We had one of those days you could make a movie out of. And even the bots know that in a movie, before the happy ending, something bad needs to happen.
The real-life drama began at 10:30 a.m. It set out on a quest: to Toys ‘R’ Us for a bubble gun, Play Doh, and poker chips.
Mbot asked if he could take Junepbear into the store. He sometimes asks, and I always say no. He never fusses. But today, I was feeling extra-magnanimous. I thought, “it’s just a quick trip. And if he has one hand filled with Junepbear, then he cannot touch as many toys.” And so I said yes.
We found a bubble gun. We found the Play Doh. (On sale! But it’s cheaper at Target). We checked out. The bots’ behavior was exemplary. Which is why, upon leaving, I stopped when Gbot clambered into the big toy car in the vestibule between the sliding sets of exit doors, wherein lie The Claw game, bubble gum machine, and various other mechanisms meant to lift the last of your change from your pockets. I did not put a quarter in the car.
Nonetheless, Gbot pretended to steer with delight for a few minutes, and then it was Mbot’s turn. He climbed up, and very carefully set Junepbear on top of the truck. I looked at the enormous floppy old bear there and thought, “We are going to forget him. We can’t forget him. Of course we won’t. There’s no way. He’s huge. He’s blue. The top of the car is red. I am looking right at him. And we’ll only be another sixty seconds.” Sixty seconds later we headed out to the car.
Fast-forward 4 1/2 hours. My niece had come to botsit while I went to a coffeeshop to work. At 2:40, I left the coffee shop for home via Toys ‘R’ Us because I’d forgotten the poker chips. I got them. I returned home at 3 o’clock and decided to load everyone up with the hope of driving them quickly to sleep. As my niece strapped them in, I went searching for bears. Found none. Checked the car. Not there. Under the beds I found Spruce Bear. And that’s when I remembered the last place I’d seen Junep. On top of the play car at Toys ‘R’ Us. The one I had twenty minutes ago walked right past. Lying trustingly against the red paint. Waiting patiently and silently. An empty dread filled my ribcage. I ran through the house again, looking everywhere. But the bear had left the building.
Mbot, mercifully, did not fully grasp the gravity of the situation. He was cheerful that we were going back to the toy store. But what if someone had walked off with Junep? Look! A free bear! A big one! It was unthinkable.
I broke the speed limit heading south. Now that my registration is current, I was only breaking one law, not two at once, which is a key, a former boyfriend pointed out long ago, to avoiding run-ins with the law (see The Ex-Con’s Rule).
We marched into the vestibule. Another cold flash as I saw the red top of the car: empty. We marched to the customer service counter. I knew before we reached it that Junep wasn’t there. He would have been on top of a counter. The employee persisted, even after I’d described the missing party, to look in cupboards into which he could not possibly fit. I was irritated but at the same time I appreciated her perseverence. She called someone on her walkie-talkie. No one had heard of Junepbear. “Thank you,” I said. Mbot remained mercifully unconcerned, sure that the universe would spit his beloved back out. Sure that his bear was back home on his bed.
On the way out, we re-entered the vestibule. We would look there again. Gbot broke free and climbed back up into the driver’s seat of the play car. I turned to watch him–and there on the floor, wedged between the car’s rear wheel and the Claw game, was a crumpled, raggedy lump of faded blue. I believe I closed my eyes in relief and felt another wash of emptiness in my chest and abdomen, a “but what if….” I picked up Junep. I handed him to Mbot, who smiled brightly and held him tight. “You’re here!” he cried, and Mbot constructed an elaborate and entirely fictional narrative about why the bear was there, and I’m afraid I was so awash with relief that I can’t remember a word of it.
The symmetry–or asymmetry–appeals to me: that loving something so much and so long and so hard actually raises the chances that others will find it physicaly unappealing. It’s some kind of good karma, what you love coming back to you.
But Junepbear has totally lost his shopping privileges.