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A Teddy Bear Named Coffee Bean
It’s hard to talk when your mouth is sewn shut. Trust me, I know.
I’ve really never felt the need to complain though. There wouldn’t be anyone to listen to me even if I could have talked. I lived on the windowsill right between Boop-de-Boop the robot and Sarah Cries and Eats doll, and neither one of them could even look at me without their batteries turned on. Naturally, they weren’t very big talkers. So the idea of a sewn mouth hasn’t ever really bothered me; it’s barely even crossed my mind.
When the door opened, there was a pause. A second of preparation. There was nothing more anticipated than that creaking door and the little “Hello everyone!” that followed immediately after. But today, there was no “Hello everyone!” There was no little giggle or twirling of a brand-new dress. There was just silence as two much too tall people walked in.
One looked like Ariadne’s daddy and the other like her mommy, but they weren’t Ariadne’s parents. Ariadne’s daddy had skin darker than my fur, while this grown-up had skin whiter than Peter Polar Bear’s fur. The other one had light skin like Mommy, but she had Frank the Firetruck red hair tied up like trapped flames instead of golden locks.
Ariadne’s parents followed with rosy, tear-filled faces. I waited for Ariadne, my girl, to dance in after them, but she didn’t.
The grown-ups all whispered among themselves. “Ariadne may have been kidnapped,” whispered Firetruck worriedly.
“Or she just ran away,” countered Polar Bear, crossing his arms. “We don’t have enough information yet. Let’s head back to the precinct.” Firetruck frowned, but nodded. The four grown-ups hurried out of the room.
It was early morning and the sun had just peaked in through the windows. Dust swam through the sunlight like the little multicolored fish that Ariadne had once. After a couple days, the fish had stopped swimming, and Ariadne’s parents took him away. Ariadne asked them where her fish had gone. Daddy responded, “I’m sorry, Ari, but Rainbow ran away.”
I wondered if this was a similar case. The people in black kept talking about running away or kidnapping. I would’ve known if someone took my girl. Wouldn’t I?
I sat guard here every night. It had been my job to protect her from bad dreams, especially since Dreamcatcher left.
I dove back into my stuffing for the memory of the past night. Suddenly, the scene morphed before my eyes. Everything got a little darker as the sun condensed its light into the moon’s single ray on the ground. In the corner, a strawberry attached to the wall glowed with a calming light. The little princess alarm clock blinked 2:27 in a bright pink light. The night outside was quiet except for the rumbling of a car. My ears were tuned on the bed in front of me and the steady breathing coming from it. There was a little shape burrowed in the Barbie comforter with a little bob of blonde hair.
There had only been one nightmare. I remember trying to calm her. I sent thoughts of princesses and butterflies to her, but she still stirred and whimpered. That was when I went in.
Everything seemed fine in her dream. Actually, it seemed like nothing was different from the bedroom. Suddenly the window blew open. A grown-up sized figure dressed entirely in black leaped in through the opening. In the moonlight, I saw the black water gun strapped to his side and miniature sword in a miniature holster. He wore a funny black mask to cover his face.
The figure took slow, stalking steps forward. Left. Right. Left. A shadow as black as his clothes fell over Ariadne, and the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees. With extremely graceful movements, the figure placed his hand around Ariadne’s mouth. Instantly, Ariadne’s eyes snapped open. Ariadne tried to scream, but the sound was muffled by the figure’s fat fingers. The figure chuckled like he was playing some sort of game. It was no game I had ever seen before, and not one that I liked.
The shape picked up my girl and forced her to her feet. Ariadne fought and kicked at the figure, but the shape was strong. He pulled Ariadne across the floor to my windowsill. Ariadne grabbed my arm with her free hand. The world spun into a kaleidoscope for a second, and I felt something yank me from the opposite end. My legs were caught on the windowsill.
The figure climbed out onto the sturdy tree branch that hung over the front lawn. Ariadne’s legs squirmed like worms in the figure’s grip. She clutched my paw in her small fingers, anchoring her to the room. The figure pulled and pulled. It was tug-of-war.
But I was hopelessly outmatched. With a sickening snap, my seams popped. My arm flew off with Ariadne and the dark shape.
The color abruptly returned to the scene. The sunlight returned to full power, and the room was just as empty. No giggle. No laugh. No Ariadne.
The figure was just part of Ariadne’s dream. It couldn’t have been real, so why was everyone worried? Unless...
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw little tears on my legs erupting stuffing. I saw my left paw, but I couldn’t see my right. Could it actually have happened? Could that figure have actually stolen Ariadne?
Every time the phone rang or the doorbell sang through the day, I wished I could just rip open my mouth and spill what had happened. The grown-ups in black came and went several times through the day, but there was no sign of Ariadne. I wanted to scream at them, but I couldn’t even move. There was just a little smile sewn on my little cheeks. I was just a little happy teddy bear. Nothing more.
“I called her friends,” Polar Bear told Firetruck as they came in for the fifteenth time.
“No good. She’s not there.”
Firetruck walked over towards me and gazed out the window. “Oh George, can you even imagine?”
“Imagine how that little girl is feeling,” whispered Firetruck, hugging her arms around herself. “That poor little girl. I wonder what even happened last night.”
I wanted to rip off my remaining paw and throw it at them.
As a bird cooed, the first rays of dawn hit my fur. Outside, the mailman honked his little horn. The rumbling of his car idled as I heard him step onto the sidewalk and walk up to the front door, right below the window. I heard the doorbell ping and the door unlock.
Another loud rumbling replaced the mail truck’s gurgle. The doorbell yelped again tiredly.
With loud elephant sounds, Firetruck and a man with a black caterpillar hanging above his lips marched in. Ariadne’s parents followed closely behind them.
The whole room felt a little too crowded for my taste. Ariadne would never appreciate this. There were too many dirty shoes on her carpeting. Too many angry faces. And way too many tears. Had she been here, there would already be a tea party brewing.
“There were no other leads,” Firetruck reported to Ariadne’s parents. “We had to come back and see if we missed anything.”
Mommy hugged her chest and rocked on her heels. Caterpillar went over to console her with a forced smile. Detective Firetruck stepped out of the door to speak with a little gray box. She returned shortly after with eyes almost as wild as Mommy’s.
Suddenly the door ripped open again. My stuffed heart did a little jump in my chest, but Ariadne didn’t walk in. It was another child, not mine. This child was a boy, slightly older than my girl. His face was bloated like a balloon and he had a horrible case of freckles.
“Frankie,” Firetruck exclaimed with a huge sigh of relief. “There you are. You weren’t answering my calls!” she chided.
Firetruck went over to him and looped her arm around his shoulder. “Captain, Mr. and Mrs. Minhot, this is my son, Frankie. It’s a occupation day in his school. Do you mind if he stays with us?”
Mommy nodded absentmindedly as Daddy put a protective arm around her shoulders.
Frankie walked around the room. He didn’t seem particularly interested in anything. He just kept wrinkling his nose, as if he smelled something disgusting. Frankie went from object, squinting up his face. Finally the kid came towards me. He paused and made a raisin face. Frankie’s freckles came closer until his snotty nose was on my fur. It was not a pleasant experience.
“Ma,” he said into my fur.
“What is it Frankie?”
“This bear smells funny.”
I was slightly insulted.
“What do you mean?” Firetruck asked, coming towards us.
Frankie picked me up by the neck, a very uncomfortable position, and shoved me at his mother. Her pointy nose jabbed into my stomach. She pulled back and then jabbed her beak into me again. “What is that? Coffee?”
Mommy frowned and gazed her glossy eyes up at Firetruck and me. “What? Oh, that’s Coffee Bean.”
“Wow, that’s a pretty specific name for a four year old to come up with.”?
“My mom made and named him when Ariadne was born. She used some sort of special stuffing that she invented from coffee beans. Only bear like that in the world.”
“He’s missing an arm,” Frankie pointed out.
How embarrassing. I felt so exposed.
“That’s not possible,” Daddy protested, looking up, “Ariadne keeps him in pristine condition.”
Firetruck rubbed her chin and Caterpillar rubbed his caterpillar.
“Was this bear missing an arm before Ariadne went missing?” Caterpillar asked.
Mommy frowned. “No, no, I know he wasn’t,” she exclaimed, “because he helped me read the bedtime story.”
“Could his arm have been ripped off when the kidnapper was here?”
“It is extremely possible,” Daddy answered.
Firetruck turned to her son. “Did you see the arm anywhere?”
Frankie shook his head. Everyone searched the room top to bottom like pirates searching for buried treasure. I wasn’t surprised when they couldn’t find my missing limb. “Do you think,” Mommy began, “that maybe she took it with her?”
“And with the stuffing falling out all over the place...” Daddy began.
“We could send out the dogs to find her,” Firetruck grinned, pulling out her little box. She brought it to her ear and spoke.
In less than twenty minutes, a car pulled up to the sidewalk with four large, horse-like dogs. Firetruck shoved me at the dogs’ noses. I had never wanted to visit the washing machine so badly before.
The dogs had the scent and that was all that mattered. Firetruck clutched me in her fist and flew after the dogs with Mommy, Daddy, and Caterpillar close behind. The dogs raced through the trees like brown cheetahs.
Firetruck shifted me so that I faced backwards. I only saw Mommy and Daddy struggling to jump roots and duck under branches. When they both stopped and gasped, I had no idea what they saw. I heard only the frantic beating of Firetruck’s heart.
Then I felt it.
The frightened glow of a girl fighting a nightmare. Ariadne was close. I could feel it in my stuffing.
Suddenly, everything went dark around me. As I glanced around, I realized that we were inside of a cave. A squealing sound echoed from further down the cave.
I knew that squeal well. Very well. I wanted to scream out in joy.
But the squeal turned piercing. The darkness of the cave was overtaking the glow.
The light was dimming.
Zap! It was gone. Just like that. Black, hopeless, bitter darkness. Grief threatened to overwhelm me.
The dogs barked, bringing me back to the scene. The handlers called back for Firetruck. She found one last burst of energy and sprinted to their voices. Sweat rolled down her arms onto my fur, but I didn’t care.
Nothing mattered if there was no light.
“You have the right to remain silent,” began one of the handlers, faintly visible in the light of an old electric lantern. I didn’t bother looking at the monster he spoke too. I had seen enough of that shadow to last me a lifetime.
Instead I saw a table covered with sundry food boxes, a rusted bucket, a metal cot, and... My heart burned in my stuffing. A little shape with a bob of blonde hair sprawled lifelessly on the floor. Mommy flopped to the ground next to the shape and let out a blood-curdling shriek. “She’s not breathing!”
Firetruck ran to her side and dropped me to the hard, cold ground. She put her hands on Ariadne’s fragile body and pumped up and down. “Come on Ariadne,” she begged.
Tears soaked Firetruck’s eyes. Those eyes searched the cave until they landed back on me. The detective grabbed my remaining arm and pulled me to Ariadne’s side. She shoved my arm hole at Ariadne’s nose, but the dog slobber had done its toll on the hole. With a wild cry, the fire-haired grown-up ripped off my other arm and my head. She placed all the parts under Ariadne’s nose. I felt my eyesight fading just as a little blip of light burst on my radar.
Ariadne’s eyes opened just as mine closed.
After a visit with Grandma and a little new stuffing, I reclaimed my place on the windowsill. Perhaps there was a reason why my mouth was useless and my stuffing special. If it was reversed, I could’ve told the detective that Ariadne had been taken, but nothing more. No, I was gifted with the ability to lead them right to my girl and wake her up from her worst nightmare ever.
No conversation with Boop-de-Boop or Sarah Cries and Eats could ever beat that.