I've always had a knack for picking just the right name for things. Not only do I have an affinity for naming everything I own, but I've always been good at choosing just the right, most fitting name.
For example, my favorite childhood stuffed animal was a little sherbet-orange colored teddy bear with the most perfect, shiny, jelly-bean-esque nose. I thought long and hard for the ideal name for him. He was such a loyal friend. Always there for me, in the basement, in my room, we'd even go outside together. After much consideration, I decided the perfect name for him would be simple. Catchy. One that really spoke to his true nature both as a bear and as my life-long friend.
I named him Orange Bear.
Oh, how I loved Orange Bear. I even loved him after his perfect, shiny, jelly-bean-esque nose fell off and rolled under the water heater, never to be seen again. He was disfigured, and I still loved him. Now that is a true testament to our lasting relationship.
One day, my parents decided to have a picnic for us in our backyard. I'm not entirely sure why, or what purpose it served, but there we were, sitting on a quilt in the middle of our wide-open yard, enjoying the sunny day and each other's company.
At the time, we were living in South Dakota, just outside the city limits of Sioux Falls. We lived in a small development, but right past our street there were huge, loping grassy hills with a vast expanse of nothing but raceway for the terrible South Dakota winds. You could see these plains from our backyard, and it gave the feeling of really being out in the country, not immediately on the other side of a busy highway (like we actually were).
So there we were, minding our own business, in our own backyard, having a joyful picnic. Just my parents, my older brother, me, and, of course, Orange Bear. Suddenly, my dad looked up just in time to see a monstrously-sized black dog bounding toward us. Its hand towel-sized pink tongue lolling sloppily out the side of its mouth between sparkling white, dagger teeth. Its gigantic paws hit the ground with each running step like horse's hooves, pounding the dirt and sending chills down our spines with each deep vibration of the Earth's crust. The bottomless blackness of its murderous eyes cut through our very souls. It was headed directly for us.
In a panic, my mom tried to get us children into the house. "RUUUUUN!!" she'd screamed, convinced this clearly rabid buffalo-sized dog was about to consume her children in one gulp.
But we were frozen on our spots. Minds entirely blank from awe and the impending, undeniable black death that was closing in on us.
Closer and closer the black demon dog from Hell came. In a matter of seconds, he was upon us. I could hear nothing but the deafening pounding from my own heart making my ears throb, and the bone-chilling panting breaths of the dog-monster as it closed in on me.
And in the blink of an eye, it was over. The black dog-monster was past us, running back in the direction he had come from. The direction of Hell.
We all looked at each other as nervous laughter escaped. What a close call! And to think, we were scared of the dog! It just wanted to say hi! And here we were. Everyone was fine and dandy. As good as new! Mom and Dad smiled knowingly at each other - they'd successfully averted a disaster. What good parents they were! Brian and I shared in their joy - what obedient and well-behaved children we must be to have escaped the clutches of such a terrible dog-monster from Hell! I turned to share my joyous relief with Orange Bear. But to my absolute horror, Orange Bear was missing. His spot on the quilt was entirely and infinitely empty.
I started screaming for him, "ORANGE BEAR! ORANGEBEAAAAAR!!" Once again, my dad's keen eyes served us well - he caught a glimpse of orange hanging out of the dog-monsters mouth, just as he turned the corner and was gone from our sights for good.
Devastated and frantic, I screamed at my parents that we had to get Orange Bear back. My life would never be complete again without him. What kind of a life was worth living in an Orange Bear-less world, anyway?
Once again, my parents sprang into action. They calmly and rationally told me that we could go around and ask the neighbors if they know who the black dog belongs to. Clearly, this was not a satisfactory answer to me, as that black demon monster from Hell couldn't belong to a HUMAN. It's from HELL, you guys.
After picking up our picnic paraphernalia, we headed out as a family to track down the dog-monster's owner (or his demonic master of torture and all things death). Fortunately, the first house we stopped at believed they knew where the black dog lived (duh, Hell). We headed over to the house she had pointed to and continued our search and rescue efforts.
A kindly-looking older man opened the door and welcomed us inside. He was pleasant enough (for a Dark Overlord from the Pits of Hell). He told us that he did, in fact own a black dog (Warrior of Satan). But unfortunately, he hadn't seen any stuffed orange bear. The dog had come home not too long ago, and he hadn't noticed that he'd been carrying anything.
The man offered us a drink, and my parents sat down to chat with him pleasantly enough. I, on the other hand, was dying inside. While we were sitting here chatting up this stranger (a possible Dark Overlord), Orange Bear was out there somewhere. Probably being tortured by Satan's minions to reveal all his deepest secrets. The devastation at the realization that I might never see Orange Bear again began to wash over me.
But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something that made my heart stop and my blood run cold. A tuft of sherbet-orange colored hair. Sticking out from under the bench of a seat in the next room.
The realization came rushing to me all at once. This man. Was. LYING. He HAD Orange Bear! He was being held prisoner in a wooden bench!! His mouth was probably covered in duct tape, or he'd have screamed for us so we knew he was there. The man was trying to fool us into believing his feeble story by offering my parents coffee. His plan was flawless. Except for Orange Bear's sly attempt at communication. The man must have not seen how Orange Bear squeezed just his one tuft of fur under the cover at the last second. Genius, Orange Bear, simply genius!
I hurriedly whispered to my mom, "There's Orange Bear! I see him!! IN THE BENCH!!" At first she tried to hush me; after all, she was trying to enjoy her bribery coffee and misleading chitchat. But my urgency got through to her. She looked over and recognized Orange Bear's fuzzy butt flare of desperation.
"Um, excuse me," she peeped in quietly, "I hate to be nosy, but my daughter" (thanks for the betrayal, Mom) "thinks she sees her teddy bear over in that bench there. Do you mind if we look?"
Embarrassed, the man stands up and rushes to the bench (all his evil plots unfurling at his feet), throws open the lid, and there, in all his nose-less glory, is Orange Bear. In tact. It looks like we got there just in time to save him before the rigorous torture sessions began.
"Oh dear. My wife must have gotten this from the dog and put it in here without telling me! I'm terribly sorry." A likely story, Mr. Blown-Cover Overlord!! Where is this convenient "wife" of which you speak now?! Oh, she just HAPPENED to run to the store after locking Orange Bear in a dungeon and "forgetting" to tell you? The coincidences are stacking up against you, sir!
As he handed Orange Bear back to me (seemingly reluctantly), I thought I could almost hear his Dark Overlord thoughts drilling through me, "this isn't over yet, girlie. My black Dog-Monster of Doom knows where you live - and we know how to get the answers we want!"
I clutched Orange Bear to me and held him tight. I'd never let him out of my grasp again. At least not till the next best friend stuffed animal came along. But who could possibly replace Orange Bear in the ranks of loyalty and trust? He hadn't even spilled our secrets to the Dark Overlord or his Dog-Monster of Doom. And yet... Blue Panda and Brownie Dog have their good qualities, too... and they both still have their noses.