular note was Argyle, the foreign harlequin, and ever the logodaedalus.
Alex had started reading the little red book with the gold star on it, and so far found it most interesting.
“Most interesting,” he would declare to no one in particular at random moments throughout the morning, though everyone was listening. The wooden pull train was traveling in a big circle around the room once again lamenting his lack of a name, but with no real way to communicate what he wanted as his whistle didn’t work. Unable to fall back to sleep Rolly and Polly had spent the morning kissing and telling each other how cute the other was.
“I love the tip of your right ear.”
“I love the fluff of your tail.”
“I love the twinkle in your eye.”
They were really bored out of their minds. There was just something about today. Perhaps it was the constant pitter-patter of water faeries running across the roof that was ruining the mood. Even Junker was out of his stories, and there hadn’t been a boast from Chuck or a new word from Argyle. Overall, it was a slow day.
Suddenly the boy perked his blue eyebrows and grinned, He put the book down exclaiming, “Alright everybody, you want to see something cool?”
This woke up Toddy who sputtered and blinked the sleep from his eyes. Podge turned away from the window. Everyone set their eyes on Alex, agreeing without saying a word. Maybe this day would perk up after all.
“Alright, I need a volunteer from the audience to help perform a trick I just learned,” he peered at each of them and settled, pointing at Podge, “You good sir. Yes you, would you be so kind as to step up to the stage?”
By this point, the wooden train had stopped rolling in circles and had brought up the back of the newly formed audience. Podge climbed down from the window cover and in front of everyone.
Alex instructed, “Now, I want you to stare directly into my eyes while I recite a few words…”
Podge did as directed, but Alex had to reopen his book for a second. He mouthed a few words then looked directly at Podge. The audience leaned in to listen.
“Armamentarium curglaff delitescent…”
Podge sat transfixed. Silence filled the room. Not even a hair on the teddy dog’s back moved. The crowd of toys began to oooh, but the boy put his hand up.
“Now Podge, if you can hear me raise your right arm.”
Dutifully the little teddy dog’s right paw shot up into the air.
“Walk around in a circle please.”
Podge, expressionless, began to walk around in a circle, his right arm still raised. There were a few giggles from the audience. They sounded like rabbit giggles.
“Alright Podge, lower your right arm. I want you to make a fist with your paw and start hitting yourself.”
Podge lowered his arm, balled up his paw, and began punching himself lightly on the cheek,
“Hey, Podge, quit hitting yourself!” Junker the skin horse teased. The audience broke into laughter, except for Toddy.
Sensitive Toddy was upset about the whole business and let his opinion be known, “This is mean, you shouldn’t be doing… whatever it is you’re doing.”
“It’s called hypnosis,” Argyle interjected.
Poor Podge would’ve said something but he was stuck still and unawares. In lieu, Chuck derided, “You just made that up!”
The harlequin put his hand on his chest in a show of innocence, “I did not!” He sniffed and wiped a faux tear from his painted face, “Don’t hate me for my vocabulary.”
“Well hypnosis or not, it’s still not very funny,” the china dog whimpered.
“You can stop hitting yourself Podge.” Podge ceased his activities and lowered his paw. Alex turned to Toddy, “Don’t worry about it so much, it’s not a big deal.”
This failed to placate him as he wailed, “It IS a big deal, it’s disturbing.”
Alex sighed, but lifted his hands, “Then, in that case, one more show for good sport.” He returned back to Podge, who hadn’t moved an inch, “I would like you, Podge, to jump, but not fall.”
Podge crouched down, and then with all his might leaped into the air… and stayed there. Applause came from the struck audience. They all stared for a moment at the suspended teddy dog. The room was still as stone.
“Fall!” Alex whispered, and Podge landed again on both hind paws.
“When I snap my fingers you’ll be released from my control,” the boy continued, holding out his hand.
“Are you going to say something?” Podge put his paws on his waist.
Rolly popped in, like he usually does: out of nowhere, “Podge, he did say something!”
“Yeah, and you did everything he said,” Polly squeaked, not used to not saying something lovey-dovey.
“I did not! I didn’t do anything,” Podge crossed his arms.
Toddy was crying, having been ignored and being very sensitive. He sobbed, “Oh Podge, it was so scary. First, he made you hit yourself, and then float in the air. You were under hypnosis!”
Podge laughed, “Argyle’s been putting words in your mouth again. Well, I don’t believe it. It’s all too impossible. Unbelievable!”
All of a quick Alex raised his hand, “Shht!” He remained motionless.
Chuck asked, “What is it?”
Alex hushed, “Quiet! I hear something.”
In the distance, through the door, a deep voice faintly resounded. Alex leaped up and rushed through the door. He heard the voice grow slightly louder down the stairs. It was instantly recognizable, after all, it was his father’s.
The boy with the powerful black hair crept down the enclosed staircase and poked his head around the corner.
His Mom was sitting at the avant-garde dining room table, her back towards him. In front of her and to the side sat the tape recorder, its big wheels feeding the magnetic tape to the head. Out of the oversized speakers flowed his Dad’s voice, “… and you know the rest. I love you and Alex, I always will, please remember this. I can only accept…”
Alex sat silently, listening to his beloved friend and mentor. Suddenly he heard a sharp intake of breath. His Mom sunk her face into her hands, her shoulders shaking up and down. Quickly, but quietly, Alex climbed the blue shag stairs and crawled into bed. A forgotten and confused Podge stared up from the middle of the floor, but resigned himself and also laid down to sleep.
“Come on! If we don’t hurry we won’t catch any Chavish at all!”
Podge climbed over a log, which wasn’t the easiest task when wearing a purple fur striped monster costume. You see, a Chavish makes it a point to never be what it seems, and they are drawn towards like-minded people.
Alex was scouting ahead, having dropped Podge off as a lookout. His costume was quite fetching, star climbing even, with two black furry ears poking out the top, white teeth coming out of its back, and a green slithery tail. It was good for the occasional dinner party, but it was much better for hunting Chavishes.
Podge called out, “I can’t…” Suddenly he stopped and stared into a little hole in a tree. He had a certain animal sense for these things since he was a teddy dog. Soon a little green bird poked its head out and looked around. Podge immediately began dancing the Dance of Disipience. If there was one thing a Chavish really couldn’t say no to it was silliness, particularly silliness in a monster costume.
The little green bird with pointy eyes peered at the strange creature performing the Dance of Disipience. It paused for a moment and then smiled, fluttering its wings.
Podge kicked his right leg, and waved his left arm, all the time staring at the little bird. He had him! It was dancing too!
“Where are you?” The large body lumbered in.
The little green bird chirped at the sudden mood change and flew away.
“Gaf! You scared it away! I almost had one!” Podge stomped around, “I never get one!”
Alex picked up the teddy dog, “That’s not true…” Podge tilted his head and crossed his arms. “Okay, maybe that is true. You’re just so small, that’s all. One day you’ll get one, maybe I’ll use you as bait!”
Podge rolled his eyes, “Oh, perfect!”
Alex carried him further into his divagation. Occasionally they would bump a branch, dislodging the very thin layer of snow hanging onto everything like dew. Both Podge and Alex liked the smell of chimney smoke and overcast days that this time of year brought about. It was something they could agree on.
After a while of walking and not seeing anything, they sat down on a small rock. Alex set the cork gun down and stretched his arms. Chavishes have one weakness: guns.
Guns are so frightening to the Chavish that when any kind of one goes off, it scares them not just half to death, but all the way there! It’s scandalous!
“It looks like it’s a slow day,” Alex obviously pointed out. He reached into his satchel and produced two groutbrooks. A groutbrook is a sandwich-like concoction popular in the north, partly because of the cold weather and partly because some people have twelve fingers. It’s ground-up beef with onions, cabbage, and a few other things excluding Brussel sprouts. It’s all contained inside a dough pouch making it easy to carry and stuff into pockets.
Axel handed Podge his. There were a couple of soft munches before a partially stuffed mouth uttered, “I hopef shings vick upf.”
Podge, being the more civilized heathen, spoke eloquently clear-mouthed, “Well, I would have had one back there in the clearing before.”
They scarfed down their groutbrook in quiet solitude after that, but not so fast as to yark it back up. It was important to hunt Chavishes on a full stomach. They can smell repulsive hunger a mile away.
After they had their fill Alex got up and walked a few steps. There was a small crack of a branch a short distance away. The boy froze and raised a hand to Podge to be silent. Podge already knew what was going on. So he stood upon the rock and started the Dance of Disipience.
At that signal, Alex likewise broke into the legendary dance, as it was known only by a select few. He kicked his right leg, waved his left arm, and bobbed his head back and forth; much like a tornado. His green tail whipped the snow. Slowly but surely a little undersized orange fox wearing white underwear crept out from behind a bush and into the clearing. You see, underwear was in vogue at the time, so it made sense for the Chavish to be fashion conscious. It stared wide-eyed at the pair grinning its face off.
Just as the cork flew through the air the fox slumped to the ground. Alex stepped towards it, his gaze and stature looming over the little orange underweared body. He carefully watched its eyes while it twitched for a few seconds. Telling, accepting purple eyes stared back at him. Then, much slower in contrast to the blow, the deep purple shallowed and the eyes glazed over to stare upwards at the sun.
Alex stood there for several minutes furrowing his blue eyebrows. The body below him finally turned into wispy dust which floated to the ground. At the slightest air current, it drifted steadily into the snow. Podge thought it would be much more fun if they could see the Chavish for what it really was, and collect them. It hadn’t occurred to him that a Chavish may just be dust given life by the words of someone else.
Without turning to face him Alex blurted out, “Where do we go when we die?”
Podge opened his maw, then closed it. He stared at his friend’s back, searching for something to say.
The black hair turned around unveiling a very serious visage, “Well? Do you know?”
Podge shook his head, “I don’t think anyone knows Alex. They can only guess.”
“What’s your guess?”
“Well,” a reluctant teddy dog tapped his paws together, “To me, it would make sense that we don’t go anywhere. We just end.”
A little blue tear ran down a small white cheek, “I think you’re wrong. I think… we go on forever, in the darkness beyond where we can see.”
Podge thought about this, then spoke carefully, “If I am to consider this I must know what would power such a life force? You and I, we must eat.”
Alex sat on the rock facing him, sniffing, “That’s what you don’t see Podge. Love. The love from the people in the light keeps them there.”
Podge covered his eyes with his lighter furred ears, “I’m sorry Alex, but I can’t believe in something impossible.”
The boy scooped him up and held him desperately close to his chest, “Don’t cry… maybe it’s like magic. Maybe it exists because you can’t explain it.”
All around them ataraxic snow began to fall.
The small pile of colored crystal began to melt and fill the hole in the middle of the dough. Alex watched through the oven glass eagerly. The smell of stained glass starlight cookies filled the kitchen.
The oven door was pulled open revealing a sheet of kaleidoscopic confections, sparkles wafting into the air. That was pulled out and rested upon a cooling rack underneath the frosted-over kitchen window. Alex bent over and blew big breaths over the cookies.
“Don’t do that,” Podge protested.
“Why not?” Alex raised an eyebrow.
Podge wrinkled his nose, “It’s unsanitary.”
Alex shrugged and sat at the table, watching the cookie sheet smiling.
“They say a watched kettle never boils,” Podge astutely pointed out.
“Yeah, but that’s getting hotter, it doesn’t count when it’s getting cooler.”
They both silently watched the sparkles wafting from the cookie sheet begin to slowly fade and become fewer. Little pieces of transparent melted candy-filled cut-out holes in each dough star. There was glass of all colors and flavors: lemon, apple, strawberry, lime, raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry. The smell of stained glass filled the air.
“What makes people fall in love?” Alex finally broke the placid silence.
Podge thoughtfully replied, “Time. It seems to me that when somebody decides to find everything out about someone, it’s only a matter of time before they understand them as a person.”
“I don’t mean understanding, I mean love,” Alex motioned with his hands.
At this Podge put his paw up to his muzzle and after a few seconds spoke again, “I thought that’s what love was, understanding someone completely.”
Alex rolled his eyes, “You’re impossible. Love is when you want something in your life to be the best it can be, and you can’t imagine your life without it.”
“Like ice cream?” Podge licked his maw.
“No!” The blue eyebrowed face scowled, “You know what? You’re not going to understand until you lose what you love.”
Silence reigned once more for a few minutes as the last of the sparkles drifted off. A small dog-like muttering could finally be heard, “That’s never going to happen. I don’t believe in love.”
Eventually, the enigmatic boy got up, grabbed a cookie, and put it up to his eye. A small pupil peered through a childlike lemon window out at the cozy kitchen. Every corner it saw was upturned as if the world was falling ever upward.
“The world looks so happy! Everything is smiling!” Alex exclaimed.
Podge climbed onto the step ladder, took another star cookie, and put it up to his glasses. The rose of his glasses mixed with the blueberry and produced a watermelon magenta. The world outside stretched as if it had just eaten a big meal. The objects in the cupboard turned from side to side.
“Mine’s about to take a contemplative constitutional,” Podge quoted queerly.
Alex of the plaid pajamas placed another flavor up to his eye. It was apple, but not just any apple, a granny smith apple with touches of macintosh. The world was effervescent, bubbles erupting from every surface. Edges bounced and rebounded, shaking the frame of vision like a joyous earthquake.
“Mine’s laughing because it’s being tickled,” Alex smiled.
Brown furred Podge picked up a dark cookie. It was blackberry, and even after mixing with the rose tint was still dark. Shades of gray dominated his vision. An ever-growing shadow of dust edged over the surfaces, growing with the lack of anyone anywhere. Before the darkness enveloped everything the cookie was snatched away from his eye, and stuffed into an eager mouth. It was unfortunate that teddy dogs didn’t sweat or have hearts to quicken or he might’ve felt better. But, that’s just the way it is.
“Come on, we’ve got to get these upstairs,” Alex mumbled through bits of fruity goodness. He began collecting them into a leaf-covered metal Christmas tin. Podge tried to help but his arms were too short. This always seemed to happen, but he would try anyway.
Once all the cookies were gathered they tromped upstairs and the black tied boy burst into the room.
It was riddled with Halloween ribbon. Doilies lined the floor, and a strip of red ran towards a giant backlit cardboard diorama. Bent over desk lights lined the red velvet walkway. Argyle stood in the diorama holding a little walkman instruction manual. Behind him, the projector was set to cast its starscape onto the corrugated cardboard.
Sitting in the make-believe pews were the other toys: Grace was trying not to cry, Chuck was reminding himself today wasn’t about him, Toddy was just anxious Toddy, Junker was self-conscious of his size, and the wooden pull train was wishing it could be going down the aisle.
“Is it time?” A rabbit squeaked from behind a curtain. You could tell it was a rabbit because it was in the key of D.
“Not yet,” Alex cautioned. He knelt down and quickly hung the starlight cookies onto each lamp. This produced a dazzling array of hues around the walkway and the whole room. Alex nodded to his teddy dog, who approved and pronounced, “Let the wedding begin!”
Polly peeked around the curtain. Everyone could see the wonder in her eyes. She and Rolly emerged and stepped onto the red velvet. Polly looked up and around, stretching the red ribbon around her neck, “Oh, it’s so beautiful!”
Rolly popped in, “We’re in a celebrity wedding!”
Chuck proudly put his paw up to his chest, “And I’m attending a celebrity wedding.”
The pink kazoo blared out a matrimonial tune at the command of the boy. Rolly and Polly began to also ceremoniously march down the aisle. The gathered audience looked on in tranquil awe and expectation. Now Toddy was trying not to cry, “I always get so emotional at these things,” he observed as he wiped a small tear from his eye with his cloth body.
Polly looked at Rolly and smiled as she watched the different colors light up his eyes. Rolly smiled back admiring the bow over her head. They had come together in a box with a book about two little rabbits. One rabbit was the Prince Rabbit. He was very lonely so his parents threw a surprise masquerade ball for him and invited all the court families and then some. There was one rabbit who wanted nothing more than to meet the Prince Rabbit, but she was not of courtly blood. So she put on a wedding gown, feathered some wings, put on a white mask, and snuck out of her house. Meanwhile, at the party, the Prince Rabbit was tired of the boring things the boring court kids talked about: carrot seeds, the latest jumping technique, and their prized tadpole collections. Then this beautiful angel walked in, skipping her announcement. She looked so scared, so beautiful, so alive. The Prince Rabbit instantly knew it was time to play his favorite game. He had everyone take a piece of cake to see if they found the ring. The hopeful rabbit placed a paw over her piece of cake and wished and wished with all her heart and soul that she’d get the ring. She had never wished for anything so hard in her life, and her heart opened up and glowed. Carefully she took a bite and felt something hard. For the rest of the night, the Prince Rabbit courted her and was delighted. She talked about the sky, the landscape, and she didn’t have a tadpole collection! Finally, he lifted off her mask.
“You’re a commoner!” the Prince Rabbit gasped.
Our little rabbit pleaded that she not be thrown in the dungeon.
The Prince Rabbit laughed, “Throw you in the dungeon? How could I throw the most wonderful, fascinating rabbit I’ve met in the dungeon? No, I’m going to marry you!”
Our little rabbit’s heart almost melted as she accepted. All her dreams had come true! And they lived happily ever after as King Rolly and Queen Polly.
Both rabbits were now before the harlequin Argyle.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to celebrate the larsitudious marriage of these two groticular rabbits,” Argyle said pompously and with lots of circumstances. Nobody really minded the words, that’s just how Argyle was, and it really added to the atmosphere besides.
“Marriage is a pact of love between two committed people,” Argyle continued.
“A pack of people?” Toddy commented.
“PACT between two people…”
Shhh! The crowd silenced.
“It is when their hearts become one beat and their lives one path. Now I must ask the groom the increasable question. Do you Prince Rolly take Ms. Polly to be your awfully wedded rabbit, through sickness and bare threads, washes, and germs?”
“I do,” the now Prince Rabbit smiled.
“And do you Ms. Polly take Prince Rolly to be your awful..”
“Oh, I do!” Polly exclaimed, too excited to contain herself. She was truly out of it.
“I now pronounce you rabbit and rabbit!”
There was general jubilation as the pull train ran around the room pretending to blow the whistle it didn’t have. Grace gasped, “Oh! She looks so beautiful!”
Chuck sighed, “Of course she is, that’s because she hangs out with me.”
Junker shouted, “Now it’s time for the honeymoon!”
“Oh, that’s right!” Alex said.
Alex went over to another makeshift diorama and pulled on a little string. A medium-sized dried honey moon on paper rose above it. The pew people clapped. Rolly and Polly marched towards the box. Rolly would hold Polly in his arms, but he wasn’t big enough to do so. It’s the thought that counts. Once they were inside Alex shut the paisley curtains and left them in peace.
“Awwww, that’s so cute,” Toddy cooed, “hmmm…”
“Cookies!” Junker blurted out.
Alex started untying all the delicious candy treats and handing them out to the party. He bit into one himself.
“Mmm… Sparkly aftertaste with a touch of window.”
Outside the snow was falling: red flakes, blue flakes, one flake, two flakes. It was like right out of a book. Alex and Podge wistfully stared out of the window at the multicolor cereal dust landscape.
Podge asked, “What do you think it tastes like?”
Alex mulled it over, “Like a rainbow, all smushy and sweet.”
Podge nodded, that would make sense really.
The boy continued, “What’s really good is when you can gt one long patch of all the same color. Then you can taste a wallop of flavor. But be careful… don’t eat the yellow snow.”
“What’s wrong with the yellow snow?” the dog pushes his glasses up his snout.
“Don’t you know?” Alex wrinkled his nose, “Yellow snow tastes nasty by itself.”
“Hmmm…” Podge rubbed his nose with his paw. It all made sense he supposed, but he wouldn’t know any better in the end as he never actually ate or tasted anything.
Grace came out of her new house dressed like Little Red Riding Hood. She had always been very conscious of the seasonal fashions.
“There!” She proclaimed, “I’ve got all the Christmas decorations up, southwestern style of course.”
To the side was a crowd of building block people. They were “the little people” as Grace called her adoring fans. It’s not like she didn’t have cause for the name.
Grace turned to the little people and announced, “Anyone who’d like a tour can follow me. At the end, there will be chips and salsa, southwestern style of course.”
The little building block people lined up behind her and shuffled into the house.
“This is the tree…”
Click. The door closed behind her. Podge had watched this spectacle with banality, but Alex had found the whole thing mildly amusing. That was good because after all, they’re all his.
Podge pondered out loud, “I wonder what we’ll get for Christmas this year.”
Everyone had been listening. Chuck was hoping nothing would be better than he was, Toddy thought it’d be funny to get a china cat, Junker smiled at the thought of a saddle, and the wooden pull train blew his non-existent whistle imagining another beautiful wooden pull train with which to walk down the aisle.
Alex suddenly had an idea. He picked up Podge and said, “What if I had a way to find out?”
Podge shrugged his shoulders, but trusty Toddy said, “But wouldn’t that take away all the fun?”
The blue eyebrows considered this for a moment but eventually decided, “Well that may be so, but I want to find out anyway.”
Everyone stared at him wide-eyed. Nothing like this had ever been attempted before. Grace came out of her house, “What’s everyone starin’ at?”
Chuck guffled, “Ahem, well, Alex thinks he’s going to find out what we’re getting for Christmas.”
“Oh he is, is he? And how do you plan on doing that mister?” Grace placed her porcelain hands on her porcelain hips.
“With this,” Alex held up a wolf head door knocker. “I’ve been reading more of that magic book, and I’ve got a plan.”
“Oh, as long as you have a plan then, well I’m off…” Grace returned back into her victorian house. She must’ve been throwing a party for the little people in her life as there were the sounds of dancing coming from the house. Not just any dancing either, but building block dancing.
Alex walked over to the wall, “Now where are presents usually hidden? The close of course. Since we don’t have a closet, I’ll just have to make one.”
Podge thought this all made sense of course, up until the last minute. Alex took his wolf head door knocker and stuck it on the wall. Then, in minor theatrical fashion, he knocked the knocker; the wolf head staring into his eyes.
At first, nothing happened. Junker said, “Aw, it didn’t…”
Just then light started to pour out from the wall, quickly forming the outline of a rectangle around the door knocker. It reached down to the floor and up just a bit taller than Alex himself.
“Cool…” Junker said to himself.
A plaid pajama’d arm reached out and grasped the door knocker. The light caused strange shadows to splay across the walls, and the black hair swayed slightly in an unknown breeze. The white hand pulled on the wolf head door knocker. It looked as if it could bite him at any second, ’cause that’s a known problem with door knockers as everyone knows.
The wall separated at the light seam and opened like a door. A pool of light spilled out, right onto the ground. When the dust cleared there lay a closet in front of them. A purple paisley hat box sat on the upper shelf, while a pair of roller skates rested against the wall at the bottom. Hanging on the rod was a pink fur ermine coat. Alex sneered, who needed a pink fur ermine coat?
Chuck walked over in a royal fashion, “Ahem… I don’t mean to be rude, but where are the presents?”
“There ARE no presents HERE,” a voice boomed out of the closet, “It’s just US.”
Alex jumped back but continued to peer into the closet. Grace came out of her rocking victorian house and looked around, “What’s all this racket?”
“Th… Th.. There’s somebody in the closet,” Toddy sputtered as best as china could.
Grace pooh-poohed, “Oh, it’s probably just a skeleton. You haven’t had a closet for forty years and suddenly you expect it to be spotless? No, skeleton for sure.”
With that, she popped back into her house to rejoin the party. Alex stared at her open-mouthed. So would have the wooden pull train, but it didn’t have a mouth.
A deep humming came from the closet. It was a simple tune really, but it had a haunting complexity all its own. Alex, having summoned the courage by being dumbfounded by Grace’s southwestern charms reached into the closet. He carefully pushed aside the pink ermine coat. Underneath was revealed a tall white structure of bones. In other words, a skeleton, if you will. The skeleton’s jaw moved, producing the booming voice once more, “Hello there! My name’s Jack, Jack Skeleton. What’s yours?”
Alex gulped, “I’m Alex Night.” He looked around and then stammered, “Oh and this is Podge, Podge Darkly.”
Podge pushed his glasses up his nose, covering his eyes. It wasn’t so much that a closet appeared out of nowhere that bothered him, even though it did. But, skeletons don’t talk, and certainly not with booming voices. It was downright impossible.
Podge frowned fuzzily, “I can’t believe impossible things.” He covered his eyes with his ears.
Alex picked him up, “Oh, don’t mind him, he’s a bit of a downer when it comes to these things.”
Podge hugged the boy as much as his little arms really could. He didn’t want to see what was in front of him, but what choice did he seem to have? He’d have to take it as it came, one step at a time… but that didn’t mean he’d have to believe it. Thanks to his glasses he could do that sort of thing.
“You won’t find Christmas presents in HERE,” intoned Jack Skeleton, “All you’ll find in here is forgotten MEMORIES.”
“Than what is a pink ermine coat doing here?”
“Oh, that was during your mother’s new wave phase, before she sported t-shirts and working out. She’s forgotten it because she doesn’t like to think about her embarrassing open mic moment where she belched out the hallelujah chorus and nobody clapped.”
“And the hat box?”
“Oh, that was grandmother’s favorite peacock hat that she wore to church. That was until she accidentally drank the holy water and ended up streaking through the pews yelling, ‘It’s butter time!’ After that, she just couldn’t stand the sight of it.”
“Interesting. What about the skates?”
“These are the roller skates your dad wore as a dive-in waiter as he served burgers to innocent passersby. One day he served a foi gras burger to a beautiful woman, and they instantly fell in love over a root beer float. Amidst their passion for fizzy drinks the skates must’ve gotten lost and forgotten and ended up here by my foot.”
Alex arched his blue eyebrows, “Wow!”
He picked up the skates and gave them a once over, rotating them around in his hands. They were the kind you had to latch on to your shoe.
“Can I have them?” he asked.
The skeleton’s chest shook, “Ho, of course, little one. The good thing about memories is they can always be remembered again, but… oh, I almost forgot.”
Jack took hold of a small piece of bone on the bottom of his left ribcage. He snapped it off. Everyone, including the wooden pull train, cringed.
“Here you go…” Jack handed it to Alex.
“What is it?” Alex reluctantly held the piece of bone.
“It’s a SKELETON key, for your roller skates silly,” Jack leaned back against the back of the closet.
“Thanks, Mr. Skeleton,” Alex said. He then closed the door by the door knocker, which promptly fell off the wall and into his hand.
“Dad used to wear these…”
Podge, now back on his own two feet, exclaimed, ‘You’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates!”
Alex held up the skeleton key, “And I got a brand new key!”
Grace’s party had finally ended and all the building block people were leaving.
“Adieu, adieu,” she whisked a little white handkerchief through the air.
While Alex wrestled his new skates onto his shoes, Podge part hoisted, part climbed onto the inset window sill. He stared out at the new snowfall. There were patches of solid colors stuck next to each other. He smiled to himself.
Shiny multi-colored wrapping paper lay strewn about the hardwood floor of the boy’s room. Podge was sitting on a chair tilted back looking up at a ceramic light-up Christmas tree. It changed colors, not sure which wrapping paper to match. It was mildly amusing.
All the denizens were quite excited. It was Christmas! Christmas meant presents and presents meant some new possible friends! It was a bit difficult for them to give presents to each other for you see, they had no real money and weren’t always adept at making things sans opposable thumbs. Thankfully there was Santa to rely on.
That didn’t stop Polly from nosing Rolly’s nose and whispering loud enough for everyone to hear, “I give you my eternal devotion…”
Rolly nosed back, “And I, my care and affection.”
They seemed happy enough. In fact, most everyone was happy. Podge was entertained by the day. Argyle was perusing a dictionary Alex gave him that he had found lying around. Grace just decided her house was her Christmas present, so as not to feel left out. Toddy kept gazing into a propped-up small hand mirror he had gotten, and the wooden pull train kept zooming through the wrapping paper with full train-like enthusiasm.
Chuck was less than pleased. He kept stewing over the events of that fateful morning. You see, earlier that day came a surprising shock.
A shiny blue box with a red bow sat in front of Alex. Everyone watched with trepidation. Mom looked on, smiling. The boy with the blue eyebrows ripped the wrapping paper. Rip! Rip! Unveiling a cardboard box with the picture of a radio tower on it.
“Wow! What could it be?” Alex exclaimed.
“Well, open it and find out,” his Mom said, too excited to flex.
Alex ripped the tape with his gold pocket knife and opened the box. He stared into it for a few seconds, and then pulled out a metal teddy bear. It had dials and buttons on it, along with multi-colored lights, and a small radio antenna on top of its eyes. Its features were all angular, which only made it cooler. There was even a key stuck in its back. It didn’t have eyes, but instead sported a black visor where the eyes would have gone.
“It’s a robot! Thanks, Mom!”
Mom flexed her arms in front of her, “Yep, ahhh, no problem champ!”
Later that day they were all in Alex’s room. After they exchanged all their own presents, Alex quickly turned his attention to the mechanical bear. He carefully placed the bear in the middle of the room and turned the key on its back.
For a second nothing happened, but then two red glowing eyes appeared behind the visor. Quickly the other lights lit up, and it started to move around. It was kind of like a dance, but more like a dance a robot would make.
Then it spoke, “I am… Retro-Bear.”
Alex blinked, “I’m Alex.”
“Hello… Alex. My main function is… play. Would you like to play a… game?”
Podge and everyone else gasped. It was so novel that you could almost read it! Alex continued, “Sure. What game?”
The robot turned and buzzed and then beeped out, “Let’s play magic… eight ball. Ask me about the past or the… future.”
A blue eyebrow raised. The past? He shrugged his shoulders and turned to Podge, “Any ideas?”
Podge stepped forward, pushing his glasses up his snout, “Was Alex cheating at poker three months ago?”
Whirr… Whirr… Beep-boop… Ding!
Retro-Bear, being Retro for short, turned his head and spoke, “Negative, he beat you fair and square, just like he… said.”
Alex’s eyes widened, “Whoah! That IS what I said.”
A collective ooh came over the audience. This bear wasn’t just any bear. Indeed it truly was a Retro-Bear.
Alex asked Retro, “What will I pull up from Lake Discarded this spring?”
“You shall get a… piano key, a… soda can, and a… cellphone,” Retro dutifully beeped out.
It was quite an impressive piece of machinery. Almost too impressive in the mind of one little bear made from a real bear pelt. Chuck observed the whole affair, his heart sinking lower and lower. Retro was so much cooler than he was. I mean, Chuck didn’t have any flashing lights, and he certainly couldn’t tell the future. Chuck cowered at a future where he wasn’t the best bear around. Would people forget who he was? Would he just be discarded? And even worse, would he deserve it?
Retro beeped, “How about a nice game of… chess?”
He felt like a second-class bear.
Chuck had spent the rest of the day stewing over his predicament. Maybe all this time he had been fooling himself, maybe he was even less than Podge. He felt like the lowest bear of all. Everybody now was enjoying their presents, but Chuck hadn’t gotten anything. What does that say? It certainly didn’t bode well.
Someone had taken notice of our desolate bear however and hopped himself up. Podge walked over to Chuck, “Hey Chuck, what’s up home bear?”
Chuck tried to muster up a glare but just ended up looking pathetic, “Why you talking to me?”
Podge raised his hands and shrugged, “‘Cause it’s Christmas, and you don’t look very Christmasy.”
Chuck reconciled, “Well…” He looked over towards Retro.
Retro was playing “Guess The… Word.” with Argyle.
“Flabtastic!” Argyle said triumphantly. He’d never guess this one.
“When too much weight is thrown… around,” Retro chimed.
Argyle turned to Grace and Alex, and everyone else, “That’s amazing!”
Podge looked into the doubtful eyes of his fellow bear and sighed, “Ah. I think I see now…” Although it was a little difficult, given his rose-colored glasses tinting everything. That was how obvious it was.
Chuck looked up to Podge, “It’s that obvious huh? I guess I’m right.”
Podge put his paw on Chuck’s corduroy-covered shoulder. He spoke softly, “I’m not so sure things are the way you think they are.”
Chuck hardly heard him and asked, “How do you manage it Podge? How can you manage to be less of a bear… er, dog… or whatever you are?”
Podge would’ve stared open-mouthed, but he didn’t exactly have a mouth in the normal sense of the term. He stammered, “I… Well, I… don’t think I’m inferior for one thing. I just believe I am what I am, and that’s that. Nothing I can change.”
Chuck had perked at that, but he wasn’t ready to believe something so clear. “I don’t know about that,” he sulked.
Podge nudged Chuck a little, “Well, then why don’t you talk to him?”
“Oh, I could never do that. Besides, he probably doesn’t want to talk to someone like me.”
“Suit yourself,” Podge sat down next to the bear.
As the day went on everyone exchanged their gratitudes and admired each other’s presents. Alex played with Retro and his other toys almost all day long. Pretty soon though the sunset over the cereal box landscape outside and everyone went to bed.
In the still darkness, Chuck could only hear Alex’s slow breathing and the low wind hitting the house. This was his chance. He slowly and quietly stepped across the room, making sure not to disturb the still remaining wrapping paper.
He came to face Retro. Chuck looked him up and down, sizing him up as best he could. Then he reached behind the mechanical bear and turned the key a little bit.
Beep-beep!… Whirr… Clank!
Chuck glanced around anxiously. He looked desperately for volume control on the creature. Luckily, it was right on the front.
With volume adjusted, Retro asked, ‘What’s your… name?”
Chuck half-whispered, “Chuck.”
Retro put his paws together, “How can Retro-Bear help you… Chuck?”
Chuck leaned forward and peered into the two red glowing eyes, “You’re not better than me.”
Retro was losing power. The key hadn’t been turned very far. He was however able to eke out an electric, “You… are… real…”
Chuck was surprised. Real? What does that mean?
Alex rolled over in his bed and blurted, “icicles…” Chuck took this as a warning to retreat back across the room and into his usual resting spot.
Once there he sat down cross-legged, that being as crossed as a teddy bear’s legs can get, and he started thinking about what Retro said. Chuck never really thought of whether he was real or not. But now that he was thinking about it he wondered to himself as to what was exactly real.
Podge raised an empty cup up to his snout and took a vocal sip. Alex sat at the head of the table pouring empty tea, otherwise known as “emptea”, from a large red ceramic teapot. It had black designs on it, so as not to be too easily categorized.
The great thing about emptea is that it comes in an infinite number of flavors, a fact that all involved were enjoying. Grace fidgeted and asked, “Oh, can I have some more Rhubarb Emptea please?”
“Certainly, madame,” Alex poured from the teapot, filling her teacup with emptea. It was also amazing that emptea could change flavors inside the teapot at a moment’s notice. The boy had told his little friends that it just required some special knocks on the side of the pot.
Alex leaned back and took a bite of a mocha raspberry biscuit. “Did you hear that Old Man McGregor is dating some young beauty fresh out of college?”
Of course, nobody had heard it, both given that they were only toys and had very small social circles, and given that it also wasn’t true. They had to have SOMETHING to talk about.
“Oh really? That’ shameful…” Chuck uttered, trying to keep up with the conversation. He looked over to Retro who was sitting alone next to the dresser, his eyes dark. “What about some more Chuckwagon Emptea for me, no? It is after all named after me.”
Alex leaned forward, tapped the teapot a special way, and poured some more emptea into Chuck’s teacup. Chuck continued, “Who does he think he is? I mean, isn’t it obvious she’s just after his magical lucky charms. They’re laying all over his house.”
Podge shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know. Love knows no bounds they say, and I firmly believe that anything and anybody can love anything or anybody else if they put their minds to it.”
Grace put her teacup down, “Oh pish-posh. Love is a mystery: it strikes us or it doesn’t. Sometimes we’re ready to take the blow, sometimes we’re not. It’s very fickle and violent.”
Chuck kept glancing over to Retro when it struck him pointedly, but not so pointedly as to tear his eye out, that Chuck was drinking emptea and Retro was all alone.
Podge picked up his teacup and pronounced, “I think some Bellybutton Emptea would hit that last spot in me. My bellybutton in particular.”
That night Chuck once again ventured out across the room to Retro’s lair. He stopped and didn’t wind up Retro but instead peered into his visor, looking at his own reflection for a long time. Because Chuck could see his reflection… Chuck mulled this over in his head. His reflection stared back at him, from Retro’s lifeless mask. Chuck ran his hand over Retro’s key, just touching it. Retro did nothing. The bear with real bear pelt stepped back. He thought that he finally understood what real was.
Chuck tip-toed back to his usual spot and sat cross-legged. He stared out the window at a full moon and wondered over the barely lit contents of the room. He was surrounded by friends. They slept, and they dreamed, and they woke up the next day and they were all very different from each other. They were real, and so was he, and that was okay after all.
It was another lazy day in the room. The air was stale and heated by the sun through the window. You could see the dust particles waft around in the air, which Podge found mildly amusing. Alex laid there staring up at the ceiling whistling a tune with no melody. This kind of irritated wooden pull train, but he had no means of recourse.
Occasionally Alex would grab something and hold it up in the air examining it in the glare of the sunbeam. Eventually, he grabbed the skeleton key and examined it, the white of the bone gleaming against the overture of sunlight.
Eyeing it he declared, for the umpteenth time, “There’s nothing to do… It’s the post-Christmas blues…”
Fortunately, he accidentally dropped the key and it landed right between his two blue eyebrows. Then it hit him, “Ohmygosh! The skeleton key!”
Alex abruptly sat up, catching the attention of Podge and the crew. He quickly stood up and rummaged through the top drawer of his dresser. He victoriously pulled out a medium-sized leatherbound box with a golden keyhole. “Ha!” he ejaculated and sat down in the middle of the room.
“What is it?” Podge asked with abject curiosity.
“I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out…” Alex began fiddling with the skeleton key in the lock.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Toddy quivered, “Maybe you should check the book first.”
The boy picked up the book with the star and examined it. Then he put it in his back pocket, “Book schmook, you worry too much Toddy, you gotta lighten up sometimes.”
He turned the key in the lock and the box popped open. At first, nothing happened, and it appeared empty. A billowing black cloud began seeping out from the edges of the box, filling its contents with a black vortex. Alex watched with bewilderment as the cloud grew in size. In almost living fashion it wafted across the room as if it was reaching out to Grace.
Grace peered at the black cloud. It was shaped almost like a hand really. “That’s not very appetizing,” she declared when suddenly the hand touched her. She froze, staring blankly forward with her arms stuck.
“Grace?” Alex said. There was no response. “Grace!?” Alex persevered, but still no response. He hadn’t noticed the other black tendril that had advanced towards Chuck and the gang. Chuck began to run away but the cloud cut him off and he ran right into the cloud. His furry body fell to the ground lifeless.
Alex saw this and looked at Podge. Podge looked up at him, peering through his rose-colored glasses. Alex grabbed his arm and said, “We need to get out of here.” He lifted Podge up into his arms.
Podge was struck, “Why? What’s going on?”
“Don’t you see the darkness?” Alex said going for the door.
“What darkness?” Podge was oblivious.
Alex opened the door and ran down the stairs. He didn’t know where to stop so he just kept running until he was outside. He ran past the marjoram trees, so fast in fact that they couldn’t have reached him even if they tried. He ran all the way to the square of Abandatown, the abandoned town he happened to live by.
All around the square were the fronts of closed shops, tall buildings with second-story apartments above them. Alex found an alleyway and sat down, pulling out the little book from his back pocket. He flipped through it frantically, searching for any mention or picture of the hideous black cloud that was now attacking. Podge stared out into the square, not really sure why they were there.
Around the corner of one of the shops, black tendrils began wisping out into the open air of the square. Alex finally stopped at one page and began reading, his lips faintly moving with each word on the page. “Banality,” he whispered.
The darkness had already penetrated halfway into the square. Podge watched on while Alex continued to hastily read, “The opposite of banality is…”
Alex stood up and stared out into the impending darkness. He said aloud, staring ahead, “Podge, you have to believe in something impossible.”
Podge stared up at the boy, not really understanding what was going on. He replied, “But, I can’t…”
“You have to Podge!” Alex looked down at the medium-sized teddy dog. The boy was starting to float up into the air, away from the reaches of the dark tendrils. Podge looked back up at him, slowly getting farther away. It was quite impossible. Alex stared down at him hard for a few seconds when he confounded, “Believe something impossible Podge, like me! Please Podge… take off your glasses!”
Podge reached up and felt his glasses. He had never taken off his glasses before. That’s how he saw the world.
“Take off your glasses!” Alex pleaded in mid-air.
Podge looked ahead, not seeing anything. There must be something he’s missing, ’cause he didn’t understand what was going on. He reached up and slid his glasses off his snout.
Before him lay a bevy of dark tendrils advancing towards him. That would’ve frightened him, but he saw even more than that. He saw the room, and Alex was there. And there was someone else, another boy and they were playing a board game. All of the toys looked on, but they did not join in.
Alex looked a little bigger, and he was sitting at his desk moving his hands across some kind of device. He was staring into a big rectangular box that was making light and sounds. Podge was on a shelf, along with Grace, and Chuck, and they looked on. They would speak, but they had nothing to say.
A girl sat on the boy’s bed and the boy, who was much older now, was sitting next to her. His legs no longer dangled over the side of the bed, and he blushed quite a bit as the girl talked to him. They were holding hands. Podge sat on the shelf, a layer of dust tickling his nose. He tried to speak, tried to call out in desperation, but nothing seemed to come out anymore. His inside was silent and dark.
Then one day Podge was pulled off the shelf by a man with blue eyebrows and fierce black hair. He looked at the stuffed dog with long eyes and thumbed his ear. He gave him a hug to his chest real hard and Podge wanted to cry and tell him how much he loved him, but his tears were clogged with dust and neglect.
He was put into a little box, just barely big enough to hold him. It was cramped, and his arms and legs grew tired and numb. He could feel the dark dust creep in and the light shut out from the outside. There he sat for days, weeks until he could no longer count and it seemed like he was there forever without movement, without voice, without love… forgotten.
Podge looked around him. The ground was getting farther away from under his feet. Below him lay a pool of darkness enveloping his rose-colored glasses. Alex floated over towards him, “Podge! You made it!” He hugged the medium-sized bear.
“We have to hit the cloud with something impossible,” Alex shouted, “So do as I do…”
Alex put his hands together, his palms pointing out in front of him flat, “Ah nuke it!” A bolt of lightning shot out of his hands and hit the darkness below. It flashed around like a thundercloud.
Podge put his paws together, even though he had no palms, and said meekly, “Ah nuke it…” A medium-sized bolt of lightning shot out from his paws into the darkness below. The black cloud began to slowly retreat and dissipate.
“It’s working!” Alex called out. He shot another lightning bolt from his hands, further dissipating the cloud of banality. They continued to do this until the whole square was cleared. With more space now they landed on the ground. They ran towards the marjoram forest chasing the cloud down as it continued to clear.
Alex picked up a stick and handed another one to Podge. The ends started to glow and they swiped through the darkness, clearing it as they went back home. With their newfound knowledge, they were able to retreat the darkness all the way back into the box, which of course they locked up immediately with the skeleton key.
That night, as Podge was being hugged by his boy, he stared off into the dark crevices of the room. He thought about his rose-colored glasses, now gone. He couldn’t make up his mind whether he missed them or not.
“And that’s the story of Podge,” a mildly deep voice said warmly.
“Awww, tell it again,” the childlike voice murmured, even though he knew it wasn’t going to happen.
“Well, I’ve actually got something better for you,” the man with the blue eyebrows bent down in his chair and retrieved a box, “It’s a surprise.”
“A surprise!” the boy sat up in his bed and looked eagerly at the box.
The man pulled out a stuffed teddy dog, batting the dust off of it. It was brown, of medium size, and had a big nose and floppy ears.
“Podge! The real-life Podge just for me?” the boy exclaimed.
“Yep,” the man handed the stuffed dog to his son, “A Podge just for you to love as much as I did.”
The boy hugged Podge with all his might. He put him on his lap and looked into his eyes, wondering at the adventures they were going to have.