My Toy Story

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I can’t watch Toy Story. Yeah, I know all about it and I wish I could indulge, but … I have a very complicated relationship with stuffed animals and kids’ toys. Sure, they’re fun and fluffy—when they want to be. And yes, they give my niece’s room this sweet, homey, family vibe.

But I won’t go into that room by myself. I’m not an idiot.

I hear them whispering as I walk by. Chuckling. Taunting. And I don’t like the things they say to me or about me.

By Tom Hoover: My Toy Story of Mean Stuffed AnimalsOf course, I know that some of you will just think I’m being paranoid when I tell you that I can feel their creepy little plastic eyes following me when I walk past the stores in the mall. You laugh at me when I won’t go into Toys “R”Us. You jokingly buy them for me at Christmas, laughing when I open my “gift.”

Because you never see the look they give me before I pull them out of the box.

The evil, stuffing-eating grin.

It all started when I was four or so. I had this big plastic pony that I could ride—he was spring-mounted on a metal frame so little-boy-me could do rodeo moves and gallop around imaginary canyon corners. Chasing bad guys. Rounding up cattle. We had such adventures, Trigger and me. We were best friends.

But in my dreams, my best friend would try to bite me. My stuffed wiener dog, Pooch, would encircle me like an anaconda and squeeze. The dolls my mother collected would gang up on me and push me down the stairs.

Then it started happening when I was awake. Trigger would smile his mean horsey smile when my mom turned her back on him. Pooch would lie at the foot of my little bed and growl when I was alone. The dolls would point and laugh when it was just me—but they were on their best behavior when other people were around.

Of course they were.

I have been targeted. And it’s obviously personal. I don’t know what happened, what I said or did to offend them. But sometime, somehow, I must have done something that set them off. I tried taking the high road. I begged every teddy bear, Paddington, and Velveteen Rabbit that ever guarded a little girl’s bed: Tell me what I did, and I will make amends.

But will they listen? No. They don’t want reconciliation. They want vengeance.

“You wanna piece a’ me?” I scream, my face plastered against the display window. “C’mon. Face me like a man, you toy.” Then I mock them with physical comedy. They have tremendous self-control, I’ll give them that. A lot more than the mall janitors do when they come to chase me off. Yell things at me as they Windex my angry nose prints off the glass.

But maybe they’re right.

Maybe I should switch to decaf.

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