“Dad!” Charlie called.
I looked up over the edge of my newspaper and frowned at the boy. “What is it?”
“I can’t find Tobi,” Charlie wailed. “I think he ran away.”
“Silly boy, a stuffed toy can’t run away.”
“But he’s gone!”
“Ask your mother to look for him.” I folded my newspaper back up so I could no longer see the boy. After a moment, I heard him leave the room.
I was on the last page of the paper when he returned with his mother.
“Honey, can you take Charlie to the store to get him a new stuffed animal?” she asked.
I sighed and put the paper on the coffee table. There was no arguing with her. “Come along, boy.”
Charlie followed me out to the car and sat in the back with his head hung all the way to the store.
His small hand was sweaty in mine as I led him through the automatic glass doors of the local bargain store. I didn’t say anything, only navigated through the perfectly straight aisles and guided my son around other shoppers on our way to the toy section in the back.
I released his hand as the rack of stuffed animals came into view and nudged him towards it. He stood there staring at the assortment. The store had everything from dogs to giraffes to alligators to dolphins. I frowned. So why was he just staring at them?
“You are too old for stuffed animals.” I started towards him, stopping when I heard that he wasn’t just staring. He was talking to them.
“I’m Charlie,” he said. “And I had a friend named Tobi but he ran away. My mom said I could take one of you home with me now.” He paused, turning his head to survey the entire shelf. “So what are your names? Who wants to come home with me?”
I sighed and moved a little farther away to inspect a rack labeled clearance. It wasn’t more than heartbeats later that Charlie was tugging on my sleeve.
“Let’s go, Dad,” he said. His arms were empty.
“You don’t want one?”
Charlie shook his head. “They’re all silent.”
B. Valdez 3.10.14