To the casual observer, Alfie Roscoe Higginbotham’s parents appeared to not love him at all. They divorced when he was just getting the hang of saying ‘mama’ and ‘dada,’ and, both being very busy lawyers were largely absent. On top of all this, they saddled him with the name Alfie Roscoe Higginbotham. When Alfie left home for school, even the other children realized how cruelly he’d been named, and took great pains to show him what a terrible name it was. Between the taunting, being an only child, and his parents’ business with work, it would be easy, even understandable, if one thought that Alfie Roscoe Higginbotham would have a terrible childhood. However, this was most certainly not the case. Although Alfie had no friends his own age and his parents were always busiest with work on the week that he was staying with them, he was loved.
Alfie had not one, but two large rooms. One at his mother’s house, and the other at his father’s. Each of these rooms was filled with mountains of toys purchased for him by parents attempting to fill the gap they left with gifts. His parents purchased him more toys that any child could possibly have time to play with. It seemed like each evening there was a new board game to add to the piles. Stuffed pink elephants, and great big stuff wooly mammoths large enough for him to sit on like a rocking horse, along with bears, lions, tigers, countless varieties of dogs and monkeys all became part of the two zoos he cultivated.
He had crates filled to the brim with action figures, often many of them duplicates, and each of them always missing at least one of the tiny accessories meant to fit in their kung-fu grips. At his father’s house, he had a vast arsenal of toy guns, both pistols from westerns with caps that let forth a loud POP and a wisp of smoke when you pulled the trigger to sleek, futuristic laser guns that ate batteries and beeped. Along with the guns he had at least three bows with arrows tipped with suction cups and a motley assortment of plastic swords, shields, axes and knives.
One time, after watching a particularly exciting science fiction show, he snuck one of his laser pistols over to his mothers house. He, the cook, and the maids were in the middle of reenacting some of the more exciting bits of the program when his mother came home. She was not pleased with the toy. There was a long, angry, and, most importantly, loud phone conversation before she threw away the toy and had a long talk with him about shooting people, even imaginary ones. Alfie was sad, not because he lost the toy pistol (in fact, his father bought him two new ones to replace the one that his mother had gotten rid of), but because he thought he had caused trouble for the staff at his mother’s house. That evening though, the cook slipped an extra scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream into his bowl at dessert, which brightened his mood considerably.
After the incident with the laser pistol, his mother started to purchase him vocational toys. He was gifted in short order, a chef’s kitchen playset, a doctors bag playset, a handyman playset, and box after box of building bricks. The handyman playset was soon taken away, when his mother found him using the saw and hammer from it to swap the brains of the cook and the maid. This resulted in his mother having yet another long phone conversation with his father and him losing television privileges at both houses for two entire weeks. Fortunately the maids at both his parents’ homes let him watch t.v. anyway. They both told him that what his parents didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.
So, you see, despite not having any children his own age to play with, and with both parents largely absent Alfie still managed to have a moderately happy childhood. Until one day, quite suddenly, his father died. Everyone was very comforting to him about this time. His mother allowed him to pick three of his favorite toys to bring with him when he moved to her house, provided none of them were weapons. He had a hard time digging through the mountains of toys to choose his favorites, but decided upon his large stuffed woolly mammoth, a caveman riding a tyrannosaurus rex, and a rabbit space captain who he had lost the small laser pistol for. He was loaded into the back of his mother’s car by her chauffeur as his fathers house staff waved teary farewells with their handkerchiefs.
A year later, his mother died quite suddenly too. This time everyone talked about the poor boy whose parents had worked themselves to death and what was to become of him. None of his relatives in the city could take care of him, and eventually it was decided that he should go and stay with an eccentric uncle out in the countryside. So for the second time within a year, Alfie found himself sorting through stacks of toys, choosing three more to join his cave man, woolly mammoth, and space captain rabbit. This time he added to his rapidly shrinking collection a large stuffed grizzly bear, a cowboy with legs that formed half a circle (missing the horse that accompanied him), and a super hero with a real cloth cape. Then, for the second time, he found himself being loaded into the back of a long black car as he was driven out to the countryside where his uncle’s house was.
At this point, dear reader, you’re probably expecting to hear how how the uncle was a slim, ornery man who hated children and made Alfie’s life miserable, constantly yelling at him and forcing him to do the housework. Rest assured, nothing could be further from the truth. Alfie’s uncle was a writer of children’s stories and television programs with a lively imagination. On top of that he was a rather plump, jolly man, who reminded Alfie of a young Santa Claus, although without all the toys. Many days, when his uncle wasn’t upstairs working, he would be downstairs with Alfie, playing elaborate games of make believe, often including the toys that Alfie had brought with from his parents’ houses.
In a wildly irresponsible manner, his uncle also set very few rools for Alfie to follow. The only real rule was that Alfie was not allowed upstairs, because, as his uncle was fond of saying, “That’s where the magic happens.” Often times Alfie wondered what was upstairs, when his uncle went up to write, there were often thumps and other noises that echoed into the rest of the house. One time, Alfie even swore he heard an elephant blow a great big toot. Sometimes, when his uncle worked, he would sit at the top of the stairs right outside the closed door that separated the upper floor from the rest of the home and played with his toys there. His uncle seemed okay with this, so long as he didn’t actually go through the door into upstairs proper. The two of them settled into a nice familiar routine, and by all accounts, this was the happiest portion of young Alfie’s life.
One day, however, Alfie’s uncle received a phone call. He was needed in town on urgent business with one of the shows he wrote for. There was no avoiding it, and the set was no place for Alfie to hang around all day. His uncle fretted over what to do with the boy while he was away, and ultimately decided that if he had some food in the fridge, he could keep himself entertained at home. After all, it was only one day, what trouble could a boy aged eight get up to in the span of one day? And so, the next morning, his uncle made sure there was plenty of food ready in the fridge, sandwiches, cakes, custards and so forth, and pinned a list of emergency numbers by the phone and set off his his beat up old jalopy.
Alfie was used to being alone, and so was having a grand old time. He started the day with a nice custard for breakfast, and then began his play routine at the top of the stairs with his toys. Eventually, toward the middle of the afternoon, his stomach started to rumble with hunger, and abandoning his toys at the top step, he rushed down to grab a sandwich from the fridge. He planted himself on the couch in front of the television, along with his sandwich, a bowl of chips liberated from the pantry, and a nice tall glass of chocolate milk. Soon his stomach was content, and he was lost in the world being portrayed on screen. The couch was so comfy and his stomach so full, that soon he drifted off to sleep.
He jolted awake from a loud thumping noise on the ceiling above him. He was certain he must be dreaming because little motes of dust had been shaken free from the ceiling and were drifting lazily through the afternoon light shining through the window. That’s when more thumping echoed. He pinched himself to confirm that he really was awake. The slight pain roused him the rest of the way. From the time on the clock he could tell that his uncle wasn’t due to be home for at least three more hours, so what could be making all that racket upstairs? Maybe, he thought, his uncle had come home early.
He got up off the couch and made his way to the foot of the stairs. Gazing up the staircase, the door, which had been firmly closed this morning, now hung wide open and his toys were no where to be seen.
Timidly, he called up the stairs, “Hello? Uncle? Are you home?”
In response, he heard a mammoth’s trumpeting and the growling of what sounded like a rather small bear. He remembered his uncle’s one rule about not going upstairs, but certainly if his toys, his only real friends through thick and thin, were in trouble, his uncle would make an exception for him to go and rescue them. Without further hesitation, Alfie stormed up the stairs like a soldier storming a beach in one of the war programs he watched.
As he stomped through the open door the sight which greeted him made his mouth hang wide open like a frog catching flies. The tyrannosaurus with the caveman mounted on his back was lumbering down the hallway in pursuit of the superhero who zipped through the air darting out of his snapping jaws. The woolly mammoth was wrestling the grizzly bear with its tusks, and the cowboy and the rabbit space captain were likewise engaged. His toys, engrossed in their own struggles, did not notice him as he stood there speechless. Just when it looked like one group of toys would best the other, the tide would turn. Finally, Alfie intervened.
“STOP!” he yelled at the top of his voice. Each of his toys turned to look at him. “Why are you fighting?” Each of the toys started speaking, trying to be heard over the rest. After much interrupting he learned that the toys were jealous of the lack of attention they were receiving now. Each toy had been happy when they got their own week with him, but now they had begun to feel neglected when he chose to play with one over the other. It took a bit for him to explain to them that he was actually playing with each of them more, now that he didn’t have to go a week without one group or the other. He wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the toys managed to look embarrassed that they had been fighting.
After making sure each toy apologized to each other toy, Alfie began to play with them all. They were having such a good time and were making so much noise that none of them noticed when his uncle came home and went upstairs to see what the racket was. Alfie expected his uncle to be angry that he had broke the one rule that was set for him, but rather than angry, his uncle seemed relieved. He thought he’d been crazy when his stories started to come to life as he worked up there and didn’t want his nephew to witness such madness, but since Alfie’s toys had come alive too, he wasn’t crazy! From that day forward, Alfie was only not allowed upstairs while his uncle was working, and the rest of the time they all played together, him, his uncle, and all of his toys.
Apropos of: This Challenge from Chuck Wendig. I generated a 6 and an 8 resulting in the Chronicles of Narnia meets Toy Story. I was worried about getting too much of an Indian in the Cupboard Vibe, and really only lifted the portal to a magical realm portion of Narnia. I went slightly over the limit as well! Sorry about that. Thanks for reading.