“‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real. …But once you are Real, you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.'”
— Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
Chip was smarter than your average stuffed animal.
He had had so much love, laughter, tears, and pure childhood imagination poured into him, that it had made him more intelligent, more enterprising. While the other plushies would either meander about, talking idly, or simply staring happily at the ceiling, Chip would explore or read or watch TV. He wasn’t very big or very strong, being only nine inches long and six inches high and mostly filled with fluff and beans, but he could push buttons or tug a loose book from a shelf.
Though there was always the risk that his owner or her family would get suspicious of why he was in a place he oughtn’t’ve been, Chip was unable to stand just waiting around to be played with, especially when no one was home, and especially as Mariah grew older.
She had found him on the bottom shelf in a toy store in the mountains. She had given a cry of delight when she saw him, and cooed over his soft, soft fur, lisping slightly through the wide gap in her five-year-old mouth. Minutes later, Chip had been paid for with Tooth Fairy money, and snuggled into jacketed arms the rest of the day.
That was over ten years ago. Now Mariah was sixteen, and though she didn’t act like the mean teenagers on sitcoms (Chip watched a lot of TV), she still didn’t play with stuffed animals anymore. Most had been organized into mesh baskets around the room, carefully displayed but never touched. Only a few actually minded, the ones who, like Chip, had been loved the most and missed Mariah’s attention. He still had the honor of the bed, which was haphazardly made, to be sure, but she still held him at night when she moved him from the pillow to the nightstand.
But now changes were happening. Boxes had appeared all over the house, and though Mariah didn’t spend much time in her room, Chip caught snippets of conversation from the living room. The family was moving.
He didn’t know why, but he suspected it had to do with Mariah’s father not being around anymore. Words like “separated” and “divorced” floated around with increasing frequency, and Mariah’s time and attention were more focused on her siblings. She had once tried giving Chip to her baby brother, Louis, to play with, but the three-year-old hadn’t been interested, and Chip had been safely returned, if somewhat drooly, to his spot on Mariah’s bed.
In any case, Chip knew what moving meant. He had seen Toy Story, after all (and been amazed at its accuracy). He and other toys would go into boxes, and never come back out. There would be no point, as Mariah no longer played with them. It was easier just to put everything into storage and only keep the essentials.
Chip knew this was pessimistic (a complicated word he had spent a whole hour trying to find in the dictionary), but he held no illusions to his fate. He was a toy dog for children, and Mariah was nearly grown up.
“Mr Chip, Mr Chip!” a squeaky voice called out to him. As the oldest and smartest (he liked to think wisest) of all the toys, Chip was often consulted by the others, especially during changing times like these.
He turned to look at the orange Halloween bear toddling toward him. This one didn’t seem to have a name, having only been recently rediscovered under Mariah’s bed when she was cleaning it out last week. Everyone had taken to calling him, “Orange Bear,” as stuffed animals weren’t particularly noted for their imagination.
Orange Bear stopped in front of Chip and gave a stubby salute, which the older dog had repeatedly told him was unnecessary. “Mr Chip! I have a question!”
“How bad does moving hurt?”
Chip stared at him. “What?”
An orange paw gestured at the dresser behind them. “Miss Dayzee says moving will hurt really bad and now I am scared!”
Orange Bear’s pudgy face was twisted in anxiety, and Chip glared over his shoulder at the much larger bear sitting high above them on the dresser. She gave him a sarcastic little wave.
Dayzee was a Build A Bear, a special class of stuffed animal that tended to have more intelligence and imagination than most toys, as they were (technically) handcrafted and given hearts directly by their owners. Mariah’s sister, Leigh, had five of them, and Chip had mostly found them to be quite nice and conversational, if somewhat obsessed with their owner, which was to be expected from the plushies of a seven-year-old. But Mariah’s Bear, Dayzee, was rather cold and vindictive, because as the last of her kind, the last stuffed animal that Mariah would likely ever get, she had never been properly played with, unlike the others in the room. She took out her jealousy on the more naive toys, who didn’t understand what day it was, let alone that they were being teased.
Chip turned back to Orange Bear, and smiling gently, said, “Moving doesn’t hurt. You’re filled with fluff and stuff, remember?” And Chip poked the smaller bear’s stomach gently with a worn paw. Orange Bear giggled, and worry left his face instantly.
“We’ll be put into boxes together, safe and snug, until we get to the new house,” Chip began, hesitating only slightly before lying, “And then we’ll be unpacked and displayed again. Okay?”
“Okay!” said Orange Bear, already unconcerned, and he ambled back to his basket on the floor, where his “roommates” cheered at his return.
Shaking his head in wonderment at the little bear’s innocence, Chip glanced back up at Dayzee, who turned away contemptuously. There was little point or reward to her bullying, Chip felt, likely only doing it out of jealousy and pure boredom. She wasn’t as versatile as the bean-filled dog, and couldn’t walk properly on the carpeted floors, so she had to stay on the dresser all the time.
More out of spite than anything, Chip left the room with deliberate slowness and grace, making sure Dayzee was aware of his freedom, even though there was nothing he particularly wanted to do.
He was very worried about moving, whatever he had told Orange Bear, and not even TV could distract him anymore. Trotting down the hallway, he went into the living room to check the clock on the DVD player. 1:48, it said, and Chip knew Mariah and her siblings would be coming home soon. They would rest, eat a snack, do homework, and then resume packing again. The sense of urgency increased every day, and so did Chip’s anxiety.
How much longer did he have before box imprisonment? Would he have enough room to peer out of the closet or wherever they were stacked? Or would he remain forever in darkness, rotting away slowly?
Chip didn’t know. And he was very frightened.
Like most things dreaded, time flew by, and a couple weeks (that felt like minutes) later, Chip was being placed into a box with his nightstand friends. He had planned for this moment. One last time, he wanted to stare deep into Mariah’s eyes and have a flood of memories of all the good times they had had together over the years, and just enjoy the pure pleasure of being held and loved and cherished again.
But she was brisk and efficient, and they were all swept into the box and Chip didn’t have time to think or react in any way before everything went dark, and the only sound he heard was the stretch of tape and the distant rumbling of a noisy truck.
It was moving day.
Pretty much based on reality, though I call him Chippy, not Chip. And Mariah is my middle name.