Sunday, March 22, 2009


Truth is like a loose thread, sometimes you pull it and it breaks off clean, never to unravel again. Other times you pull at it, hoping the thread will break but instead it unravels the whole edge, the more you pull the more the fabric comes undone until it’s nothing but a stringy, tangled mess and cutting the thread can’t save it anymore.

Everything was different now; nothing looked the same. When a veil is lifted everything that had been fuzzy and dim before becomes clear and crisp; the details sharp and in focus. Nola wanted to go through it all, each memory, each story, with newfound knowledge she wanted to revisit every significant aspect of her life and look at it from this new perspective, to see how it had really been, to catch the fragments of truth she had missed. Something as mundane, as seemingly innocent as a tattered teddy bear brought a clarity Nola hadn’t even known was missing.

“Bear-Bear”, as he had been known since Nola could remember being alive, was a teddy bear she had since birth, originally a gift from Grandee. Only he barely resembled a child’s stuffed animal anymore, let alone something specifically bear-like. He was little more than a stitched together rag with the remnants of two eyes and a nose. Nearly all his fur was gone, as were his ears, he had a stub where one of his arms had been and like Frankenstein’s monster he had a random pattern of zigzag stitches holding him together. Kate used to joke he’d been loved to death. She would tell how Nola took him everywhere, that he was her favorite toy, that he’d been peed on, vomited on, left in parks on swings and in the yard during snow storms. Poor Bear-Bear, she would say, but he was still loved, despite his bedraggled appearance.

It was true, Bear-Bear held a special place in Nola’s heart, he had a special place in her room to this day, on a shelf, tucked enough behind her books that prying eyes wouldn’t notice and he was spared ridicule, yet a bit of his face peeked out enough that she could see him, she knew he was there. Bear-Bear was still her guardian, her faithful companion.

But now Nola looked at the disheveled remains of her Teddy bear with different eyes. This was her favorite toy, her beloved little bear. How did it get in this condition? How did it get left behind in the park, left outside in the rain and the snow, why was the dog put in the room where her toys were that day so that she could chew whatever struck her canine fancy? Nola wouldn’t have let that happen to Marcy’s doll, she watched over her for Marcy because she knew that if something happened to that dolly Marcy’s little heart would be broken. That’s what you did for a little kid, you watched over them and made sure they were safe and you took care of what was important to them because that was part of it, protecting their heart from being broken was part of it.

Nola’s heart had been broken that day. She could feel the pain, the agony of that horrible day discovering the chewed remains of Bear-Bear when she came home from school and went to the playroom. She opened the door and Sheba came running out, glad to be let lose from her confinement. Kate had kept “that damn dog” out there all day, and a bored dog was a destructive one. There was shit and piss all over her doll blankets, fluff and padding from various stuffed creatures, now savaged, lay all over the floor with body parts of vinyl dolls and scraps of fur. The carnage was shocking, Nola tried to scream but no sound came out. And then she saw Bear-Bear, or what was left of him. He was decapitated and missing limbs, ripped apart like some horror movie victim. She barely remembered what happened after that, just bits and pieces of her mother being hysterical at the dog, of her trying to clean up the mess while telling Nola it would be alright, they would get her new toys. Only Nola didn’t want new toys, she wanted her own, she wanted her babies and her animal friends and most of all, more than anything else she wanted her Bear-Bear. She needed to rub his fur between her fingers and suck her thumb, she needed to feel him in the crook of her arm as she slept. He was her best friend and now he lay in rags and ruin.

Grandee came and tried to sew him back together, “good as new”, but of course he wasn’t. Still, Nola had been comforted some by her grandmother’s soothing voice as she sewed what bits and pieces she could find back together, creating a new version of Nola’s beloved. He still had the bit of fur on his arm where she liked to rub it, still lay in the crook of her elbow as she slept. Nola was devoted to him for many more years after that, but something had been lost, something had been taken from her forever. As damaged beyond repair as the bear had been.

And now today it was as if the pain was fresh, as if the last bit of her innocence had been trashed along with her toys, ripped to shreds by the hungry mouth of realization. It was her mother, not “that damn dog” that had really been to blame all those years ago. She had carelessly put the dog in the playroom, not another room where she might damage Kate’s or Graham’s belongings, but in the room where Nola’s precious friends were, in the room she played and sang and chatted happily to objects that listened to her in a way no one else did. Kate hadn’t given a second thought to what might happen.

Instead she told you how much she loved you without looking at you. She said motherhood was sacred and children were precious but then she locked chewing dogs in rooms with toys and told stories of favorite bears being loved to death instead of the truth…that nothing can be loved to death, only carelessly ignored with predictable results. It had all been predictable and yet she didn’t see it. She never saw anything she didn’t want to. Kate didn’t see any of it.

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