Mister Tedders Comes Home
Marianne got home, stepped onto the front stoop, tripped on something, and caught herself before she fell. She looked down to find the culprit and saw a package wrapped in brown paper.
At least she thought it was a package. It was lumpy and of no discernible shape, and she didn’t see a label. But it was tied with twine.
She picked it up. It was light, and whatever was in there gave way when she squeezed.
Marianne brought it inside and put it on a table. Under the indoor light, she noticed a folded piece of paper, also brown, tucked underneath a bit of the twine that cut into the misshapen item.
She walked to an end table, picked up her reading glasses, put them on, opened the paper, and scrutinized it. In the top right corner was a single word. “Remember.” No signature. Lots of blank space. She flipped it over. Nothing.
Marianne pivoted the glasses onto the top of her head, poked at the item with her index finger, picked it up, put her ear to it, and shook it.
“What harm could it do?” she said to herself. Then thought, Famous last words.
Marianne pulled at a loop in the twine, but it was tightly knotted. She brought the item into the kitchen, put it on the counter, opened a drawer, rifled around, and pulled out a small pair of scissors.
She cut the twine and unwrapped the item slowly. A patch of brown fake fur. More fur. A face. She stared into the dead beady eyes of a teddy bear.
And remembered nothing. As far as she knew, she’d never seen it before.
“Were you left here by mistake?” she asked the bear.
It didn’t answer.
As a child, Marianne had wanted a teddy bear much like this one. But no one had ever given her one. An oversight. She hadn’t been deprived. She got dolls, action figures, plastic horses, lightbulb ovens, and play sets of various sorts. But somehow no one ever thought to get her this quintessential children’s gift.
She remembered that she had wanted one so badly that she made one up. Her imaginary friend. Mister Tedders.
Tedders, unlike this fellow, could talk. They had long conversations. She would close her eyes and hug a fuzzy pillow and pretend it was him. He was her most trusted friend.
Until he started telling her to do things.
Marianne was shocked at the revelation that she’d pushed such a big part of childhood from her mind, and wondered what else she might have locked away up there.
She also wondered who sent the bear, of course. And if it was connected to her old friend. But she hadn’t told anybody about Mister Tedders. Not her parents. Not her sister. Not one of her boyfriends or girlfriends over the years. Not even her shrink.
Except for Benny Cartwright. She had told Benny. But Benny was dead.
Are you sure?
“Mister Tedders?” she asked.
We didn’t see him die, said Tedders.
“But they told us…,” she started.
They told us a lot of things.
“You’re not real,” said Marianne. “You were never real.”
I’m hurt. I think you’re real.
She laughed. “Maybe Benny wasn’t real.”
He was real, all right. Real bad.
“Yes. He was,” said Marianne, frowning.
Didn’t you find his death a little…convenient?
She thought about it. Convenient wasn’t the word she would have used back then. Maybe suspicious. One night neighbors called the cops when they heard a ruckus next door. They found Benny covered in blood and Mr. Cartwright bludgeoned to death in his own bed. Benny claimed a burglar did it. Made him watch. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation while police combed the crime scene. They found a stone sculpture under the bed. Covered in blood, and in Benny’s small fingerprints.
But Benny died at the hospital before they could question him.
He wasn’t injured. Why did he die?
“Nurse Cartwright said it was shock.”
His mom. Who worked at the very same hospital.
“It was a little….”
Had his mom lied? She did move away a couple of days later. Everyone thought she just couldn’t stand to be in the house where her child killed her husband. Or couldn’t take the looks from neighbors. From people all over town. And with her son and husband dead, she didn’t have any family to keep her there. Moving seemed perfectly natural.
“So you think she faked her son’s death,” said Marianne.
“Then smuggled him away so he wouldn’t get in trouble.”
“And thirty years later he sent me a teddy bear.”
Maybe. I’m not psychic.
I don’t know. He probably wasn’t happy with you. With what you did.
“You mean what I didn’t do.”
Marianne and Benny told each other everything. He was her most trusted human friend. He knew about Tedders. And knew when Tedders started getting her in trouble. Telling her to break the lamp. To put soap in the town fountain. To kick Jackie Mercer in the shin. To leave her skates on the stairs.
Her mom was lucky she didn’t break her neck that day.
Benny knew it all. And he told Marianne what he was planning. He wanted her to do the same to her mother. Then they’d run away together. Her dad was long gone, and his mom would be at work, so there’d be no one to stop them.
She had asked Tedders what he thought. He was fine with it. Why wouldn’t he be?
But when she was standing over her mom with the knife, looking at her sleeping face in the faint glow of the street light, she couldn’t do it. She lowered the knife. Her mom woke up and said, “What’s the matter, baby? Can’t sleep?”
“Get in,” her mom said.
Marianne shoved the knife under the bed and crawled over her mom and underneath the covers. Her mom told her a story until she fell asleep. She got the knife back to the kitchen the next morning while her mom was getting ready.
And that’s the night Benny killed his dad. And then died, they all thought.
“Do you think Benny’s mad at me?”
Maybe. Perhaps I’m a trap. Maybe I have a bomb in my belly. Or some time release poison.
Marianne picked up the bear and squeezed him.
“No bombs,” she said. “Unless they’re really squishy. And I guess we’ll see about the poison.”
Mister Tedders giggled. Marianne kissed him on the forehead.
Didn’t you and Benny talk about spy stuff?
“All the time.”
And didn’t you write to each other in invisible ink?
She dropped Mister Tedders on the counter.
Marianne picked up the one-word note. She fished in the utility drawer again and pulled out a lighter. But she thought better of it and turned on a stove eye instead. She held the note over the eye as it heated up. Letters started to form.
What’s it say?
Once the words were darker, she slid the glasses back down over her eyes and read aloud. “‘Don’t worry. I’m not after you. Just had the urge to let you know I’m alive. Mom gave me a drug that slowed my vitals, and hid me until she could move us away. Changed our names. Dyed our hair. We were sure they’d come after us, but no one did. My missing body wasn’t even on the news. Guess someone was too embarrassed to admit they’d lost it.
I know you didn’t do what we talked about, and I’m glad. I wish I hadn’t. Regret it every day. He was an ass, but not a monster. Not like Mister Tedders. Ha!’”
She scratched Tedders behind an ear.
Was that it?
Marianne turned over the letter and said, “No. There’s a little more. He says, ‘The gift is sort of a gag. But you always wanted one, so maybe it’s sentimental, too. I’ll never contact you again. Too dangerous for me and mom. She’s well, BTW. Went back and studied psychology to help me out since we couldn’t tell a shrink what happened.
Anyway, I hope you are okay, and that you remember some of our good times and not just that final terrible night.
Take care. And you know what to do, Agent.’”
Marianne turned off the stove eye. She picked up the lighter, walked over to the sink, flicked the lighter on, and held the flame to the lower right corner of the note until it caught fire. After a second, she dropped the note and watched it burn up, then rinsed the ashes down the drain.
“That was kind of sweet.”
Except for that bit about me.
“He was joking,” said Marianne. “He always liked you.”
“And he sent you to me,” she said, scratching his head.
True. Brought me back to life, really.
“Yep,” she said, picking up Mister Tedders and hugging him.
So, he said. Wanna break things?
“No,” said Marianne. “Wanna watch TV?”
Sure. Something violent?
About the Creator
Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.
You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at bernijohnson.com.
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