It was just a frumpy little thing. Missing an eye. Torn and resewn over and over. Threadbare, you could barely tell the original coloring of its fur. His nose had been lost many years ago. A mouse-haired little girl had played with him once upon a time. She named him Stripey and took him everywhere.
In the sandpit he was a fierce tiger who often ate little brother’s trucks and toy soldiers. He climbed trees with her and got sap in his fur. At one point she accidentally burned the whiskers off one side while camping, so when she got back home she used scissors to cut off the rest, so that he could “walk evenly again”. He enjoyed mud pies and digging in the dirt for worms. His claws never grew in but she loved him anyway. Night after night he lay in her arms. Day upon day he protected her and loved her and ate cookies with her and got juice on his fur and glue on his nose.
Then one day, she set him up on an old wooden shelf there above her bed along with a few other treasures and trinkets. And he watched with one button eye while she painted her lips and curled her hair and giggled into a little pink box with a glass pane. And the dust slowly fell around him.
Stripey swallowed a sneeze and spat it out his eye in the shape of coal cloud and hovered it over the head of Barbie. He gently sipped at the brief half-baked but blissful respite, on the old paint-chipped shelf that once cradled the stories that would read themselves to her before sleep. It was his only distance from the daily tethering to her hip and juvenile whims.
When twilight hit, Stripey would dream a secret dream, just beyond the backyard hedge that would sew him into a new life quilt; each patch an adventure dashed with different magical hats and colourful characters. He would pass through these patches, into greenest fields, fresher than the crispest winter morning kisses.
Without warning, those kisses turned icepicks on his threaded lips. Stripey’s remaining wonky eye was seized by the frost of bottomless spent days, dragged along gravel grounds by ungrateful brats with snot painted palms and cheese grating chuckles. His lumpy stuffing neck cocked to the side, while floppy bear arms slackened into long, attached furry scarves.
The lass dropped her vanity things with bewilderment. Her glassy blue bells inflated while those glossy lips split to shriek. They became warm cushions to the matted fur of Stripey’s gags coiling around her dumb face, over her mouth, across her nose, tight. He gripped his most heartfelt hug for five eternity minutes and released.
The little girl slumped, lethargic onto her coffin bed; Stripey propped her head with care, as he snuck a pink, silk pillow under it and let it sink. With loose button dangling slightly, and thread grin curling cute, Stripey the Threadbare fixated on her porcelain doll eyes and veiled her in the softest patchwork quilt of his own making.
tara caribou & Anthony Gorman | ©2018
I had this set of photographic images running through my mind that scratched and scrabbled to be freed. I knew that when released, it would be Grumpy Gorman over at hands in the garden who would fully visualize it with me. I actually did not tell him the story or how it ended, just how it had begun. And yet he, too, saw the grisly ending to love and betrayal. After this, go check his shit out, okay? Sweet dreams….