When Toys Seek Revenge

toy revenge, toy retaliation,
Maybe they’re all plotting to get back at us. Photo: CC by 2.0 Jason Scragz‘s flickr photostream.

I once wrote about a child who is growing up without any purchased toys, a boy whose childhood is remarkably rich. That doesn’t mean I’m all that high-minded myself. The sheer volume of Lego bricks contained in my home is proof. I also take a childlike delight in buying ridiculous toys. In fact, I still glow with pride at finding a bagpipe figure to give my bagpipe-playing son. It’s decked out with authentic looking kilt, sporran, and pipes, but the real thrill is the button that makes it emit a better-than-whoopie-cushion-sounding fart.

But looking at it from a toy’s point of view, being a plaything probably isn’t all fun and games. First, the strain of adoration in the form of grabby little hands and screams of “mine” followed, inevitably, by weeks or months of inattention. Or maybe that’s just how The Velveteen Rabbit felt about it.

No wonder toys tend to get back at us. You’ve experienced this. A Barbie turns up on the passenger seat in an awkward naked pose just when you offer to give your boss a ride. Lego bricks are suddenly underfoot when you have bare feet. The stuffed animal with Velcro paws that somehow snags your one decent silk shirt. Who among us hasn’t been a victim of toy retaliation?

Here are a few of our Revenge of the Toy tales.

Ruth: I work from home and often on our third floor, which seems to be The Land of Creepy Noises. One day, I heard a voice downstairs. That is not a good feeling to have when you’re home alone on the third floor, and we’d had break-ins before, although in another house, but as a result I’m a bit sensitive about hearing people who don’t belong in my house! I crept down the stairs and waited, listening at the bottom. Eventually, I heard talking again, but I couldn’t make out what the voice was saying. I got brave and went looking. Found nothing. Absolutely nothing. For days, I would occasionally hear this voice. Reasonable conclusion: I’ve lost my mind. It wasn’t a toy voice. It was a human voice. At the end of the week, we discovered that the kids had left a book open. But not just a book. The kind of book that grandma can record her voice reading to you. All week, I’d been creeped out by my mother-in-law’s tales of Mater and Lightning McQueen.

Laura: We had a toy called The Insultinator which, as you might imagine, spewed mild insults such as, “You’re a gross slimy weasel,” at the press of a button. Yes, I bought it. I’m so easily amused that I bought another and gave it to friends as a perfectly relevant wedding anniversary gift. Their son discovered it a few years later and couldn’t be parted with it, which explains why it was in his carry-on as the family went through airport security. As he put the bag on the conveyor, the thing went off. Suddenly, the guards could hear someone saying, “You’re a giant ugly obnoxious jerk.” With stern faces, they pulled the bag off the conveyor. That joggled the toy again, and it said, “You’re the ultimate big sloppy loser.” It took several explanations just to get permission to take The Insultinator out of the bag. The whole line behind them backed up as various security officials kept pushing its buttons to make each other laugh.

Sarah: This weekend, we bought our youngest a Poppity Pop Musical Dino. It wreaks havoc if you forget to turn it off. When you walk past it a little too heavily, plastic balls start spitting out at you. We moved the furniture around last night and when I dropped the couch, I had to duck behind it to avoid getting hit by all the little balls

Judy: I was home alone a few years ago (a rarity in itself), and I was enjoying the nice quiet house to get caught up on some writing. I kept getting this creepy feeling that someone was in the house. Every time I’d go take a lap I’d find no one, but swore I was hearing someone talking. Then, suddenly, as I was quietly contemplating the last paragraph I’d written, I heard a very distinct voice say, “Where are you!?” “Where are you?!”

I literally jumped out of the chair and spun around. My heart was racing as I dug through the stuff on the office shelves until I found it… a little Waldo doll that probably came in a Happy Meal, one that repeated phrases when it was bumped. It spoke in the creepiest voice. I don’t like scary movies or being scared, so all it took was a tiny Waldo to creep me out!

Patricia: As a military family, we have to move every 2-3 years. It becomes second nature: Remove the batteries, light bulbs, candles, and cash from your belongings before the movers come to pack things up. It’s a standard practice to minimize theft and damage. On one move, I had to remove over 200 batteries from the kids’ toys! We would hand-carry the batteries and re-install them at our new location. On our 2008 move between North Carolina and Nebraska, I must have forgotten to remove batteries from some of my sons’ wooden Thomas the Tank Engine cars. I could hear two Troublesome Trucks giggling mischievously as the box was dollied out of the house in North Carolina, and again when it came into our new house in Nebraska.

Corrina: The Nintendo 2DS got lost the first week of December. Had no idea where it went. Concluded the son lost it at school or on the bus. When I went to take down the Christmas tree, I found it *inside* one of the boxes with unused Christmas decorations. No, I have no memory of how it got there. At all.  I certainly didn’t put it there. I blame the cats.

Ruth: A few weeks ago, we were at my cousin’s house. Our collection of children was playing with a pair of walkie talkies. My husband and I had *just* watched the episode of Doctor Who with the creepy little boy in a gas mask walking around asking, “Are you my mummy?” We played a game with them where we’d hide one walkie talkie, and they’d use the other one to find it. They went in the other room, we hid the walkie talkie, and despite the fact that he was totally asleep in another room when we watched it, my three-year-old’s voice came out of that walkie talkie, “Are you my mommy?”

Sarah: When our friends moved houses, it unsettled their couch. They realized there was a toy stuck in the mechanism somewhere that they couldn’t reach. Every time you’d flop down on it, you’d get to listen to a nursery rhyme.

Laura: My husband and I were lying in bed one night after I’d just nursed our baby to sleep. We heard a faint and intermittent scratching sound on, or was it in, the wall under our window. Because the baby was sleeping in a bassinet right next to our bed, we kept asking, “Did you hear that?” in the quietest whispers we could manage. After we confirmed that we weren’t imagining it, we couldn’t sleep. As you know, once you attune to an annoyance it becomes vastly more annoying. We eliminated possible causes like tree branches (weren’t any) and heating system (wasn’t on). My husband and I both slipped out of bed in the dark room, crawling along the floor with our ears to the wall. Whenever we did, there was no sound. Once back in bed, it started up again. We decided it had to be a mouse or squirrel trapped in the wall. That made it worse.

I couldn’t help but imagine those desperate scrabbling little paws, the frantic black beads of the small creature’s eyes. “Back up,” I said to it with my sleep-addled mind, as if I could send it thought messages. “Breathe out to make yourself small.” The man I loved next to me clearly wasn’t on the same page. “It’s trapped,” he whispered. “It’s going to die in the wall and stink up the place. I should kill it now.” He discussed various methods of death and extraction while I, in a heightened emotional state of postpartum exhaustion, decided I’d married the wrong man. It was suddenly obvious I’d vowed to spend my life with some kind of monster. Using poor judgment, I shared that thought with him. Then we lay awake, me weeping with sorrow in the quietest way possible and he fuming. In the morning, we discovered the real source of the sound. Our son’s remote control car was under a rocking chair in our room, right next to the window. Intermittently, it picked up enough random radio signal to scoot back and forth slightly, scraping its antennae against the wooden chair seat. The creature that threatened our marriage didn’t exist. Yeah, we felt silly.

Stay strong, remember toys are supposed to be fun, and share your Revenge of the Toys tales with us in the comments.

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.