Springboy

When I was no more than four or five years old, I had a toy jack-in-the-box. I named him Springboy, and he was my favorite plaything. Springboy was very fancy looking, living in a real wooden box with brass inlays, a shiny, smooth metal crank, and a red-and-black jester’s outfit. I know that jack-in-the-boxes scare some children, but I was never afraid of Springboy. He always looked cheerful and pleasant, and I didn’t even think of him as a toy. I swore he could move and talk and sing, even if my parents wouldn’t believe me. We were best friends. 

Springboy held a little golden scepter in his left hand, and I always said that he could do magic with it, show me anything I wanted — scenes from books my parents read me at night, the future, the past. We would have all sorts of adventures together, stowing away on pirate ships, visiting aliens on other planets, mixing up magic potions. I tucked Springboy in at night by closing his box, and always opened it immediately upon waking up, with Springboy always bouncing joyfully out, ready to play.

I took Springboy to school everyday, and my friends were all jealous of him. I was so proud to have him; even my teachers told me he was a fine old toy. My friends and I would often spend recess reliving the adventures that Springboy and I had once shared alone.

When I turned seven and the new school year started, I carried Springboy with me to the playground as usual. But something was different now. My friends said they were playing tag, but after a while, I realized they were avoiding me. I had nobody but Springboy to talk to. After a few days, I got the courage to ask a friend why they wouldn’t play with me anymore — he finally said it was because of Springboy, and that jack-in-the-boxes were for babies. I glanced over at my former friends, all playing in the sandbox with army action figures and toy cars. I couldn’t understand why a half-a-year ago, everyone loved Springboy. Why had they all moved on, when I thought Springboy was just as fun much as he always was?

I cared a lot about what my friends thought, like all little kids do. I wanted to play their games with them. I had decided if they didn’t want Springboy, maybe I’d leave him at home from now on. It made me sad to do it, but I didn’t want to be made fun of at school, and I could play with him in the afternoons and on the weekends.

As the months wore on, I found myself playing with Springboy less and less. After a couple birthdays, Christmases and good report cards, I had lots of other toys, even if Springboy never quite left the back of my mind. By sixth or seventh grade I had left toys behind, and by high school I forgot about Springboy completely, his lid closed tight, hidden in some toy box my mom put in the attic.

One summer, when I had returned home from college, I had some reason to go into the attic, to find some old books or papers. I saw the dust-covered toy box in the corner, laced with cobwebs, and felt a twinge of nostalgia. Opening it, I saw many of the old action figures and ray guns and Legos from years gone by.

Deep in a corner of the toy box, I spotted a familiar little wooden box with brass inlays. Eyes lighting up, I lifted the box out, brushed away some of the dust, and slowly turned the crank to say hello to my old friend.

The lid popped open, but Springboy did not bounce out joyfully. Peering into the dark box, I could see his rumpled-up black-and-red jester’s outfit. I reached inside and pulled it upwards, thinking the spring had broken.

I dropped the box in horror. It was no longer my cheerful, smiling Springboy. The tattered jester’s outfit now clothed a tiny skeleton, hunched over in the fetal position, clutching the little golden scepter that had brought me so much happiness as a boy, cradling it as if it were all it had left in the world.

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