Monday, August 16, 2010

Throwaway

He entered her world wrapped in arms that smelled like cotton candy with a hint of sweat. After hanging from a small white hook in the carnival barker area, he heard the pop of one, two, and then finally three balloons. As her father’s index finger swiped the air, he could only hope that this would be his chance for freedom, and more importantly love. The carnie reached up and grabbed his neighbor and as the disappointment of another night in the air settled back into its permanent home, the yell of the girl, Annabelle, pierced through the sound of buzzers and bells from the nearby rides.

“Not that one!” she exclaimed. “I want the orange one.”

Weightlessness engulfed him as he was freed from the hook and slowly lowered down into her waiting arms. She squealed with delight and wrapped herself around him.

“What’s his name, honey?” her father asked.

“Leland,” she replied, and so he had a name.

The rest of the night was a blur. Leland accompanied Annabelle on the “Love Ship” and at one point was almost lost to the night sky after a sharp turn on the “Roller Cart,” but as she fell asleep strapped into her car seat at the end of the night, he felt at peace to finally have a home.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Five years passed, and Leland is now where most of his kind ends up. After a few weeks of pleasantness, he began to be forgotten. He sat unplayed with on her bed and at times was remanded to the floor. Soon, he was moved to the closet to join the other “throwaways.” That is what they called themselves, those unloved toys. There was the bulldog from the crane game, the Happy Meal bean bag dolphin, and the knock off Snoopy from some theme park. Their stitching wasn’t as strong, their fabric more flammable.

All had been something she had “had to have” and so her parents relented. That is to say her father relented. Everyone had stories of how the mother was always saying, “She doesn’t need another stuffed animal,” but the father just went and got her what she wanted anyway. In a way, the banishment to the closet was proof that the mother was right. They weren’t needed.

Light entered through a sliver between the closet’s double doors. Lately, there was more activity on the other side of the dark. Sure, they got to see the room once or twice a day, but mostly they sat in darkness marked with the occasional days where the closet light was left on. However, now there was a constant breaking of the sliver as some small thing kept walking by the door. It couldn’t have been more than a foot or two tall, and it would sometimes stop and sniff the bottom of the door before walking away. The throwaways became frightened.

It was a few days before the shadow was identified. The door was opened, and a small dog ran across the room. It looked similar to the bulldog but less wrinkled and was, clearly, not purple. It seemed the family had gotten a new pet for Annabelle, and the throwaways could see that while they were in the closet, being outside of it was even worse. The dog had one of their comrades in its mouth and was greatly thrashing it about. Worse, it didn’t seem to bother the family at all and they even found it to be cute. What was once a happy sound now held to it an eerie quality, those “ahs” they exhaled.

“Were they next?” thought the throwaways. It was only a matter of time. What could they do, stuck in the closet like this? Luck was the only thing that saved them from their fate. A week later they were all thrown into a cardboard box marked “Garage Sale,” and on Saturday they spent the entire day outside under the blistering sun. One by one, grubby hands reached in and pulled them out for inspection before being brought to someone to ask: “Can I get this? It’s only $1.” Invariably the purchaser would haggle until each of the throwaways was gone, all except Leland.

As the sale dwindled down and the family began to pack up the unsold refuse, Leland felt sad. What did this mean? Would he return to the closet or possibly be donated to someone? As his box was lifted, the father realized only Leland resided inside and decided to just remove him. He was carried into the house where Leland saw the new pet and a premonition flashed across his felt eyes. He knew his fate, even before the father did.

“GEORGE! Dammit, I told you not to chew on the newspaper! Why do you insist on tearing it up? Here, if you are going to chew on something, chew on this.”

Leland felt that three foot fall as if it lasted for days. As soon as he hit the ground the mongrel was on him. This George, as he was called, began dragging Leland around the living room. Leland’s last visit to the living room involved hugs and kisses; now teeth and paws tore at him. The dog grabbed hold of Leland’s neck and began thrashing him about and tossing him into the air. At one point, Leland was sure the suffering was over, but the dog returned from the kitchen with water dripping from his lips and the attack commenced.

As the hearing on his right side vanished, Leland realized his ear had just been removed. Slowly, his peripheral vision began to pick up white stuffing. He was being pulled apart. A light headedness overtook him, and as he lay in a puddle of his own stuffing, the most unlikely of saviors arrived. The mother swept in and picked him up. She began yelling at George, and when the father started laughing, she turned her attention to him.

“Why did you give this to him? Look at this mess? God! There is stuffing everywhere. “

The back door opened and the mother carried Leland outside. He was not sure what else could be done to him but he was still happy to be away from the dog. He saw that she had gathered his stuffing up in her other hand and was surprised to see so much of it. Had he really lost that much of himself? The mother exited the back gate and walked Leland out to the garbage can. He realized at that moment that the name he and the other forgotten toys had given themselves had become reality. He had become a real life throwaway.

The above story was inspired by the image below.

Written by Trinity Vaughn

6 Ripples in the pond:

Lola Lakely said...

Trinity! I loved this post. And I loved even more how you named him Leland. I don't know why but you had me at Leland.

Great story.

Trinity said...

Thanks. I don't have any specific reason for the name. I just thought Leland the lion/tiger sounded right.

Diana said...

Wow, I am really impressed with your writing. Loved the story.

Trinity said...

You can thank my editor, Erin.

Addy's Daddy said...

I'm thinking Leland might be a kangaroo... or my father-in-law... either one.

Hunter's Mom said...

LOVE IT!!!