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Good vs. Evil
Frankie Sloane, standing just-under four feet, was always recognizable with his red Spiderman-themed glasses, and wide, toothy smile. He was never seen without one of his comic books. He lived in the world of superheroes and villains, where everything was black and white, and everyone was either good or evil. To him, the distinction between such entities was as clear as day. Either you were a hero like Spiderman, performing superhuman deeds and saving lives, or you were a lying and thieving villain, causing mayhem in the world. It was as simple as that.
Another thing Frankie was certain of was that his friends could never understand the things he loved. He had plenty of friends, but it seemed as if he was missing something: a best friend or a partner in crime of some sort who loved all the same things he did and would never judge him. His friends didn't get why he would be so absorbed in dinosaurs, or could spend hours examining cool bugs, and let's not get started on his obsession with the Marvel Universe.
On one sunny day in December, however, both of these notions changed forever, when Frankie locked eyes with his soon-to-be best friend. The term "love at first sight" has been described countless times, in every medium of its meaning, to describe the initial attraction between two people - often instantaneous and life affirming. However, the love felt by Frankie for his stuffed teddy bear was the purest of its kind; it was one of friendship, of an everlasting camaraderie. But this story of brotherhood was almost not to be. The tale of Frankie and Teddy Roosevelt is one fraught with peril.
It was just an average Saturday morning in the Sloane household. There was a dog to be fed, laundry to be folded, and shopping to do. With already three rambunctious kids under one roof, Mrs. Sloane agreed to take the youngest to the grocery store and lessen her husband's headache, if only just for the moment. She managed to persuade her curly-haired eight year old to accompany her to the store in exchange for a new book. Slowly coming down the stairs, like always, was Frankie, absorbed in one of his comics. At this rate, he wouldn’t make it to the door in 10 minutes. "Come on, sweetie, let's get going!" His mom shouted, halfway out the door, with an exasperated but affectionate look on her face. "Last one in the car is a slowpoke!" At this challenge, Frankie's eyes suddenly snapped away from his book, and he bounded to the minivan as fast as his legs could carry him, his left shoe untied all the while.
The cleaning supply aisle of the grocery store was possibly the most boring place in the universe, in Frankie's mind. No amount of imagination could make laundry detergent or toilet bowl cleaner fun. Mrs. Sloane, meanwhile, was deep in concentration, peering at all the products with furrowed eyebrows and pursed lips. She was currently having an intense internal struggle over whether to purchase Palmolive versus Dawn dish soap. Frankie, having already suffered through the makeup section and home furnishing, was anxious to see the toy section. Without a word, he rambled from the aisle, away from his mother, who had moved on to examining carpet cleaners. He was too engrossed in his fantasies to notify her where he was heading.
It was then that he saw it. His future best friend. On a stand in the middle of the toy aisle, sat rows of cuddly stuffed animals. There were ducks on the top stand, and pigs on the bottom, but Frankie’s eyes immediately set upon the golden brown bear in the middle stand. It wasn’t as flashy as the duck, who was garbed in a fancy nautical-themed jacket ("a little too fancy", thought Frankie), or as colorful as the pig, bright pink with lime green ears ("a little too bright", thought Frankie), but he had a modest red ribbon secured around his neck and friendly eyes, or as friendly as black plastic eyes could be. His eyes spoke to Frankie, and told him that he would never judge the boy and would always be there for him. It was love at first sight. Perhaps not the passionate, romantic love portrayed in the romantic movies his sister loved, but a love that was just as durable and compassionate. In his arms, the teddy bear felt so reassuring and comfortable. Already deep in the planning stages of the escapades he and his new friend would have, Frankie’s mind was racing. “I know what we’re going to do! We’ll catch insects and look at them under the magnifying glass and identify them! Or I can play Spiderman and you’ll be Doctor Octopus and we’ll battle it out…” The promise of adventure and friendship already made his heart swell. No longer would he be judged for his love of comic books or the natural sciences.
“Frankie! Frankie! Oh my goodness, I finally found you!” Once again, snapping out of his imagination, Frankie turned around and was greeted by the embrace of his frantic mother. “Of course you’d be here! I should’ve checked this aisle first. Don’t you ever leave without telling me”! At once relieved and frenzied, Mrs. Sloane grasped Frankie’s hand and immediately headed for the checkout counters. One by one, their goods were swiped and bagged, and they headed towards the door, with Frankie still clutching his teddy bear tightly in his arms. His mom was busy checking over their receipt, and his concentration was spent on thinking of names for his new companion. "Frankie, Jr.? No that's too weird. I'm not that old. Maybe Barnum, after the famous paleontologist...?" As they were both engrossed in their own minds, neither of them noticed that Frankie had walked out of the store with the bear. It was only after they had walked half way to the minivan that Mrs. Sloane suddenly looked over at the creature in her son's arms and asked, puzzled, "Where did you get that bear?" Frankie stopped dead in his tracks. It suddenly just dawned on him that he had taken his new soul mate illegally out of the store. His eyes widened in horror; this was the first crime he'd ever committed. He was now officially a thief. The fact that it was accidental made no difference in his mind. In all of his superhero comics, the good guys always strove for justice and truth. The bad guys were the ones who strayed from the law, and they always were punished for it. He thought he was on the side of the heroes, but now he realized he was no different from Scarecrow or Hobgoblin.
"Mom, they're going to send me to jail! What do I do?" Frankie pleaded, on the brink of tears. Mrs. Sloane, seeing her youngest son flustered over a stuffed teddy bear, had to smile. Frankie was a good kid. Then, assuming a serious voice and expression, she replied, "Well son, it looks like you're just going to have to turn yourself in. The police may want to take you in for questioning."
"Okay, I have to deal with the punishment. I deserve it."
Putting the rest of the groceries away in the car, Mrs. Sloane led her son by the hand back to the store. Frankie's head hung low, and in his hands, he limply held the golden brown teddy bear. He was thinking about the confession he'd have to make to the police. They weren't going to let him off easy. As they entered the store, he prepared his apologies in his head. His mom led him to the checkout counter where they had been, and approached the clerk. "I'm sorry to bother you, but my son has something to say."
Frankie took a deep breath, and opened with his admission of guilt: "Hello sir. I have to confess my crimes. I took this teddy bear out of the store. It's very bad and I'm very sorry. Please don't report me to the police!" He earnestly looked at the clerk, mentally preparing to be reported to the authorities. Instead, the man smiled.
"No, don't worry buddy! I saw you bonding with your new friend; I didn't want to interrupt. Plus, it's almost Christmas. It's on me."
Frankie's eyes widened. "Really? After what I did?"
"Well, it was very brave of you to own up to your mistake. It's not a big deal. I actually had a stuffed animal as a kid. A bear, just like yours."
"What was his name?"
"President Theodore Roosevelt, or President Teddy for short. I was a weird kid."
Freddie beamed. The kind man was letting him off the hook! "Thanks! That's what I'm going to name my bear. If you want, I'll name it after you!"
"My name's Zach."
"I'll stick with President Teddy."
The two Sloanes headed out back to the car. Freddie couldn't believe his luck! Not only did he find a best friend, he was also free! Furthermore, besides President Teddy, Freddie realized he gained something else that day. He used to think that good and evil were two distinct classes. You were either a hero or a villain. But now, in light of his heinous crime and subsequent atonement, Freddie recognized that everyone at one-point makes a mistake, but as long as you realized your error and were brave enough to fix it, you could be the good guy. Sitting in the backseat of the car, on their way home, Frankie said to his new friend, "President Teddy, I can be Spiderman and you can be Dr. Octopus. But don't worry; if you apologize to me after, you're still a good bear in my book!"
Thus ends the origin story of how Freddie Sloane and President Theodore Roosevelt came to be partners in crime (or justice). From that day forward, they were inseparable, whether it was weathering the storms together as pirates, riding dinosaurs in the Jurassic period, or facing off as heroes and villains. And, from that day on, Freddie made sure to carefully check out all of his items at the store.