Your obsession with toys all started with the doll you found in the alley behind that abandoned convent. It was foggy and way past your bedtime. You heard a shriek that turned to laughter, and it was unlike anything you’ve heard before. You recognize that it was a pure accident when you stumbled upon him, but on some deeper level, you almost felt like he chose you. He had a cracked face and was missing hair on his left scalp, and it looked like someone had used that hair to fashion a comfortable-looking Fall jacket. Later, you discovered that the manufacturer of that line of dolls was indicted by a federal grand jury for using human hair in its products, which explains why the jacket looked so robust.
He had one tooth and could move his eyes independently. He was your first friend.
You still remember those endless mornings spent sitting up on the water tower, debating about how much water you could drink if one of you punctured a hole in it with the butcher knife in your lap. How long would it be until you’d expand to twice your size? What if he took the knife and popped you? These questions were a little off-putting at first, but you figured that Roger knew best. For that, you thanked him.
Over the years, you relied on Roger more and more. He told you what toys to buy, how to treat them, and how normal it was to have a talking doll as your best friend. Eventually, he asked that you make him a throne out of old copies of the Scholastic Book Fair magazines your school gave out every year. He said it was something about proving his “fundamental dominance over the intellectual class,” so that he could sustain a “Stalin-like grip of iron authority.” There were some growing pains at first, but eventually all the other toys fell in line and proved themselves to be valued members of your society.
In truth, you don’t know what you would do without Barry, Tonya, and Roderick, the three stuffed mice who were blinded after a disagreement with Roger over a plate of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Or Danforth, who suffered a debilitating injury to his spinal cord after refusing to play the game “Throw Danforth at this Wasp Nest.” Danforth used to have the suave skills of James Bond and could defeat enemies with a four-directional robo-karate chop move. After the accident, he’d taken to sitting in a miniature wheelchair by the window and writing poetry in the vein of 19th-century Romanticism.
They were your friends and family for many years, far longer than it would traditionally be deemed appropriate. But by the time the summer before college hit, you had an entire city to run. At that point, Roger was an old mad king who couldn’t tell the difference between a butcher knife and a ham sandwich. He had long since lost his tooth, shaved the other half of his head, and been mostly absorbed by his throne of old children’s magazines.
You were starting to wonder about the future. Way back when you two sat atop that water tower, you thought Roger would be the same forever. You thought for a while that your toys were actually enchanted vessels that harbored the immortal souls of the dead, or so Roger had said. You didn’t prepare for the inevitability of decay.
You knew you couldn’t take them with you. College was for shedding the childish games of yesteryear and capturing your destiny as a strong adult. And even though you’re pretty sure that Roger was able to hear your thoughts, you couldn’t help but admit to yourself that he’d become a bit of a burden.
Then, the thought came to you. They are toys. They don’t need things like sunlight, food, or love. They could probably get along perfectly fine in the dark, comforting, temperature-controlled environment of a storage unit in Pasadena.
And so, in the dead of night, with the help of Barry, Tonya, and Roderick, you carefully moved Roger and all the other toys that you spent your life taking care of. When you looked at your creation one last time, holding the gate of your StorBox unit in your hand, you started to wonder about what you’d see the next time you look inside.
Roger looked happy, and Danforth was already establishing himself as leader of a new democratic republic. You gave Danforth a sly smile, turned, and offered one final salute to the flag that was re-purposed out of Roger’s old jacket. Yes, everything was going to be just fine.