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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pedro McGraw

I did something immature and idiotic the other day, and bought something upon which my financial advisor would probably frown. I bought a plush toy for $69.

You’d think for that I could get a life-sized giraffe, but this one is barely 17 inches tall.

I had two fuzzy things I liked to sleep with when I was small. One was Pedro, a one-of-a-kind, handmade alpaca fur bear that my dad brought me back from Peru. In 1960 my father got lucky and got to go on a press junket to South America. While he was there, he took the opportunity of the outrageously beneficial dollar exchange rate, and he brought my mother home a vicuna stole and an enormous aquamarine ring set in platinum. My sister got a silver necklace with stone settings, and I got Pedro. It was an expensive set of gifts (at least the girl stuff was,) the likes of which we’d never seen before nor ever would see again.

My dad told me he had bought Pedro at an outdoor market in Peru. He had been hanging, pinned by his ears, to a clothesline.

During his lifetime, Pedro suffered massive abuse. My sister gave him a severe shaving in the belly, and his arms would continuously be twisted off until my aunt fixed them with a button and some heavy thread. Stuffing would often pop out from his leather-padded feet, and patches had to be made. He had a moveable red mouth that had little teeth painted on the inside, and you could make him bite by pinching his mouth shut. Otherwise Pedro always smiled and looked very happy, despite the domestic violence and repeated amputations.

Pedro was one of the few things that my father left me when he died, and I did everything I knew how to do to preserve him and keep him fresh.

Regrettably, I didn’t know that any preservation of large, furry animal skin should include mothballs.

It was like a horror movie. In the back of the closet I found I thought what sufficient protective armor for the furry bear: a black garbage bag. When I opened it up, I saw a dead, decomposing body. I think it even had a stench of decay. Swarms of moths flew out, and I gently removed the barely remaining carcass of Pedro. His face had been eaten away, and his small, stone, beady, gold and black eyes had fallen out. His torso had been eaten clean through, and when I picked him up, most of his fur fell to the floor.

There have been few times in my life where I have literally wailed. Other Bill frequently likes to bring up the time when we went to see The Joy Luck Club at the movie theatre, where I made a blubbering fool out of myself during the last scene in the movie. I don’t know what it is, but a combination of the soundtrack and the sad yet happy news at the reunion just rips me apart. I was still bawling after the credits rolled and the lights came up. People stared and pointed. Now, I can’t even think about it without starting to puddle up. It is one of the most embarrassing parts of my personality, and I cannot control it. Therefore, it’s a prime opportunity for Other Bill to use to tease me.

He has the soundtrack on his Ipod, which wakes us up every morning. When that music comes on, instead of a slow, yawny, cuddling wake-up, I bolt out of bed and run to the other room to feed the dog so I don’t go to work eye-puffy and red-faced. It’s a classic Pavlov’s dog stimulus-response. Recorder music > memory of last scene of film > uncontrollable wailing.

And I wailed when I found Pedro dead and beyond repair. I threw myself onto the couch and sobbed until I was dehydrated and hiccupping. The one meaningful thing I owned that my father had given me, and now it was just a mothy pile of South American fluff and North American moth eggs. Now I had nothing to remember him by except his old broken watch and his monogrammed cigarette lighter, neither of which were soft and furry and smiling. I was practically suicidal when I took his body out to the trash can and had to throw him away. I would have gladly offered myself up to the moths. I would been happy for them to chew off my arm in lieu of destroying my precious bear. I called sister and mother and reported it like a death in the family. I was 26 then. I’m sure they were thinking, “Oh, grow up!”

Five years ago I remembered there was a second fuzzy friend I used to sleep with. It was this blue Quick Draw McGraw plush toy. Although I knew that I’d never be able to replace Pedro, I was willing to bet it would be possible to get a Quick Draw clone on eBay.

Quick Draw had been second class citizen from day one. He was probably just a Christmas present from Santa one year, and I don’t recall what happened to him. He didn’t carry any sentimentality whatsoever, compared to Pedro. I assume I just outgrew him and tossed him out or handed him down to a younger second cousin or something. Nevertheless, he was a production animal, so surely there would be replacements available.

And for 5 years, every time anything went up on eBay that contained the words “Quick Draw McGraw”, my eBay robot would send me a message. There were comic books, Little Golden Books, lunch boxes, thermoses, and crappy 21st-Century-Made-in-China-And-Probably-Stuffed-with-Lead plush toys, and cereal bowls. But no blue doll.

And then, finally one showed up. I figured I’d give fifty bucks for it. Someone else paid $165. Then suddenly, more started to appear, hoping to cash in on similarly ridiculous bids. The second and third ones went for over $80. I missed the fourth one, because I neglected to read my e-mail that week. Finally I got one, and he arrived yesterday. A little dirty, but considering he was made fifty years ago, not that bad. His label says he’s washable. I believe I’ll think twice before tossing a $69 investment into my Lady Kenmore.

I tried sleeping with him last night, but he just ended up getting in the way, and I found him on the floor this morning. That is a dangerous place for him to be, judging from the chop-licking and drooling Bungee displays whenever she gets near him. I don’t want to come home and find piles of blue fluff scattered all over the house. I don’t need another horror movie or reason to wail in my house, so he will remain on a high shelf out of that dog’s reach. She’s the world’s biggest moth.

I’m a little sad to think that I am too old to sleep with something old and soft and fuzzy and stuffed. But then I remember I do that every night with Other Bill, especially on salad buffet nights. Really, though, I can only sleep on my right side so my back doesn’t hurt. I could sleep on my back, but that causes snoring, and subsequent poking and shaking and waking by you-know-who.

So you’d think I’d be happy now that I’ve reclaimed a small part of my childhood. If that’s the case, why do you suppose I receive an e-mail from my eBay robot now, whenever there’s a hit for “Peru Alpaca Fur Teddy Bear”?

C’mon. If they sold one, they had surely hand-made more.

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