It was the usual Tuesday afternoon. Hot, sunny, the mommy-broads chattering like birds as they sat on the hard green benches. The other lugs sat around the sandbox, jabbering and blabbering about nappies and pacifiers and when they were gonna score their next gummy snack. It was hard listening to them; I’d kicked the gummies to the curb weeks ago, but just thinking about them made my hands shake. I should have listened to my doctor when he said the sugar was poison.
I was trying to think of something else when I saw her. Big blue eyes, curls of blond hair, plump gams that let a man know she wasn’t afraid to walk on her own…and all over your heart. Her pink jumper was expensive and classy; no smears of peas or juice on the pristine material. She scanned the park, turned her nose up, and sashayed away. Pretty but high maintenance; too posh for the likes of me, but nice to look at. I’d sworn off women the same day I swore off the poison. Both would kill you quicker than you could breathe.
Her sweet voice made me look up. There she stood, little Daisy, all doe eyes, pigtails, and red dress. I liked Daisy. She was a good dame, too nice for her own good. I pulled my pacifier from my pocket and chewed on it.
“Sammy, I need help.”
“I don’t go in for that anymore, Daisy. Not since…” I couldn’t speak of the clown incident. It was still too painful.
Her eyes filled with tears and she sniffled her little nose. “But Paddy’s gone!”
The desperation was hard to hear. Harder to ignore. “What’d ya mean, gone?”
“Kidnapped! Oh, Sammy, someone took him and left me this note.”
She shoved a paper at me. The thing was lousy with purple crayon and pointy hearts. It was a hideous warning I wanted to ignore. But I knew Paddy; he’d helped me through hard times, held my hand when some scum lug had whacked a swing into my head. I couldn’t walk away.
I put my pacifier back into my pocket. “All right, Daisy. When’s the last time you saw – “
Benny ambled up, a wide bully with a big mouth. “Hi ya, cutie. Wanna come see my sandcastle?”
Daisy stomped on his foot. She didn’t mind a little retaliation; I liked that about her. “You’re a brute, Benny. Go stuff your sandcastle!”
I almost laughed. “Amscray, Ben.”
He sneered, but steered away, aiming himself for the new girl. Good luck, I thought, and turned back to Daisy.
“So, when’d ya get the note?”
“It was in my car seat this morning. Oh, Sammy, you don’t think they’d hurt him?”
The last thing I needed was a nervous dame. “They won’t pop him.” At least not yet. “You seen anyone out of the ordinary at your house? Anyone hanging out?”
She shook her head. “Nothing.”
“You go any place you don’t usually?” Lots of times people left their things behind when they were excited.
“The grocery store…cleaners…Benny’s place on Wednesday – “
That perked up the peepers. “Benny’s? Why’d you go there? You didn’t go to score gummies, did ya?”
She glared at me. “I don’t need bootlegged poison, Sammy. Mommy keeps raisins for me. We dropped off a cake for his daddy’s birthday.”
I snorted. “Fine, you didn’t go for poison. Did you take Paddy in?”
“No, I left him in the car. I was afraid he’d hurt him, and Paddy’s just a little bear.”
I nodded; Paddy was a sweet puluka who wouldn’t hurt a fly. “Did you see him after that?”
“Well…I…no.” Her eyes got even bigger. “You don’t think Benny…but he was inside the whole time!”
I didn’t want to do it, but I knew I had to talk to the blockhead. I toddled over to him, rolled my eyes when I heard him making a play for blondie. She tossed her hair and stuck her chin up.
“Benny, I gotta question for ya.”
He turned and sneered. “What’d ya want, Sam? Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Yeah, sure.” The blonde wrinkled her nose at me. “Anything strange happen in your neighborhood this week?”
Benny swung his pacifier on its chord and tried to look tough. “Depends on what you mean by strange. The boy next door got himself a dame. With all those pimples it seems strange to me he’d get a girl.”
“Anything else? Anything actually helpful.”
He shrugged. “Same as always. Except Ruby here; she moved in this week. Tuesday, wasn’t it doll.”
She twisted a curl around her finger. “Yeah, what about it?”
I looked at her, saw the heart clips in her hair, and got suspicious. “Mind if I see your hands?”
She gave me a pout but stuck out her chubby fingers. It was exactly what I thought. I stared at her and she snatched her hands back.
“Your stuff still packed up?”
Ruby stomped her foot. “What’s it to you?”
I nodded and pulled my pacifier out of my pocket. “You got something still tucked in a box, sweetheart? Maybe a stuffed animal?”
She gasped. “It’s none of your business, you big mook!”
“Don’t have many friends, do ya?” I chomped on the plastic nub of my pacifier for a moment. “Didn’t have many before. That’s why you took Paddy. You saw an opportunity to have a bear to snuggle until you got yours, and another to force someone to play with you.”
Ruby fell on her diapered bottom and began to sob. I didn’t need to hear the confession. The purple crayon under her fingernails said it all. Benny stared at me, then at Ruby, then back at me.
“She took Daisy’s bear, tried to use him to make Daisy play with her.”
“Please…please don’t tell my mommy!” She wailed so loud the mommy-broads began running over to us.
“Just bring the bear to the Jumpy Palace for our play day tomorrow, and we can forget about it.” I turned to leave, but before the mommy-broads reached us I decided to give her a piece of advice. “You wanna make friends around here, sweetheart, apologize.”
As the mommy-broads bent down to cuddle Ruby and Benny I toddled back to Daisy to give her the good news. I missed this, the thrill of discovery, the sweet smile of relief. Maybe someday I’d be able to get past the clown incident. For now I was happy to know Paddy would be back home by tomorrow night.