Big, heavy, wet, white clumps of snow tumbled downward until they disintegrated smashing into the ground.
Admin Note: Originally published on BigCloset TopShelf on Thursday 12-23-2009 at 9:06 pm, this retro classic Christmas Special was pulled out of the closet, and re-presented for our newer readers. ~Sephrena
Disclaimer: This is fiction. All the characters and events portrayed here are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely accidental and unintentional. I as the author reserves all rights. Once again I’m down to the wire posting my entry. I’ve given this a good look over but I’m afraid that it is still pretty raw without another pair of eyes to double-check for me. Be that as it may, I hope that you can enjoy this, even with the errors.
Warning!!!! This story depicts someone having a hard time dealing with the lost of an loved one. If this would upset you please do not continue! I believe it ends on a positive note, but you were warned!
Warning!!! At the urging of early readers, this story also has a Tissue Alert attached. We are not responsible for however many boxes you may use.~ Grover
A Toy’s Story
Forlornly, George stared out his window. The nasty frozen stuff was really coming down. Big, heavy, wet, white clumps of snow tumbled downward until they disintegrated smashing into the ground.
Looking over his suburban neighborhood, he already could see it beginning to stick and cover all the trappings of ‘Keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ in a sanitizing blanket of white. The campers, boats, fancy decks and all the cluttered examples of conspicuous consumption out of sight at least for a little while.
However there was happiness out there too that even his melancholy mood couldn’t ignore. It seemed every kid in the area was outside playing in the wintery weather. A few snowball fights were underway as the early accumulations on cars were put to use as well as some trying to build snowmen that had more dead grass and leaves in them than snow.
Despite himself, he smiled. Most had never even seen this much of the white stuff except on TV. They could be forgiven for their youthful enthusiasm. For that matter it was so rare for them to get any frozen stuff that adults were joining in the festivities.
George sighed, his smile fading. It was a holiday scene as perfect as any Christmas card. If it was rare to get snow down here in this part of the South, it was unheard of to see a White Christmas.
But that was exactly what it was going to be by all accounts. Today was Christmas Eve and the big day was tomorrow. His hands gripped the window sill so hard his knuckles turned as white as the flakes covering the ground outside. Ellen would’ve loved this.
Sorrow overwhelmed him as its weight bowed his head. It was all he could do not to completely breakdown. For the first Christmas in many years he was alone. The pain of being without the one who had always been there for him was too much to bear.
“Oh God this hurts,” a silent prayer screamed in his chest.
My eyes opened. Something woke me from my long, long sleep. I was still in the same place where my slumber had begun, in a box. That sounds rather strange doesn’t it?
About me were green plastic army men, Hot Wheels cars, and other toys you expect to see in a box of boy’s toys. That’s except for me. Not to say I’m not a toy too, just not one you expect to see in most boys’ possession.
I’m a doll. Specifically, I’m Talking Stacey Model 1125 with Copper Penny red hair. In simple terms, you could call me a Barbie doll. The only real difference I have a different head and talk with an English accent.
Well, I’m not just a doll. That is something I’ve thought a lot about after all. Most toys simply aren’t animate and I am. I’m fairly certain I’m some kind of spirit that has made this plastic shell my body. More than that, I can’t say. My first memories begin with being pulled from the colorful packing carton and being untied from the wire twists that had held me in place.
That’s when I first saw her. A couple of things were clear from that very first sight. I somehow knew that I had to look after her. Call it love if you must but her well-being was utmost in my thoughts. It was also clear that she wasn’t like most other girls.
The short hair and masculine cut clothing marked her outwardly as something else, but I felt, knew, differently. Whatever I was, I could see with eyes other that the ones painted on my plastic face. Her feminine heart and soul were easily visible to me.
I could also tell all was not well from her fugitive and guilty glances at her room’s door as she gently touched my hair.
“Hi Stacey,” She whispered. “I’m Gwenn.”
Pulling the cord at the back of my neck, an English accented woman’s voice crackled, “Hi, I’m Stacey!”
From outside the room a woman demanded, “George! What are you doing with the radio on? We have things to do! Where is that present you were supposed to buy for your school Christmas gift exchange? I don’t know what has gotten into people these days. In my time, boys brought presents for the boys and the girls for the girls. Ain’t no good going come of mixing things up! Mark my words. You probably brought some poor thing a baseball glove!”
“George! Where are you?”
Cringing, Gwenn who was also called George, stuffed me and the box I’d come in under the covers of her bed.
“I’m coming Mom!” She cried.
The sound of running feet and a closing door told me I was alone. Awkwardly I began to move, but fortunately as I was to learn Talking Stacey was one of the first Barbie’s to have individually molded fingers so I had full use of my hands. Lifting an edge of the covers, I examined the carton I’d arrived in. A British flag and Red coated Foot Guard with his tall bearskin cap with a picture of young woman dancing pass him, me.
My first time alone with my thoughts didn’t last long before Gwenn returned looking sad and lost. To my dismay, I learned this was her normal state, and I resolved to change it.
That is when I also learned something else. Although I had the power of movement and could make this plastic body on mine move as if alive, when humans were present I had an almost instinctive prohibition against letting them know it. So as Gwenn picked me up, I was as immobile as any other doll.
“Stacey, when I saw you, I knew you were the one. I’m the only red head in my class. Besides my Dad, I don’t know any other red heads at all. He says that’s because we’re family. Are you family too Stacey?”
Then a big smile shone across her freckled face. “I know! You can be my big sister. How about that?”
Just being born in a matter of speaking I was being deluged with new things as I realized something else. When I answered her, somehow she heard me, but it was not like normal communications. Where normal pretend play would have Gwenn imagining all the voices for her make-believe friends, I had my own say but she took it as if it came from her.
Yes, I quickly picked up on the very real power I had over this seemingly giant who held me in her hand. I could very easily influence her thoughts.
However this was love at first sight. I couldn’t conceive of hurting her. “Yes, I’ll be your big sister.”
That was the start of that proverbial beautiful friendship. We played together at every available opportunity although Gwenn was very careful to hide it all from her parents. As an only child, that wasn’t that hard because most evenings her mother and father would stare at their black and white TV set for hours making that prime playtime for us.
I helped my friend as I could over the issues of bullies and other trial and tribulations of growing up. Nothing lasts forever and as Gwenn grew older, we played less and less although I was still a frequent confidant during times she couldn’t keep her tears away any longer.
If only it had been in my power to take her suffering away, but I could not. No matter what we did, it seemed that the world and her own body had other thoughts on who she should be. All I could do was to consol and ease her tortured soul away from considering darker paths. I did the best I could to tell her death was not an escape. It would take a bright beautiful person from the world even if they were all too blind and deaf to know it.
Finally the day came when I was taken from Gwenn’s hidden stash along with all my accessories we’d accumulated during the years. Tomorrow she was leaving home for the last time. High School was behind her and her family had no money to send her to college.
We had talked about this many times. The stories about girls like her and what the Doctors could do to help. That took even more money than even going back to school. Not that she or I had a clue where to go for more information or help.
Gwenn did know her parents wouldn’t understand. A few careful questions and comments had gotten her a burning scathing reply. I felt bad about that having been the one to suggest that, but we had to know. I wasn’t sure how much she saw me as a belonging or as an individual in my own right. I suspected it was something she carefully didn’t think about. The poor thing had enough doubts about her sanity given her situation.
That last time she was tearful as she hid me in the bottom of this box of toys. All about were other boxes filled with her childhood for tomorrow she was joining the Army.
“Stacey,” She told me. “Maybe they can show me what this being a man thing is all about. If I wanted to be safe I guess I should throw you away where no one could connect you with me, but I can’t. From the very first moment I saw you I knew you would be my friend and big sister.”
Gwenn sniffed, “You would think I’d outgrown all of this, but I guess not. This is kinda of silly saying goodbye to a toy but I suppose I’m just a silly kind of person.”
She sighed, her pain and doubts exposed and raw. “I’m not ready for this, but what choice do I have?”
I don’t know if I had a heart or not but it certainly hurt like I did. “Be strong. I know you can do whatever you put your heart and mind to. Goodbye Gwenn.”
Crying she whispered, “Goodbye Stacey.”
The last I remember is the box lid closing and the terrible darkness. Now something had wakened me.
It was Gwenn. I didn’t know how or why but I knew she needed me. Maybe I was only a doll but my imagination ran wild. Was there a war? Had she gotten injured in combat?
I had to get out this box, now. There was no time to waste. Digging my though the other toys I reached the lid. Pushing I felt it give. Working my way to where I felt that it’d given the most, the seam of the box spilt, the glue holding it together old and dried out.
I fell out as a waterfall of other of mementos of Gwenn’s childhood tumbled after me. Green troops and cars clattered as they hit the floor. Rolling aside, most of it missed me.
Dust lay thick on the floor and stacks of boxes towered high above me. Looking up I saw the tall mountain of cardboard that’d been my tomb leaning haphazardly.
Leaving small footprints behind me, I wondered just how long I’d been sleeping. I was in the attic which I recognized from the times Gwenn had brought me up here to play secretly. However it was different now, with much more stuff packed in here.
I needed more information before I could make any sort of plan. Making my way to the attic window, I used a wad of cobweb to clean a hole.
My mouth dropped open. It was snowing!
That was unusual enough but the whole neighborhood was different now. Where before Gwenn’s home had been set back off the main road, now there were thickly built mass of nearly identical homes. Nothing at all looked the same. Despair well in inside me. How was I going to find her when I felt it was so urgent to find her?
George looked down at the TV dinner growing cold in front of him. The flickering light of the evening news didn’t make it look anymore appetizing, but he knew he had to eat something.
Ellen would’ve been all over him sitting here in the dark in front of the TV and picking at the spongy pseudo-meat and gravy. However, if she’d still been alive the house would be awash in the smell of cooking. Cookies and other food for tomorrow’s Christmas feast that she would be getting an early start on.
He bowed his head dropping his fork onto his plate. Everywhere he turned, everywhere he looked; he kept seeing and thinking of his beloved wife. She’d been his life.
George had met her after deciding to go back to school courtesy of Uncle Sam. His time in the service had been enough to cover the costs of going to the local college.
Ellen was right out of high school and away from home for the first time but despite the difference in age and experience it’d been love at first sight. He’d been smitten by her ready smile and her caring nature.
It’d always amazed him that she never even considered dating anyone else but him. George knew he wasn’t the most masculine person in the world, but that never stopped her. Even when he bared his very soul to heart, she just smiled like always and replied that’s why she loved him.
Stunned, he could only nod when she asked him to marry her. If there were any regrets at all during their 25 years together it would only because they were unable to have children. They talked of adopting but something always came up that interfered.
Perhaps it was for the best all considering. Since the cancer that had taken her from him, George knew he’d been dysfunctional. Missing her from his life made the simplest things huge unmanageable tasks. It was just as well no one was depending on him, because he feared he would just let them down.
Holding his head in both hands, he moaned softly. It hurt so much he didn’t know how to deal with it. Despite himself, his eyes and thoughts cut to his desk and the locked case he knew that he knew was within.
Taking a shuttling breath, George shook his head trying to get rid of the thought. Finally he stood taking the cold cardboard and plastic like food to the kitchen where he unceremoniously dumped it.
Maybe tomorrow he would go over to his parents place. It was Christmas after all. It wasn’t their fault that they never could understand him, but Ellen being who she was had somehow melded a few of the broken fences between them.
George gripped the sink with all of his strength struggling against his loss and pain. Hopelessly, he looked out the window at the now heavy white carpet covering the ground. The streetlamps’ wane light seem to flicker as the snow continued to fall.
Finally exhausted, he slid to the cold floor crying lost in his grief.
I was clicking my way across the floor after dressing. I’d found one of my old outfits that had spilled out after me. The Barbie Red, White n’Warm ensemble had all the winter accessories a girl needed. However, while I’m a doll and don’t get cold per say, I was going on a journey that I had no idea where I might end up, and more to the point when I get damaged there isn’t any healing from it. This particular set covered me up pretty good giving about as much protection as I could expect.
In addition I do have to admit to a certain amount of vanity. I have no idea of how long it’d been, but I did want to look my best for Gwenn. While I may not have a living body with actual female functions, I’d long ago accepted I was feminine. Maybe that was why she and I had the friendship we shared.
However it was time to begin my journey. Being only 11 and ½ inches tall made it tough to open doors and deal with a ‘Land of the Giants’ world. Hey, that ½ inch is important when you’re less than a foot tall!
Even after all these years I haven’t a clue on how I could make the even un-jointed parts of me move. There had to be some kind of laws of physics I was breaking. I could move and bend my plastic carcass in any way a real human body could move and even change my facial expression from that silly vapid smile. Or more useful, suck it in so I could squeeze out underneath the attic door. Then it was the climb down the stairs that each step was nearly as tall as I am, oh joy.
Then another squeeze under the hallway door and finally I was in the house proper. Keeping to the side I made my way carefully down the hall while looking at all the things that had changed since my long slumber. The walls were painted another color and there were the usual pictures, but more of them.
I already knew that considerable time had passed since I’d last seen daylight, but this gallery made it even more real. There were pictures of Gwenn’s parents older and grayer, but also of my friend too. Some were of her in a somber Army dress uniform while others had other soldiers like her grinning and standing together.
However it was the last ones that had my plastic mouth dropping open in surprise. My Gwenn had her arms about a trim smiling girl. I was happy that she had found a companion, but the wedding pictures still astonished me.
I honestly didn’t know what I was feeling. Jealously over the woman she had found to share her life or happiness about the joy I saw in those pictures.
However something bothered me. They seemed so happy, so what had happened that was so powerful that it woke me? Cautious, I creped further along looking for answers.
George held the silky dress in his hands trying to make himself reach for the old feelings that always comforted him. For nearly his whole life, he’d been aware of his strong feminine side. It’d always set him aside as different from everyone else.
Other men would check out women, but for George he was looking just as much at their clothes and their look. Did that work for them and other unspoken critique. By the grace of a miracle he’d found Ellen who not only accepted his differences but actually encouraged him. Grinning she said that she’d made out like a bandit in their relationship. Not only did she get a husband but a girlfriend and fashion consultant too. What more could a girl ask for?
Crossdressing had always somehow eased this insidious anxiety that seemed to accumulate until he had no choice but to try and appease it. Then shame and embarrassment followed on its heels making he make powerless vows never to do it again. Ellen changed that equation.
She’d taken away the negatives leaving only the positives. After all it was only clothes, she’d told him. Additional, he admitted she was way better at this whole feminine thing than his furtive efforts.
George found that Gwenn, his feminine alter ego, wasn’t bad looking at all, given Ellen’s loving touch. She’d even suggested the two of them going out in public. Charlotte was more than big enough to get lost in a crowd so that no one would ever know.
That, however, was a step that was a little further than he was comfortable with going. It was enough to let Gwenn out in the privacy of his and Ellen’s home. Besides, as he told his wife, as long as he had her, he didn’t need anything else. Her bright smile told George that he’d said exactly the right thing.
George had always known that he was somehow different but hadn’t any way of defining exactly what. He could still remember when that had all changed. His 4th grade teacher Miss Kemp decided to shake things up some. More than a little bit of a hippy she gave her class an unusual assignment. Buy a gift for the other sex instead of the usual arrangement in the hopes that the boys and girls of her class would learn something about each other.
His parents had immediately forecasted a disaster and there had been a few hmmm unsuitable gifts. But his gift hadn’t been one of them. Mom had pushed him into the girl’s toys, telling to pick one.
George could still remember that magic moment where everything had suddenly snapped into sharp focus. It was as if a spot light was right there. Bright pinks in every shade imaginable as well as colorful pastel boxes and packages filled the space before him. Dolls, bears, and much more beckoned as if calling his name.
Looking back on it, George knew that that many would’ve considered his family poor. His trips back then to the toy department were few and far between. Add in his being an only child, and his isolation which meant he’d rarely had any playmates, that really had been the first time he’d been exposed to girl stuff.
Everything made sense as his 4th grader self experienced that Satori like enlightenment. Or perhaps, he mused it was more similar to Kensho which literally translates out to “seeing one’s true nature.”
Of course being only 11, he didn’t know those terms. Only that in that flash of understanding that he knew what set him apart from everyone else. The ways that he thought and acted were like that of girls and not the boy he appeared. More, George suddenly knew these marvelous toys were the ones he’d wanted, always wanted, but hadn’t known to ask for them.
However in that same terrible bolt of understanding, he also instinctively knew this would not be accepted. In that magical moment looking down that wonderful forbidden aisle he’d found the answer to all of his torments, but at the same instant the knowledge that his salvation from his was forever denied him.
That one defining instant of his life had lead him to a lifetime of tying to understand and live with his gender contrary nature. The journey had caused him to do some amazingly stupid things, but despite that he’d somehow survived them. It was Ellen with her loving acceptance that had saved his life and sanity.
And now she was gone.
George took a halting breath, his fists knotted up in the fine fabric. Some part of him knew he was sliding in the abyss again as he had before Ellen had come into his life. But even knowing that, he still couldn’t keep it from happening.
He was exhausted from his sorrow, but the tears still came. It just hurt so much!
Hearing voices I peered around the corner. Gwenn’s parents, older and grayer but they were still recognizable.
“Do you think he’ll come over tomorrow?” She asked the old man.
His eyes glued to a color TV set answered, “Don’t know. He might. Then again he might not. It is snowing. I imagine it‘ll still be on the ground come morning.” The man said in a matter of fact way.
Gwenn’s mother sighed, “I’m worried about him.”
His father replied a little annoyed with having whatever he was watching interrupted, “He’s a man. He’ll get over it.”
Staring at her husband she said forcefully, “You know how close him and Ellen always were. Besides, he’s never been like everyone else. Maybe we should go over there tonight?”
The old man looked over at her like she was out of her mind. “Go out? On a night like tonight?” He scoffed shaking his balding head.
“Jim!” She said reprovingly. “It’s only a few blocks away.”
The old man stubbornly faced the TV. “Then he can come over here. I’m not stepping one foot out of this house tonight. All we have to do slip and break a hip then where would we be?”
Returning his stubborn look Gwenn’s mother said, “Then maybe I should invite George over to stay the night in his old room. You however can sleep in the spare room, by yourself.”
Cutting his wife a crossways glance he said back, “Good! Maybe I’ll be able to get a good nights sleep away from all of this nagging!”
“Fine!” She replied sharply. “Because sleep is all you’re going to get mister!”
“And how it is that any different from the last 20 years?” He harrumphed back.
I pulled back behind the corner. Gwenn wasn’t far away and close to here. However, she might even be coming to me!
Judging the timing, I dashed across the doorway so I could bet closer to Gwenn’s Mom who was picking up an odd shaped rectangular box that I guessed had to be the phone. Wow had they ever changed.
Running inside I dared to get even closer. However it soon became apparent that my friend wasn’t going to be here tonight.
“I know dear that it’s snowing and not the best weather for going out, but it’s not that far. We both would love to have you over for Christmas Eve night.” Gwenn’s Mom spoke into the phone even though it had no cord.
“Are you sure? It wouldn’t be any trouble for you to stay the night.” She sighed, “Well at least promise me you’ll be by tomorrow. Good night George and Merry Christmas.”
His father grunted not brothering to turn around. “I told you he wouldn’t come.”
The old woman stood silent for a moment before snapping, “Shut up old man,” but he had already gone back to ignoring her.
Looking at her from my hiding place I could see her worry. It was one I shared. Gwenn was in trouble this night and I needed to be there. If she wasn’t going to come to me, I had to go to her.
George hung his head low as he put down the phone. He knew he should go over to his parents place. It snowing was simply an excuse. He could walk over there in just a few minutes because they were so close.
The real reason was he couldn’t work up the energy to do anything. When Ellen left, his joy in life went with her. These last few months he’d drifted along on momentum, but now that was all gone now. All the memories of the happy times they’d had together made every moment without her a torment.
Once more his thoughts turned to that box locked in his desk. George knew that it held no help or peace. Perhaps it was just the off button. Knowing that it wasn’t the answer he needed, the idea of making his pain stop was seductive.
With an act of will he wretched his thoughts away from that grim tropic. There was things to do to prepare for tomorrow. Because of the snow, they could lose power and it would be wise to get cleaned up tonight. Each step an effort, George struggled upstairs.
Getting outside had been a real challenge but I‘d made it. Looking out from the poach, it was a daunting sight. The early evening appeared even darker with low heavy clouds that were nearly invisible in the falling snow. The wet stuff not only covered the ground but several inches had already accumulated.
Judging it was about waist deep on me that made it say 5 and half inches give or take. And as a rough guess I had a half mile or better to travel in this stuff.
Setting my plastic face with determination, I was going to make it tonight. Gwenn needed me and it would take more than some unseasonable weather to stop me.
Fortunately I’d found the address from those very same photographs in the hallway. One had the Gwenn and her lovely bride posing before a newly built house that helpfully showed the address on the mailbox. Forty Curtiss Drive.
Steeling myself I took the first step. I didn’t weight much but this snow had very little of a crust and I constantly fought for each inch. After what felt like hours I looked back and found I’d hadn’t even made it as far as the curb. Sighing I turned and pushed myself forward another few inches. At least I didn’t have flesh and blood that got cold and tired since I was only a doll. However it was going to a long hard journey. Ignoring the spiraling flakes that were nearly as big as my head I pushed onward.
I don’t have any idea of how much time had passed. Behind me the house that Gwenn grew up in was completely lost in the all encompassing white. The only sounds were a hiss as yet even more snow fell. I couldn’t even see the road any more. I had only a vague idea where it was by judging the distance between the snow covered houses.
Deep in my empty plastic bowels, I began to fear that I’d gotten lost. Somehow I kept on going wondering how I was going to find Gwenn’s home after the snow covered everything up.
At first I thought it was some kind of illusion but there in that house was a cluster of bright sparks. What could that possibly be I wondered?
Then a beam of light shined out of the gloom. “Over here!” a voice called to me. It came from that house with all the sparks!
I didn’t freeze in place as I usually did around humans! Disregarding the strangeness, I lunged in that direction. I needed help and they were offering.
Shielding my eyes from the light, a cord dropped down. Grasping it I held on tight as I was pulled up. The wind and snow buffered and banged me into the side of the house. Finally the ice glazed ledge came into sight and with a final yank I was inside.
I heard the window close as I tumbled to a stop. My white faux fur hat went flying but rolled to a stop at the feet of this huge cowboy doll. To my absolute amazement he bent over pickup up my hat. “You dropped something Ma’am?”
Stunned, I jumped when a chorus of wolf whistles sounded from behind me. Twisting, there was a veritable platoon of half-sized army men of about 4 inches tall. And each and every one of them was leering at yours truly.
Over my shoulder the Howdy Doody wannabe guffawed, “Now cut it out guys. You‘ll think you‘ve never seen a girl before.”
One of them with a blond short buzz that didn’t seem the least repentant cut shot back, “Not where we could actually do anything. Korey’s sister, Annie, isn‘t old enough to have toys that look like real dames yet.”
The cowboy laughed, “Duke, she’s a guest! Miss?” he asked me.
“Stacy,” I replied in my English accent. Shocked, I could see even more toys moving behind them. They were animate like me! A veritable hoard of toys! I swear I even saw a Mr. Potato Head and a dinosaur coming in for a closer look.
The platoon of half-sized soldiers riotously broke out in lecherous grins again, “Hey she’s a limey broad!”
The cowboy waved his hands trying to calm them. “Hey Guys! Be polite!”
I stood up and smoothed down my fur trimmed coat. With as much aplomb as I could muster, I took my hat from Tex and walked over to the window. Using my reflection, I put my fur back on and adjusted my appearance.
That’s when I noticed that the riot had grown quiet. Turning back, the entire group, including the Cowboy, was staring at me with the goofiest expressions on their painted faces.
As lady like as I could I stated as much as asked, “You’re all animate. How is that possible?”
The big cowboy recovered first. “Yep. We generally are when there isn’t any people about. We’re toys,” He said puzzled.
Muttering from the peanut gallery confirmed that opinion.
Rolling my eyes, I shook my head in disagreement. “No. You do know that you, me, them are the exception and not the rule don’t you? All toys aren’t animate like us.”
Startled he stared, “They’re not?”
More muttering from our audience told me, all these yokels thought that all toys were like themselves.
“No,” I said curtly. “My own experience suggests we’re spirits sent to help and guide children with extraordinary needs or destinies.”
He laughed disagreeing, “Nah! It all in the movie and I was the star!”
The small soldier disagreed, “No you’re not. It might have looked like you, but you were not in ‘Toy Story.’ That was Tom Hanks. Didn‘t you see the credits.”
The Cowboy waved him down. “Sheriff Woody was the star, and I’m Sheriff Woody, so I was in the movie.”
I folded my arms. “I take it that this motion picture portrayed all toys as being alive?”
“And like us, when humans are about we have strong prohibitions against revealing our true natures?” I continued.
Again they all nodded.
“So how did they film this cinema of yours if all the toys in it were like us and frozen in front of the camera?” I finished.
The Soldier nudged the Cowboy. “She’s got you there, Sheriff.
Clearing my throat I repeated, “We’re spirits possessing these manufactured bodies so we can help and aid the children we befriend.”
I could see him struggling with the idea, and trying to regain control of this situation. “Nice to meet you Stacy. Okay I can see we got off on the wrong foot. Let’s start over. I’m Sheriff Woody.”
The pint sized lecher cut in. “I’m Duke. We’re G. I. Joes, Real American Heroes,” Duke boasted introducing the rest with a wave of his hand.”
Folding my arms, I looked him up and down. Gwenn had a G. I. Joe but he’d looked nothing like these half-sized figures. Of course unlike these, that one had been nothing but un-living plastic.
Recalling a line from one of my friend’s favorite movies, I misquoted, “Aren’t you a little short for a G. I. Joe?”
Woody alarmed rushed in to stop further argument. “Stacy, you’ve obviously been out of circulation a while. What were you doing out in a night like tonight? If it wasn’t Christmas Eve and us keeping an eye out for the big guy we wouldn’t have seen you.”
As much as I would love to put those little chauvinists in their place, the Cowboy had a point. “Yes, you’re correct. I have recently awakened from a very long sleep. However, it is imperative that I reach 40 Curtiss Drive tonight.”
Then it hit me what else he’d said. Big guy? “Excuse me?” I asked. “Are you referring to Santa Claus? Is that why you’re here in the dinning room rather than with your charge?” I could easily see the Christmas tree’s blinking lights from here.
Woody gave another amazed look. “But of course it is! It’s Christmas Eve! We all want to see Santa when he gets here.”
“Yeah, and see what new competition you’re got to face from Korey’s new toys.” Duke added sarcastically.
“You believe in Santa?” I asked disbelievingly.
They all looked back at me as Woody countered, “You don’t?”
I’d always thought that Gwenn’s parent had played Santa Claus for her. However I couldn’t say for certain because I’d always spent Christmas Eve with my friend. Every year she wished for a miracle or just some sign that her fondest desire was heard. Every year it’d been the same disappointment as she received more sports equipment and boy clothes.
Diplomatically, I replied, “Let’s say I haven’t seen proof and leave it at that. That doesn‘t change the urgency of my reaching my destination tonight.”
Woody gave me a measuring gaze. “It’s not about proof. It’s about what you feel and believe in your heart,” He said touching his wooden chest.
I sighed. The feeling that Gwenn needed me and needed me now hadn’t lessened. If anything it had become more pressing. “Be that as it may, will you please help me? It is of the utmost importance.” I pleaded.
He scratched his head. “Why do you need to get there tonight?”
Beginning to feel a little put out at this wooden cowboy I replied, “I woke only a few hours ago knowing that my friend needs me.”
Woody’s painted eyes widened. “What? You only just woke up?” Then he figured it out. “You were in storage? Boxed? He whispered in shock.
Muttered, “Boxed!” spread across the room with our spectators showing the same shock and some even horror.
I simply gave them a matter of fact stare, “Yes boxed. That doesn’t change the simple fact, that my friend needs me.”
Softy he asked, “Even after being ignored and forgotten for all these years?”
Looking him in the eye, I said one word. “Absolutely.”
George clicked the remote as yet another Christmas program flickered across the TV screen. After his bath and shave he did feel better, but nothing could rid him of that numbness of his heart. Half-heartedly he turned on the TV while in bed hoping for the all too brief break from his pain in sleep.
Sleep that refused to come to him on this Christmas Eve night. He paused in his channel surfing watching Ralphie get kicked down the slide by Santa yet again.
He sighed. Christmas had never been one of his favorite times of the year. Each holiday it was so full of hope but it always ended in disappointment. Perhaps except for that pivotal year when he’d finally figured everything out.
Strange that he was thinking about that again. Of standing there in aisle surrounded by all those toys for girls realizing that all this time what he’d been missing.
That’d been one Christmas that he’d gotten what he wanted even if he did have to buy it himself. George was supposed to be buying a gift for a girl classmate, but instead had brought two. One doll for her, but the other had been for himself. It’d taken some fancy footwork on his part and most of his allowance, but he’d gotten away with it.
George had purchased a Barbie Doll, and no one was the wiser. Well it was really a Stacy Doll, but the only difference was she talked with an English accent. That was also the same time he’d named himself. Gwenn was her name for the time when she could at least briefly put away all the pretending and just be herself.
Despite the longing lost of Ellen the memory made him smile. Stacy had stayed a secret, and his parents had never discovered that their son played with dolls. Of course, as the years passed, they instead thought he was gay, but what was the use of trying to tell them differently.
He used sometimes think of himself as a changeling from legends about elves and the fey who exchanged their children in exchange for a human baby. What other explanation was there for how different he and his parents were. George had even believed that he must’ve been adopted, but no, not even that.
For most of his childhood, that doll was his only confidant up to the time where he left to join the Army. George stopped surfing on finding Toy Story. He and Ellen loved this movie. It took him back to his day as Gwenn playing with Stacy and of how it seemed they could actually converse.
He watched a few minutes but the emptiness of not having Ellen with him drove him to turn it off. George sat there for a few minutes before admitting that he would not be able to sleep like this.
Making his way back down stairs he stopped in front of the liquor cabinet. He’d never been much of a drinker but kept some on hand for social occasions. Those had become nonexistent after Ellen had come down ill.
George had always counted himself lucky that he’d been able to stay away from most addictions, but he had to have something to make himself forget. With a trembling hand, he opened the bottle.
Finally the Cowboy said, “Come with me. We’re going over there.” He explained gesturing at the window at the far corner of the house.
Climbing down and then back to the other window sill we were joined by the crowd waiting for Santa to make an appearance. I was still amazed by just how many of these toys were animated. Just who were those two youngsters to have so many spirits looking over them? However I had another problem.
Woody pointed out the icicle lined frosted pane. “There,” He said. “Way over at the far end. Do you see it? That’s 40 Curtiss Drive.”
I indeed did see. 10 houses away and only the street lamb just barely visible in the white haze of falling snow. My heart fell at the enormous distance I still had to cover.
Meanwhile, Duke and his squad of junior sized GI Joes had formed a pyramid ladder so he could join us. He rubbed his plastic chin considering the hazards. “Half a klick straight line distance. Call it three-quarters because of maneuvering around obstacles.” His experience eye measured.
“Approximately 3 to 4 inches of snowfall, so it’ll be about waist deep since none of it frozen into ice yet so she’ll have to push though it. Very rough terrain, I estimate 4 maybe 5 hours.” Duke calculated.
Woody lifted my chin. “Do you really want to do this?” he asked.
I nodded. “I know I have to be there for her. Yes, I have to do this.” I said firmly.
“Duke what do you think? Do we have any equipment we can loan her?” The Cowboy asked.
The square jawed solider answered, “None of our equipment would fit her. Wheeled transport would bog down and airdrops is out of the question given the weather. It would have to be Ty. He’s the only one with right qualifications for this mission.”
Woody looked up thinking. “Ty? But he hasn’t been out of the house since Korey worked on him. Do really think he could make it? It’s a long way.”
Duke nodded in return. “Experimental and untested in field conditions, but Korey has never had a failure yet. He does good work. I stand by my recommendation. Ty’s our man for this mission.”
Woody grabbed my hand. “Com’on! This isn’t over yet!”
We leaped off the ledge and ran climbed up the stairs. Reaching a bedroom door he motioned me to be quiet. Carefully, we crept inside where I could a boy sleeping. All about was the usual things I expect to see in a boy’s room and yet a lot of strange ones too. He had a TV in his room? I marveled.
We got to a table where Woody helped me up to the top. It was covered in parts and tools that I had no idea what they were for. While I looked about the Cowboy lowered a line for Duke to join us.
Together they walked over to a very strange vehicle. It had no wheels or even tracks like a tank. All along the edge was some kind of rubber like material but I couldn’t puzzle out its purpose. On top was a pair of motors with propellers but I didn’t see any wings so this couldn’t be an aircraft.
Woody whispered, “Ty, Ty wake up.”
Two decal headlights opened as whatever it was looked around. “Buzz” it asked.
“Shhh!!” the cowboy hushed Ty. “Korey is still asleep but we have a guest and an emergency. Tell’em Duke.”
Duke knelt down explaining the details, but I had my doubts. It seemed so hopeless. I was going to try no matter the consequences however my sense of urgency was even more intense.
Woody seeing my distress spoke, “Don’t worry Stacy. Ty can do the job. Korey’s really good with stuff like this. He upped the 9.6 volt power supply to 12 and replaced the lift motor. The entire skirt has been customized and Ty received an entire new set of actuators.”
I looked at him uncomprehendingly. “I haven’t the foggiest idea of what you just said.”
Woody chuckled. “Me neither. I was just repeating what Duke told me!”
I smiled despite myself. This was all such a novel experience for me. I’d never talked or interacted with anyone before except with Gwenn and this was completely different. Had I been lonely and not known it?
Duke stood. “He’ll do it. Let’s move it!”
Woody addressed the toys who’d followed us. “Alright people listen up. We’ve got to get Ty off the workbench and outside. Duke you and your guys handle the control center. I’ll get the crew to work. We need to get this finished so we don‘t miss Santa!”
The solider saluted and I had to step out the way as a frenzy of activity erupted. Lids were popped off of Tinker Toys and Erector Sets as Woody’s crew built a crane that lowered Ty so that he came to rest on a skateboard. Then quickly the crane itself was lowered.
Climbing down I was barely able to keep up but was passed by two groups of GI Joes carrying some kind of radio transmitter and a pair of binoculars above their heads as they double-timed by me.
I’d just gotten back to the window as Woody supervised the reassembly of the crane. Together we got the window open as a small gale of snowflakes blew in. Duke’s men fought the wind pushing Ty suspended from the Tinker Toy crane out the window.
“Okay,” Woody yelled. “Let’em down easy.” He directed with hand signals. Several of the Joes rode down with Ty guiding and preventing him from striking the house in the buffering wind. As soon as the strange craft touched down, the Cowboy sighed in relief. “There you go.” he said to me.
Meanwhile Duke was manning that radio transmitter. “Power on.”
One of his men answered from the ground, “Affirmative! Power on!”
Down below Ty buzzed as his motors came to life.
Duke twisted some controls as his men preformed their testing.
“Left rudder check!”
“Right rudder check!”
“We’re go for launch!”
Duke hurried over saluting Woody. “Mission vehicle is prepped and ready.”
The Cowboy jauntily returned it, “Ma’am your carriage awaits!”
I’d asked for help but looking the throng eagerly watching my departure this was far beyond what I’d expected.
Standing on my tiptoes I gave the big yahoo a peck on the cheek. Just for good measure as he stood there stunned I knelt and did the same to Duke. Then waving gaily I slid down the rope leading to my carriage.
Up above watching, still with dazed expressions, Duke remarked to Woody, “Dames!”
The Cowboy touched his cheek, “Yeah!”
Giving them no clue that I’d heard them, I landed on Ty and immediately the G. I. Joes there fasten me down using a rubberband.
“Crew is abroad. Securing launch area!” One yelled as they climbed the rope back into the house.
I grabbed onto my fur hat with one hand while the other held onto Ty.
Barely audible above me, Duke was counting down. “Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Zero! Typhoon 2 has Launched!”
Ty’s motors buzzed to life and he lifted up on that skirt they called it. With a fury of blown flakes, we roared off as we skittered across the winter landscape.
Snowflakes whipped by me as I hanged on for dear life!
Jingle Bells were never like as I was madly thrown as we raced the very wind itself. My makeshift rubber band harness stretched alarmingly as we turned so quickly we skidded wildly.
I could hear Ty’s motors revving as he fought for control. We flew part of the way up a snow bank but then came racing down even faster than before. My hat threaten to depart and I feared I would have to decide between keeping it or involuntarily leaving my transportation.
Suddenly we spun crazily out of control again coming to a stop. I’d closed my eyes in the wild spin and waited for the world to stop moving.
When we didn’t began moving again, I cautiously asked, “Are we here?”
Ty answered, “Buzz, buzz, buzz!”
Looking about I spotted the address, Number 40 Curtiss Drive. Releasing my harness, the rubber band snapped away into the night. Stepping in front of him I gave him a peck on the fender. “Thank you so much!
He gave me a sheepish blink of his headlights as his fan blades spun back to speed.
Turning to face that strange house full of some many spirits I waved hoping they could see me. Taking a deep breath, I walked to Gwenn’s home.
George with excessive concentration poured himself another glass. Was this the fourth or maybe the fifth glass of this stuff he’d had? No how many it hadn’t been enough. He could still feel. It still hurt.
Staring at the darkened room, he could see the shadows from the streetlights shining in thought the curtains. The only thing that had gone right on this Christmas Eve night was at least the power hadn’t gone out because of the snow.
Curtains? Ellen had picked those out, and he had hung under her supervision. Another memory of his beloved that he held lovely in his heart but now did nothing but torment him.
Christmas? It wasn’t Christmas with her. There wasn’t anything without her. Only the endless pain of missing her who’d been his heart and soul mate. Without her there was only pain, which not even this whatever kind of alcohol he was drinking helped to dull.
George wanted the agony to stop. Drunkenly, he stumbled into his study bottle in hand. Sitting down heavily, he fumbled for his desk key. It took a try or two but finally the case embossed with the Browning label lay in front of him.
His hands shaking, George opened it.
I perched hazardously on the icy window sill forlornly looking in. There in the shadows I could see my friend moving within. The feeling of hopelessness was even stronger and I knew I had to get inside now.
A hopelessness, which I was also experiencing. I’d covered every square inch of the outside but couldn’t find a way in. I was down to simply ringing the doorbell and hoping that she would see me after I became immoblie because of her presence.
That’s if she even answered at all. Whatever torment Gwenn was going though was even worse than her darkest spells growing up. I feared what such pain might cause her to do. Determined to over come these obstacles I tried to reach that button, but the doorframe was simple too icy. After the fifth time of slipping and falling I felt like crying despite my lack of tear ducts.
Lost in my own problem I wasn’t aware of his presence until his shadow eclipsed the wane light from the streetlamps. Grasping I looked up in surprise.
Like Woody and Duke, he too had a light within him that seemed to shine from within. A spirit I realized. That’s what those sparks were. I was seeing spirits, but his wasn’t a simple spark but a blazing beacon.
“Hello there Stacy,” He said merrily with a smile.
My eyes began to make sense of what I saw and I knew my mouth had fallen open in astonishment. His white fur trimmed red suit, and his flowing beard of silver. It couldn’t be!
I stuttered, “You, you, you’re Santa!” I said not quiet believing not only that he was real, but incredible aura of his presence. Of peace and happiness, yes, but he also radiated a kind joyous, good humor.
His eyes twinkled as he replied, “Yes, I am. That’s one of my names among many, but I see that you have a problem.”
Still shocked I protested, “But you’re a spirit. I don’t understand.”
I didn’t protest as he picked me up in his mitten covered hand. “Not all gifts are of material belongings. The most precious of all is as insubstantial as the very wind, but no less real or dear. You know this.”
Nodding, my thoughts turned back to my friend. “Gwenn! I have to get inside to her.”
Santa rasied a finger to his lips. “Shhh, and we shall, but first I have a gift for you.” Reaching in to his bag he pulled out a bright red ribbon wrapping it expertly about me. “
I looked at it, not knowing how to respond. “Thank you.”
“Now let’s be off!” Santa exclaimed placing a finger by his nose as if twitching it like a witch from that TV show.
Suddenly we were on the roof!
I was beginning to realize that if the sparks I saw could bring even toys to life, what miracles this bonfire I saw within this incarnation of Father Christmas could perform.
Walking over to the chimney, once more he twitched his nose, and in a whoosh we were inside Gwenn’s home. Watching his lively eyes, I suspected it was all a show for my benefit, but I couldn’t complain.
He placed me on the messy table and I curtsied. “Thank you!” I said looking for a way down even as I spoke.
Santa wagged a finger at me. “Before you hurry off I have a present for you to deliver to your friend. It'd gotten lost, but I know I can count on you to get it right. Now, be off. I’ve kept you long enough.”
I watched him walk over to an old style grandfather clock and wind it, carefully setting the time. Turning back to me, his eyes flashed again, “A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
And with that he vanished in a whirl of lights that flew into the fireplace, up and out.”
I picked up the jewelry box that was for me quiet the arm load. Fortunately, it had a ribbon wrapped around it that let me slip it onto my back like a backpack.
Slipping off the table, I ran thought the dark gloomy house looking for Gwenn. Remembering where I last saw her though the window, I found her. Taking a second to plan my route, because if she saw me I would freeze to lifelessness, I needed to as close as I could.
With such pain, I would need all the help I could get to influence her.
“Click, Ta-Chang!,” rang loudly in the room as I saw Gwenn heft a darkened object in her hand.
“Oh God, NO!” I screamed running forward.
He stopped dropping the Browning 9mm High Power to his desk. What was that? It sounded like someone yelling.
Leaving the automatic, he stood shakily and looked around. The old clock that Ellen had him lug back from an antique show years ago chimed twelve times although George knew he hadn’t wound it up since she’d died.
Midnight, it was Christmas.
Spooked by the strange event, he carefully looked around again wondering drunkenly if he had prowler. Of course that would be a really weird burglar who broke into people’s houses to fix their clocks.
So this is what being drunk is like. He turned with exaggerated care walking back to his bottle and gun.
And stopped cold, his dulled reflexes nearly causing him to fall.
George rubbed his eyes not believing what he saw. There on his desk was the doll he’d kept a secret for his entire childhood. Blinking, he wondered if he’d so much to drink that he was seeing thing, but when he opened them again she was still there.
Dressed in on of the winter outfits he’d brought her, there was Stacy. She had a red bow tied about her and a small jewelry box attached to her arms.
Alarmed, he looked for who’d put her here. He was a little old for Santa Claus and she certainly didn’t walk in here on her own. The last he’d seen of her, he’d packed her and all of his childhood momentoes away, just before leaving for the Army. He’d been determined to somehow figure out this being a man thing.
George sat down with a huff. He looked over at her picking up the bottle. “Hello Stacy.”
“Hello Gwenn.” She seemed to answer with that English accent of hers.
Raising the bottle, he replied. “No one but Ellen ever called me that.”
“And me,” She said. “You know that isn’t very lady like?”
Swallowing the burning fluid, George gave the bottle a hard stare. “I guess I’m not feeling very lady-like right now.” He answered roughly slamming the liquor down hard on the desk.
Gently Stacy asked, “What happened Gwenn?”
George believed that he’d no more tears left, but he proved himself wrong. Once more racking sobs rocked him.
Although she was only a toy somehow it seemed that she was comforting him.
Taking a deep breath, he began. “I met Ellen almost 26 years ago, after I got out of the Army. She was everything I’d ever dreamed or wanted. I was so frightened what she would think if she truly knew me, but when she found out, there was nothing but acceptance.
“She told me that Gwenn was a part of who I was. Without that part of me, I wouldn’t be who I was. The person she loved. For 25 years we were together and never did one of us ever regret a moment. Ellen encouraged me to be true to myself, the real me, and not like I am now.” George explained sadly waving his hand at his rumpled drunken self.
Closing his eyes in pain and remembering, he said hoarsely, “Then she got sick last year. I made her go to the doctor. They couldn’t find anything at first, but at first we didn’t think anything of it. We trusted them that it hadn't been anything serious, but she never got better. When they checked again, it was too late for them to do anything for her.”
Tears ran down his cheeks. “She went so fast we had so little time left together.”
Wiping his face with his stained cuff, George’s eyes locked onto his gun. “After she died, I was more alone than ever before. Everything here, everything everywhere reminded me of her. It just hurts so much to be without her,” He cried.
“You’re not alone, Gwenn,” Stacy told him. “I was at your parents tonight and they do care even if they can’t understand or accept your inner self.”
Her voice seemed to soften, “And there is me. I have always cared. You are my friend.”
Forgetting she was just a toy George answered, “I know Stacy, but it hurts!”
“Gwenn,” She said, “You were blessed to have found the love of your life and to have spent so many happy years together. This might seem cliché, but do you believe that as much as she loved you that she would’ve wanted you to hurt like this? The happy times you had together should affirm your shared love, not cause harm.”
He pulled his gaze away from the gun. “No, Ellen wouldn’t have wanted me to be like this. She was always able to chase away my blues. Were my parents who brought you over here tonight?”
George thought he could almost detect a laugh from her. “Of course not Gwenn! They never knew about me or that little hidey hole you had me hidden in, inside your room. I walked some of the way, but had some help at the end from some new friends. It was Santa who helped me get inside.”
Sarcastically he asked, “So it was Santa who wound and set Ellen’s clock?”
He definitely heard humor this time. “But of course it was Gwenn. He tied this pretty bow about me, too. Santa also gave me this gift for you.”
George picked up his old doll. He found himself touching her coppery hair just as he had so many years before when he’d smuggled her home. Taking a deep breath he, removed the small wrapped gift.
Without really thinking about it, he set Stacy down with a careful fondness. Opening the box, there was a carefully folded note that he recognized immediately as one of Ellen’s origami hearts. Under the note, was a silver necklace with a pair of intertwined hearts. Turning it over, the inscription read Ellen on one and the other was Gwenn.
His hands trembling, George unfolded the message.
My Dearest Love,
It won’t be long now. I know how hard it will be for you. We’ve been married too long for me not to know your heart and soul. You’ve tried so hard to be strong for me and I love you even more than you will ever know for it. But now that I’ll soon be gone, it is time for you to spread your wings. For years I’ve done all I could to help the beautiful person I know is hidden within you. At times I’ve felt so guilty because I’ve felt that it was only your devotion to me that has held you back, although you would never say so.
Please my love, don’t grieve for me! I know our love is strong enough to withstand even death... but I don’t want you to pine away waiting for me! Go into the world and live! I’ll be waiting here for you and anyone you bring with you. I’ll want to know every single detail girlfriend!
The necklace is for my lover and truest best friend, Gwenn.
He rested his head in his hands, sniffing. For a long moment he was silent, lost in thought and the words of someone so very dear to him. Carefully, he put Ellen’s letter back inside the box. “For you Ellen,” He said gently holding his necklace.
His eyes fell on Stacy’s pull string that was behind her neck. Picking her, he gently pulled it.
Surprisingly clear after all of these years she said, “Hello, I’m Stacy.”
“Hi Stacy, I’m Gwenn.” She replied, her voice breaking. “I’m afraid that I’m starting all over and have a long way to go. What do you think?”
She pulled the doll’s string again. “Smashing!”
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