LIFE OUTSIDE THE TOY BOX
Once a dog’s best friend, always a dog’s best friend, or so I thought. But after he’d gone I was relegated to a keepsake box with all the other toys he used to play with. By he, I mean, Oscar the Labrador, who died two years back.
It was overcrowded in the box but I stuck it out in the hope that humans would get another dog for me to play with. The other toys were useless; they didn’t seem to have any ambition at all. Tortoise ignored everybody, just sat there staring into space, Cat thought of nothing else but keeping her whiskers straight, and Elephant without a trunk was as silent as the grave. Lion’s roar was quite scary but it disappeared on the second day Oscar had him. The squashy building blocks were the only toys with any life in them. Someone only had to brush against the box and the blocks would tumble about, ringing their tinkly bells as they fell against each other.
The thought of hanging around, doing nothing for evermore was depressing. I had a deep think about it, wondering how I could escape, and then I noticed an old pal propped up in the corner: the White Fairy. She’d been a pretty fairy in her day but was now a bit fragile looking, her white dress was grubby and torn, and the star on her wand a bit tarnished.
Fairy hadn’t really been a dog toy; little Gemma had put her in the box when she started school and never came back for her. We never found out why she was left there permanently. It was reputed that Fairy’s wand was magical, she only had to wave it and wishes came true. I wondered if she could transport me to a new life.
After a long middle of the night discussion, Fairy agreed to help. She wanted a clear day to get her wand up to scratch so we agreed to wait until the following night before she put a spell on me. I didn’t know if I would be able to wait that long but she pointed out that one more day wouldn’t hurt. It was important to wait, she said, because she hadn’t used her wand for such a long time and it could be a bit rusty.
The call came at midnight. I was excited as well as nervous; my mind seemed to be turning somersaults. The good news was that she thought the spell would work; the bad news was that she didn’t know for how long. That was a downer but it didn’t put me off ... any time away from the toy box would be fine by me.
It only took one wave of the magic wand to put life in my limbs. I felt it surging in, a real prickly sensation. And then I discovered that I could move totally unaided.
‘Go, Tigger,’ she said, ‘and good luck.’
After thanking her, I climbed out. I didn’t stand on ceremony, I just went.
It was easy. Having rope knots and tassels at the end of my legs enabled me to scale the high side like a mountaineer. When I reached the top I looked back at the other well-chewed toys, taking pity on them for being so lethargic. I wanted to shout get a life but resisted the temptation. I wanted to escape, not offend.
The first thing I did was shuffle towards the door... shuffling was necessary until my legs were stronger. It was there I hit the first snag. How did I open a door? I looked round, taking in a number of stacked chairs and some fold-up tables propped against the side. There was a window high up, too high to see through. I thought about jumping from a chair, onto the door knob and swinging until it turned; I only thought about it, the sheer height made me feel dizzy. Then I noticed a gap at the bottom of the door. Was it large enough to crawl under? I racked my small brain trying to remember what was on the other side. And then it dawned on me, the door opened onto the garden.
I was inspired. Fancy remembering that after two years! In all that time I never realised we toys were kept in the garden shed.
Flattening my body on the cold floor, legs awkwardly splayed, I peered through the gap and proceeded to work out the best way to squeeze through. Did I put legs first, or last? Did I shuffle on my belly or my back? I tried the latter. It didn’t work. I tried lying on my tummy and inching my way underneath. It was tiring. While I rested, I explored with one of my front legs and found that the leg went all the way through the gap. But how would I get the rest of my body to follow? I sat and pondered, saw the first hint of daylight through the window. It was then I heard a noise.
Someone was coming.
Oh no, please don’t throw me back in the toy box!
I needn’t have worried. In fact, I was now in a position to cheer when a man entered the shed and left the door open. I was free. No more dark days in that musty smelling box. No more irritations with the noisy blocks. No more wondering what life had to offer.
I explored, remembering the places Oscar used to take me, and the one time he tried to bury me in the soil. He got into trouble over that. I wasn’t too happy either, especially having to be washed afterwards. I’ll swear my colours faded that day.
It was getting quite warm so I rested on the grass. The smell was intoxicating after my incarceration in the dusty shed. I dozed for a while, dreaming of my impending adventure, half wishing Oscar was still around to carry me. In the distance I heard a grinding noise but ignored it until it started to get closer. The noise was awful. I tried to block my ears but the tassels on my legs wouldn’t stay still. Then I saw it, the man who had entered the shed was chasing a green Monster up the lawn. Coming closer. I feared for my safety. What if Monster didn’t see me in time to stop?
I wriggled nearer to the path.
Monster’s roar was scary, he charged up the lawn, chewing grass and spitting it out like a shower. He was getting nearer by the second, dragging the man behind him. And then something else happened, a woman came out waving what looked like huge scissors. I dived under a bush in the hope of finding a safe hiding place.
‘It’s no good trying to hide!’
I peered round a stalk and saw the Frog.
‘Monster will find you wherever you hide. Take my advice, scarper while you’ve got the chance.’
Since my funny legs don’t let me move at speed, I took Frog’s advice and shuffled away.
I heard the roar of traffic before I hit the road; it was scarier than the noise Monster made. There were cars everywhere, moving at great speed, flashing lights and hooting as they whizzed by. I’d been in a car before but only when Oscar was taken for a ride. I’m sure it wasn’t as noisy as this lot. I was crouched by the kerb, wondering what to do, when a small boy tried to pick me up. A woman pulled him away, saying something about germs. She went to kick me into the gutter but at that moment one of the cars pulled up and called her in. Suddenly longing for the quietness of the toy box, I turned back the way I had come, back to the grass lawn.
Frog was where I had left him. He whispered ‘Beware’ just before a human hand grabbed me, lifting me high in the air. And then I was flying, up, and then down onto a smelly heap of garden rubbish. I felt indignant. It was no way to treat one of Oscar’s favourite toys.
‘You’d better get back where you came from,’ croaked Frog. ‘He’s put you on the compost heap.’
‘That’s where things are left to rot, and when they’re rotted enough they get spread on the ground. Helps things grow.’
This was disturbing news. It obviously wasn’t the world I thought it was. Surely when Oscar was alive there were only nice things around. No such thing as compost heaps then.
‘Here, jump on my back and I’ll give you a lift. Where would you like to go?’
Well, I thought, if this is freedom I don’t want any of it. ‘I think I’ll go back to the safety of the toy box.’
Thanking Frog, I slithered past some slimy green stuff until I reached the ground. Frog crouched while I lay on his back, then hopped up the path towards the garden shed. Monster was still on the lawn, quiet now, and the man nowhere to be seen. The shed door was still open so Frog took me right up to the toy box. As he nudged me off his back I fell against the side and straight away the blocks set up a chorus. I guess they were pleased I was back.
It only took a minute to climb back in and take my place amongst the toys and I vowed never to be so silly again.