** This is Part Two of a two-part post. You can read Part One here.**
So Speaky was a hit.
Actually, that’s sort of unfair to my mom. I mean, I need to own it: she won. She bought the tiger that broke down and crumbled the high hard walls around my daughter’s stuffed animal-proof heart. Speaky turned out to be more than a hit.
Speaky, The Tiger Cub, turned out to be a legend.
At the beach, he came along of course.
I mean I tried to leave him behind, but just once. I figured that he’d become a sand sponge and I’d be the one blamed for letting him track a ton of it back into my uncle’s beach house and so I just nonchalantly mentioned to Violet that we’d leave Speaky there on the bed in our little room and that he’d be happy and wait for us there.
Looking back now, it was probably the most pathetic attempt at strategy in the history of dumb-dumbs on the front. My cute understated off-the-cuff plans to simply leave him behind were a massive tactical blooper on this little battlefield called life.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!,” Violet shot me with fifty hot cannons at once. “We don’t weave Speaky here! We take him to da beach! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
“Okay! Okayokayokayokay!,” I surrendered almost immediately, my thousand white flags appearing through the ghostly smoke, waving that slow weak cowardly wave of the lame-o loser. I just wasn’t prepared for her volley. She was way more into this Speaky guy than I had been able to comprehend. And she would fight for him to the death.
So, we bumbled up onto the beach, me taking my awkward steps across the fine sand in the late-morning sunny gauze, decked out in my rag-tag armor of beach chairs and plastic buckets and two acres worth of pastel-colored towels strung across my arms and shoulders, dripping down off of my back and dragging smooth curly lines into the shifting sands of our recent past. I was the camel-less desert rat suffocating slowly under a ton of exotic spices, a back-alley Lawrence Of Arabia wannabe buried beneath a chainmail of Barnes and Noble bags over-stuffed with Fruit Roll-Ups and juice boxes and toddler sunscreen and rubber frogs and digital cameras and Pull-Up diapers and wipes and napkins dipped in tap water and Zip-Locked away until the melting chewy granola bars came out; I was a walking tornado, a Tasmanian Devil, of entire Walmart aisles colliding with each other. Every clumsy foot I sunk forward moving us ever so slightly toward our chosen five feet of oceanfront squat.
Violet? Yeah, she just plodded there along beside me, nothing in her either of her small hands except the new tiger cub, both of their eyes fixed upon the distant surf’s crash and greeting.
He became a part of our caravan then, Speaky did. Our afternoons became conversations that ping-ponged back and forth between me and the kid and the cat, and even Grammy and Pop-Pop when they were around.
“How is Speaky liking the beach?”/ “Is Speaky hungry for a hot dog from the hot dog man?”/ “Does Speaky want some Goldfish crackers?”/ “When is Speaky’s birthday?”/ “What kind of music does Speaky like?”/ “Is Speaky independently wealthy?”/ “Do you think Speaky likes me at all?”
On that first afternoon, I was helping Violet (and Speaky!) look for seashells when I came across one that I was excited to see poking up out of the sand. Oh hellz yes, I thought to myself, it’s one of those swirly-curly ones that cost three bucks in the gift shops! I had been dreaming of this find for a while. I would present it to Violet- Queen Of The SeaShells and she would love me for procuring it.
I reached down and picked it up.
It was an old hot-wing bone.
Dammit. I felt deflated. Without thinking, I called over to Violet, “Hey Speaky! I found you a dinosaur bone to chew on! They’re the best!”
Vrrrroooooooooom! Violet and her tiger were at my side in milliseconds, and she was absolutely thrilled with my find. A real dinosaur bone for Speaky to have as his treat for, for, for just being Speaky, I guess.
(That old chicken, raised in a mile long industrial barn somewhere in the middle of who-know-where, her whole life spent fighting for two inches of space between the 18 zillion other chickens crowded into her world/always at her chicken-shoulder, she could have never ever ever foreseen that her wild and twisting fate would someday take her to some distant hot oven, then some distant Atlantic beach, to be eaten for a snack/tossed away without regard/buried in the crystal sand/and then resurrected as a leading character, as a ‘dinosaur bone’, smack dab in the heart of a little girl’s imaginary summer vacation pageant.)
The bone came with us everywhere, the same as the tiger. There were two other ‘dinosaur bones’ that soon became a part of a triumvirate too. One was a broken clam shell that roughly resembled a bone and the other one was something hard and glassy and weird that I don’t really know what it was, or is, but is in my life now.
We spent four days that way. Every time we went to the beach, I had to round up Speaky and his three dinosaur bones which I was seemingly in charge of keeping safe and present despite their small stature in the land of vastness, of seas and beaches. No talk was complete without reference to the tiger cub, and he appeared everywhere…in the bathroom, for trips to the boardwalk, to watch television with us in the darkened room as our eyelids fluttered and lifted with end-of-the-dayness.
Her love for the little guy was a walk out into a brand new wilderness, for her and for me. And it was nothing short of mind-blowing to watch it all go down, too. I reckon every parent is lucky enoughto have something similar happen at some point, and when it does it is actually pretty difficult to bottle the thing, to sell a reader who might not have experienced what you have experienced on the real magic of it all.
It’s a tough one, and I know it.
But oh man, I had to try.
I mean, there she was: my baby girl, my firstborn child, the apple of my 40 year old eye, caring for and talking gently to and teaching and cuddling and shoving dinosaur bones at the stitched up jaws of an 11 inch hodgepodge of cheap-o fabric and stuffing at the most unexpected time, from the most unexpected turn of events, and the whole damn situation turns out to be this sweet beautiful stepping stone/turning point/launching pad for a whole new galaxy of love and imagination and fantasy and friendship and who the hell knows whatever else.
So anyways, I guess I gotta say it, huh?
Okayokayokay, here goes.
Yo, Speaky……thanks a lot you little son of a gun you.
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