I lived in one townhouse among many, turned inward on each other in a triangle. There was a triangular green in the middle, holding a pine and a maple that we could climb. When there were garage sales I and the other children could run around from place to place, with people keeping an eye on us from all three sides, and imagine that we were discovering treasures.
I usually left my next-door neighbour’s garage alone, or for last, because I found him confusing and I didn’t like playing with his daughter. But one year when I looked in I was stuck there. I saw a stuffed panda, and I felt really sorry for him.
He was squished on a shelf between a scruffy ‘something’ and some lamps, fabric fraying on his nose to show the plastic underneath. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t wanted. Why had they let the fabric fray?
I couldn’t reach him, and while I hesitated my neighbour noticed me.
I had dreaded the inevitable – needing his help to get the panda, and having to pay him. I rifled through my small change purse (which vanished eons ago).
“I only have dimes.”
“All right, well I can make a bargain for you. You can just have him for a dime!”
I nodded. I knew this was “cheating”, but since I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not I ignored it, and enjoyed some righteous indignation at him cheating a kid like me out of five cents.
He took down the panda, and I put the dime in his hand without making contact. Then I fled with my prize.
I pushed back the fabric on the panda’s nose since there was no salvaging it, and I’m pretty sure he was dunked in the washing machine by some will other than my own. I found out that, in his seated position with curved front and back legs, he was perfectly shaped to hug me.
Nothing much has happened to him since – except one or two more baths. He looks the same to me now as he did back then, and even though I grew he can still hug me comfortably, so at 21 years old I still sleep with my ten cent panda.
He goes by the very original name of “Pernda”.