“No one ever forgets a toy that made him or her supremely happy as a child, even if that toy is replaced by one like it that is much nicer.”
— Stephen King, The Eyes of the Dragon
Stuffed animals were difficult to wash properly, so they were sometimes a little smelly – a fact that Chip did not appreciate properly until he and the others were stuffed into a tight box together.
There was old spaghetti sauce smell, dried mud stink, underwear odor… Deciphering the scents kept Chip’s mind off the terrifying fact that they were in a moving truck about to be taken away to a new home where they might never be unpacked again. Their owner, Mariah, was sixteen and didn’t play with toys anymore. This cacophony of stink was going to end up being Chip’s entire world for the rest of his life.
He wrinkled his little black plastic nose. If only Mariah hadn’t imagined he was such a good smeller… But being a stuffed dog, it was inevitable. There were limits on how that all worked, however. She had often imagined he could fly, but that was impossible for him alone – he’d tried it. His intelligence, though, and various other skills had been borne out of the little girl’s mind. Chip highly doubted the animals in the box with him were as bothered by their odor as he was. In fact, a couple of them were humming quietly to themselves, seemingly not at all bothered by the circumstances.
Chip waited a few more minutes. Then:
“So why is it so dark, anyway?”
“Are we going somewhere?”
Stifling a sigh, Chip whispered loudly, “It’s moving day, everyone, remember? New house, new room with Mariah.”
There was a collective murmur of realization.
“We’re in a box on a truck waiting to go to the new house. It’s probably not too far away, okay, so don’t worry. Just sit back and relax.”
Happy noises of assent and a couple whispers of, “Yes, sir!”.
Chip restrained himself from rolling his eyes, though he knew no one could see him. Then he felt slightly ashamed for even wanting to. It wasn’t their fault they didn’t understand. They were normal toys, simple and pure and innocent. He was the odd one out.
He reached out a paw to verify that the lid was firmly taped shut. Glad to be on the top of the pile, Chip scooted as close as he could to the edge of the box, at a corner where a pinprick of light was peeping through and a barest fragment of breeze.
There was nothing but a gray dented wall to be seen, the side of the interior of the truck, most likely. Chip had no options for entertainment besides the waiting game.
And so he waited. And worried.
* * * * *
Though he had been right in that the new house wasn’t too far away, it still seemed like an eternity before the truck finally came to a stop, and the boxes ceased to slide and crash into each other. If he’d had a proper stomach, Chip knew he would’ve been terribly carsick.
Then they had to wait longer as all the unloading of the truck began, and rough voices surrounded the little stuffed animals’ box as larger, heavier items were removed first, judging by the grunts and swears.
At last, their box was hoisted up into the air, and Chip felt the odd sensation of being twirled (“This hardly weighs a thing!” said the box-holder) as they were carried along. To his horror, the person set the box upside-down somewhere, and now Chip was on the very bottom, crushed by the weight of the others surrounding him. It was useless for him to try and clamber his way back up, and he didn’t try. The tiny hole he had been using to see out of was now blocked by a tuft of carpet, which smelled strongly of cleaner.
He tried not to panic. He had to put faith in Mariah. She wouldn’t leave him like this, she was definitely going to unpack all her toys, of course she would, of course. She loved them all. Yes, it would be fine, very fine.
But what if the room was very small? What if only a few toys could be kept out? Well, Chip was her favorite, after all, that’s why he was kept on her bed. She would try to find him first, and all would be well. No, wait, the box was upside down! What if she opened it looking for him, but couldn’t see him, and then closed it back up again forever?
Chip choked back a sob. This was the end. The other toys had accepted their fate, why couldn’t he? They wouldn’t mind living in a box, it would be a grand, neverending adventure to them. All their friends together forever.
But Chip’s friend wasn’t a stuffed animal. She was real, breathing, living human, and he missed her terribly. He missed hiding underneath the table that was actually a time machine. He missed spinning in circles to teleport across the world. He missed being dragged along by his tiny tail by a ferocious Beanie Baby dragon and then being rescued by Ariel the singing mermaid. He missed being squeezed by small arms that grew so big and strong. He even missed being cried on, the snot and tears that would accumulate on his fur and be lovingly wiped away. He missed Mariah, his owner, his Girl, his world.
Chip must’ve fallen asleep because next thing he knew, the box was being moved again, and this time, it was Mariah holding it. He could hear her muffled voice, and it was all he could do not to bark from delight. She hadn’t forgotten them! Oh, but if only she would open it, if only she would take them all out!
The box was set in a quieter area, and Chip could hear from barely audible conversation words about beds and dressers and figured they were in Mariah’s new room.
It was an agonizing two weeks before he ever saw it.
Chip had never minded Mariah’s procrastination and laziness that much until now, and every day that their box remained unopened, untouched was another day that his anger and resentment grew. He knew it was irrational, that he should’ve been prepared for this, but he wasn’t and he didn’t care.
One day, a cry of, “Last box!” jolted him from his most recent moody thoughts, and bright light suddenly surrounded him. He was still at the bottom of the box, but he could now at least see. Bandit the Dalmatian and Laura the Giraffe had been the nearest toys to him, and though he had been unspeakably rude and unpleasant to them the past few days, they both flashed him quick smiles. We’re getting out!
He hadn’t realized how much he wanted this until it was actually happening. Chip had just begun to resign himself to his new way of life, and now everything was a blur of motion and sound. He couldn’t see her yet, but Mariah was taking out a toy one at a time, talking to herself.
“Ah yes, Trixie. She can go over there… And Max will stay here… Whiskers…looks squished, poor Whiskers, here… Okay, better, and he’ll go on top of that thing…”
It was as close to being played with as they would ever get, and Chip could feel her love and attention perking up the other toys. The box shifted a little as Mariah adjusted its position, and Chip slipped down the side to be flat on his stomach, his chubby legs sprawled spread-eagle on the bottom. As more toys were removed, he desperately wanted to be staring at Mariah’s face, but he couldn’t move. What if she didn’t want him anymore? What if they were being unpacked just to be put in the mesh baskets? The other toys wouldn’t care, but Chip did! What if she thought he was no longer special? Just another stuffed dog. What if she didn’t remember him? What if –
“Chip!” Mariah exclaimed happily, and Chip thought his heart would burst with raw, pure joy.
Slim fingers wrapped around him, and he was being turned around and then he was staring into his owner’s hazel eyes. His Girl’s beaming face. Mariah’s love shining all around.
“There you are, I’ve been looking for you,” she said, standing. She tucked him under her arm, and Chip was so happy he thought she’d be able to notice his wriggling.
The bed had been made with a new blanket spread across it, and Mariah carefully placed him right in the middle.
“There we go! Perfect.”
And it was perfect.
Even when she tossed and turned in the night, and Chip would slip right off the bed, it was perfect.
Even when the bed was haphazardly made, and he would get stuck in the blankets, it was perfect.
Even when he would fall into the laundry basket and be missing for a few days, it was perfect.
Because Mariah always picked him up off the floor and apologize.
Because she would disentangle him from the sheets and set him on the headboard for safety.
Because she would find him washed and clean in the dryer and laugh.
It was perfect because, even though she didn’t play with toys anymore, she still found time for Chip. She still loved him.
And he would love her forever.
So much sappiness, I’m so sorry