THE BALLAD OF FRIDGE TEDDY by Ray O'Bannon
Praise the Great and Mighty Fridge Teddy! Things have worked out so tremendously well, and I'm even going to have the last laugh at that crazy old bat next door. I know serving the Magnificent Splendor that is Fridge Teddy is the important thing, but the way that old lady is always scowling at me through her kitchen window, always glaring at me like she thinks I'm up to something... you can hardly blame me if I'm pleased to have her look foolish. And Fridge Teddy says I've served him well, so that's what matters, isn't it?
Before I came here to Aunt Violet's cottage, I didn't understand about Fridge Teddy. I was just supposed to help Aunt Violet do some gardening. She offered me coffee when I arrived, and thanked me for coming over so early in the day. And I noticed Fridge Teddy for the first time as we sat chatting over fresh cinnamon rolls. But Fridge Teddy is wise, and hid his true form from me. I saw only a tiny little stuffed teddy bear that was attached to the refrigerator door by a magnet glued to its back. To it's upper left was a group of little plastic butterflies, and to it's lower right was a little sign proclaiming 'This Mess Is A Place." I would have referred to the little bear as a simple 'fridgey' back then, before The Exalted Fridge Teddy made everything clear to me.
Aunt Violet explained that an elderly friend had become ill, and Aunt Violet would need to spend the day at the hospital. She said she'd try to be back in time to help with the garden, but would at the very least fix me a delicious dinner later. I pulled on an old pair of leather gloves and crossed the backyard to survey the situation. The garden was buried in tall weeds, and I realized pulling them would have to be the first priority. I thought I saw the old lady next door staring at me from her kitchen window, but then the curtains closed and I gave it no further attention.
I plunged into the weeds and began tugging them up from the hard rocky soil. The day grew warm and after several hours I decided it was time for a break. As I headed back to the cottage for a glass of water, I couldn't help noticing the old lady next door once again staring at me from behind her flowery curtains, scowling as though I were a burglar or something.
I entered the kitchen and checked the fridge. There was a full tray of ice, so I took the ice to the sink and twisted the plastic tray to release the cubes from their individual spaces. Naturally a few popped into the air and landed in the sink, but one dropped over the edge of the counter and fell to the floor. I didn't think it was important at the time. Isn't that silly?
I found a large glass and dropped in several ice cubes. After filling the glass with fresh water, I refilled the empty spaces in the plastic tray and turned to put the tray back in the fridge. My foot came down on the forgotten ice cube and I suddenly found myself falling backwards as my shoe slid on the ice. The back of my head crashed against the edge of the counter, and there was a blinding flash of pain. It felt as though jagged spikes of electricity suddenly encircled my entire skull, waves of excruciating agony radiating out to every nerve ending. And then I was lying on the kitchen floor, staring up at the benevolently smiling and all forgiving Fridge Teddy.
Upon the realization that the Mighty and Exalted Fridge Teddy had granted me enlightenment and chosen me as a worthy servant, I immediately began to wonder what I might do to serve his fuzzy majesty. And I realized I had been pulling weeds not because the garden needed flowers but because the Magnificent Fridge Teddy needed WEEDS! In his infinite and unfathomable wisdom, he had caused me to serve him even before I was aware of his supreme dominion over all the universe. Now that I was aware of the true nature of my toils, I was determined to bring forth an abundance of weeds in hopes of pleasing the Great One. I would pluck every last weed from the soil, and I would pile them at the front of the house, and dry them. And when they were dry I would light a tremendous fire that would reach to the heavens and signify to all the Inexpressible Wonder that is Fridge Teddy.
The day was hot and the work was exhausting, but by mid afternoon I had pulled all the weeds from the garden. I piled a huge mound of them at the front of the house in preparation for the Ceremonial Flames of Teddiosity, which Fridge Teddy promised would burn in a magical rainbow of colors, even blue. Isn't that amazing? The house next door was far enough away for the little old witch to watch me whether I was in the front or back of Aunt Violet's property. So of course she had continued to stare and scowl from time to time, as though disgusted that I continued to exist. I just ignored her and continued working to serve my new master.
The pile of weeds sat drying in the afternoon sun, and I took a moment to admire the pile from the living room window. It was at that exact moment that the ' trash men' arrived. They hauled Aunt Violet's small metal trashcan to the back of their truck and dumped it inside. And then they started towards my pile of weeds! And I realized the terrible truth... these weren't really trash men, these two human-like figures were actually servants of some hideous evil monstrosity intent on destroying my Cherished Fridge Teddy's ceremonial fire! They had to be stopped. I had to DO something!!!
As they bent to gather my sacred weed pile, I yelled to them from the front door.
"Hey, fellers! Could you guys help me with somethin' here?"
They looked at each other with expressions of puzzlement and mild amusement, and then crossed the path to the front door. I motioned for them to follow me, explaining that there was an old freezer on the back porch that I couldn't lift and needed help with. When I reached the back door I pulled a garden trowel from Aunt Violet's pile of gardening tools. One of the men was beginning to say something about there not being a freezer on the porch, but I struck with the trowel and he stopped talking and began to just sort of gurgle instead. The other of the two was screaming and turning to run, but I caught him.
After I tucked the bodies away in a spare room, I left the bloody trowel on the kitchen table and returned to the front door to be sure that my weed pile was safe. The grouchy old crone next door was glaring at the garbage truck that sat running at my curbside without any trash men in attendance. Had she seen them come inside? She probably had. But it didn't matter...Fridge Teddy would watch over me, and all would be well. It was then that the delivery van pulled up.
It looked like a normal delivery van, and the man who got out of it also looked completely normal. He even held a package that was addressed to my Aunt Violet. But as he approached the front door, he nodded toward the weed pile and grinned.
"That's quite a mess you have there" he chuckled.
And I realized he was one of THEM! I forced myself to smile calmly as I opened the front door.
"Say, could you help me with somethin' here?" I asked.
When we reached the kitchen table, I grabbed the garden trowel and spun around quickly. The 'delivery man' screeched in horror and instinctively began to turn away. I slashed savagely with the trowel. But to my great suprise I somehow missed him completely with my first swipe, and he was suddenly plunging towards the front door. I caught him just short of the threshold.
Glancing out the front door, I could see the old bat next door, staring out her window at the delivery van that had now joined the garbage truck to sit unattended in front of my house. She was really beginning to bug me, and I scowled as I turned my attention back to the 'delivery man'.
I began to lift the body, planning to drag it into the spare room with the others, but realized the front door was still open. Rising to close it, I noticed a boy approaching on a bicycle. He stopped directly in front of the house, and dismounted his bicycle. He was now walking towards the front door! I slammed it closed and began to quickly stuff the body into a small closet near the entrance. This child might be another evil minion bent on interfering with my Great Fridge Teddy's plans, but I couldn't yet be sure. So I tucked the body away and turned back to the door with what I hoped was a calm expression. The boy knocked and I opened the door as casually as I could.
"Hi, Mister. Is Violet Stevens home? She usually pays me on Thursday."
And he held out an envelope that said 'Steadsville Herald-Tribune" on the front. I stood motionless, waiting for inspiration from the All Knowing Fridge Teddy. And then the boy turned to the weed pile and smiled.
"Kewl weeds, Mister."
And I realized all was well. I smiled broadly and was beginning to welcome the boy inside when the closet door came open. I hadn't closed it tightly, and the body of the 'deliveryman' fell heavily to the floor of the entranceway, the garden trowel still protruding from his chest. The boy's eyes grew wide and for a moment his mouth hung slack. Then he focused on me and his voice trembled as he spoke.
He turned and ran to the end of the sidewalk, jumping onto his bicycle and pedaling off into the gathering dusk. I had lost track of time with everything that had been going on, and was suprised it had grown so late. It would be dark soon, and I thought how wonderful the Great Ceremonial Flames of Teddiosity were going to be. My Magnificent Fridge Teddy was going to be very proud of me.
Naturally, the creepy old lady next door was still glaring balefully out at me from her kitchen window. And I was puzzled. What had the boy meant? 'Telling'? Telling whom what? But then my Mighty Exalted Fridge Teddy gave me the wisdom to understand. The boy was going to tell EVERYONE! Tell them what? How well I had SERVED MY MASTER! I sat kneeling before the fridge, trying to explain to the Mighty Fridge Teddy that I had only been doing my duty, only giving him the praise and attention he so richly deserves. But the Fridge Teddy, in his incomprehensible wisdom, explained that I had indeed served him well, and that all the world would celebrate my devotion.
It's dark outside now and there are red and blue lights shining through the curtains. I think it's a party of some kind. And I can hear someone shouting over a megaphone for me to come out of the house. It must be a party for ME! I look out through a gap in the curtains and there are cars everywhere, police cars! There must be lots of really important people coming to my party for there to be so many policemen. And it must be a suprise party because a lot of the policemen are hiding behind their cars, but they peek out every little bit and I can see them. Then I see Aunt Violet, and she's waving and screaming something but I can't hear her because of the man with the megaphone. She's trying to run towards the cottage, but a couple of the policemen are holding her back. They must not want her to ruin the suprise.
I glance in the mirror by the door to be sure my hair is OK, and then I bend down and pull the garden trowel from the chest of the 'delivery man'. If all these people have come to honor my devotion to the Exalted Fridge Teddy, they will surely want to admire the instrument with which I have protected his sacred weeds! I raise the bloody trowel high above my head and reach to open the front door.
And I know I shouldn't be concerned about that crabby old lady next door, but I notice as I begin opening the door that she's still standing there staring out her window, not even bothering to hide behind those terrible flowery curtains any longer. Well, let her see this magnificent gathering and gaze in wonder at how I am celebrated as a hero. She must feel so silly right now. I think she's a little bit crazy, to be honest.
I push the door fully open and step forward. Soon will be the lighting of the Great Ceremonial Flames of Teddiosity, which Fridge Teddy promises will burn in a magical rainbow of colors, even blue. Isn't that amazing? I'm so happy.