calvin-and-hobbes-playing

I read In The Final Minutes Of His Life, Calvin Has One Last Talk With Hobbes, and it made me write this:
Spoiler: Calvin doesn’t die in mine

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Rough fingers clawed at the top an an ancient cardboard box, before grabbing at the sides to rip it apart.

“Where is it? It has to be here!” screamed a middle-aged man, panicked as he ran his large hands through his thinning yellow hair. He poured the contents of the dusty old box onto the attic floor and kicked his foot through the pile of broken toys and forgotten letters.

“Not here. It’s not here. MOM!”

A trembling voice called up from the hallway below. “It’s up there, Calvin. I promise.”

“No, it’s not! I can’t fi–” He stopped in mid-protest, as his eyes caught a glimmer of recognition when they spied a thin bit of orange and black. He knelt down and, with great care, pushed aside the scattered toys to reveal an old stuffed tiger.

“I found you,” he said, as a wave of calm settled over him. “Hobbes. I found you.”

Calvin reached forward and picked up what was left of his old friend. The mice had gotten to him, at some point during his long stay in the attic. Calvin’s thick fingers gently pushed at bits of stuffing that were poking out from various holes in his body, trying to push them back in. He ran his hand up to Hobbes’ face, and felt the empty space where his left ear should be. He glanced around the empty attic, half expecting someone to be looking, then pulled the toy to his neck and hugged it. “I’ll fix you, Hobbes. I can fix you.”

He climbed down the ladder, where his mother was waiting in the hallway. “See?” she said. “I told you it was up there.”

Calvin tightened his grip on Hobbes, and whipped his head around to face his mother. “HIM, Mom,” he snapped. “HE was up there. Not IT.”

She smiled. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I told you HE was up there.”

Calvin held Hobbes out for his mother to see. “Look at him, Mom. Can you fix him?”

She paused for a moment and looked over the dusty, moth-eaten, mouse-nibbled old thing. “I don’t think so, Calvin,” she said. “He’s very old, and we sold my sewing machine years ago.”

“But I promised Christopher, Mom. I promised him!”

“I can try, Calvin. But look at him. I might be able to patch up some of the holes, but where’s his other ear?”

He felt at the empty space again, and bowed his head. “I don’t know. Gone. Mice, I think.”

“Look, Calvin. It’s not about what kind of shape he’s in. He’s an old toy, and he’s been in the attic for years. Christopher will understand. Just buy him a new one.”

His eyes grew wide as he pulled Hobbes back to his chest. “A new one?! This is HOBBES, Mom! There’s only one of him.”

She reached out her hand to touch Calvin’s shoulder. He pulled away.

“Never mind,” he said. “It’s fine. I have to go.”

“But–”

“No, I have to go.”

Calvin sprinted out of the house and hopped in his car. His mother had only just made it to the front porch as he screeched his tires and pulled away. She waved anyway. “Be careful, son. I’m so sorry.”

Ten minutes later, Calvin pulled into a parking garage and unbuckled Hobbes from the passenger seat. “We’re here, buddy,” he said, lifting his old friend into his arms. “Please, Hobbes. I love you.”

He speed walked through the garage and into the elevator, holding an old and tattered stuffed animal next to his chest through a hundred stares and curious glances as he made his way through the hospital. “We’re coming, buddy,” he whispered to himself.

Calvin pushed the call button for the elevator and looked down at Hobbes while he waited for it to arrive. “Hobbes? Please. I need you,” he said, almost crying the words. “Please?”

The elevator arrived, and Calvin stepped inside. He pushed the button for the fourth floor, and the doors slowly closed. There were a couple of nurses and a doctor in the elevator with him, but he didn’t care.

“Hobbes!” he whisper-shouted, as the doctor and nurses pretended to not hear him. They knew where he was going.

“PLEASE? I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry! I love you. Please. PLEASE!”

The elevator dinged, and the doors opened to the pediatric ward. Calvin stepped out. He lifted Hobbes to his face and whispered again, with tears streaming down his cheeks. “Please, Hobbes? Please? For me? For Christopher? I told him about you. He needs you. Please come back.” He pulled the tiger close again, for another hug. Tighter this time, than before. Desperate.

The world around him stopped. Doctors froze in mid-stride. The television in the waiting room paused on a newscaster. The nurse behind the counter stopped rubbing her neck. Then, everything dimmed until the only light on the floor shined on Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin closed his eyes. “Hobbes?” he asked, hesitation and hope dripping from the question mark. “Is that you?”

He opened his eyes.

“It’s me, Calvin,” said Hobbes. He was standing in front of Calvin on two legs. Taller, with no holes and both ears. Just like he used to be.

“Hobbes!” shouted Calvin, as he rushed forward to give him a bear hug. He wrapped his arms around himself and fell forward when nothing was there. He turned over and pushed himself up against the nurse’s station as he looked back at Hobbes.

“I’m not here, Calvin,” he said, pointing to the ratty old toy on the ground by the elevator. “There’s just that.”

“What do you mean? I can see you again!”

“No,” said Hobbes, shaking his head. “You can’t. I’m gone, Calvin. I’ve been gone for a very long time.”

“But you’re talking!”

“No. You’re remembering an echo of me. Before…”

“Before what?” asked Calvin, desperate.

“Before I died.”

Calvin was back on his feet again. “WHAT?!” he shouted.

Hobbes sighed. “I’m dead, Calvin. I have been for a long time. And you know it.”

“No! You’re right here! I FOUND YOU.”

Hobbes shook his head. “You never lost me, Calvin. You left me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you put me in a box in your mom’s attic, and you left me. But I know you still loved me. For a while.”

Calvin reached out his hand to plead with Hobbes. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to. I always loved you. I still love you!”

“If that were true, Calvin, I could be here right now. Just like I was when you were little. When you really did.”

He was sobbing uncontrollably now. “But I do love you, Hobbes! I promise! I’ve always loved you, and my son…my son loves you, too.”

“He’s never met me, Calvin.”

“I know, but I told him about you! I told him all of our stories. Our adventures, the trouble we’d get into. How special you were to me. He knows!”

Hobbes backed away and lowered his head. “I’m sorry, Calvin. I can’t.”

“Yes, you can!”

“I wish I could, buddy. I held on for as long as I could up there in that attic. I tried. I hoped every day that you’d come back for me. That you’d throw open that box and see me there, and pick me up and hug me, and…” his voice trailed off.

“Hobbes?” said Calvin. “I’m sorry.”

Hobbes looked back up at his old friend. “I know,” he said. “I know. I just wish you’d realized it sooner.”

The pair stood there for a minute, alone in a frozen hallway, remembering the past. Hobbes could hear his best friend’s childish laughter. Calvin could feel the warmth of his old friend’s fur. Then, it turned cold.

The light began to come back. People began to move. Hobbes began to fade.

“I love you, Calvin. I always have.”

“I love you too, Hobbes.”

“Goodbye, old buddy.”

“Goodbye.”

A moment later, and the world was back to normal. The toy version of Hobbes lay lifeless and still by the elevator. Calvin scooped him up. “Goodbye,” he said again. One last time.

He pushed the call button on the elevator again, and rode it back down to the lobby. He walked into the gift shop and found the only stuffed tiger they had. It didn’t look anything like Hobbes, but Christopher wouldn’t know.

“That’ll be $27.50,” the cashier said as she put the new toy in a bag.

Calvin handed her the cash. And Hobbes.

“What’s this?” she asked. “I don’t want this.”

“Can you please just take it?”

“Fine,” she said. “I’ll put it in the donation box.”

“Thanks,” said Calvin, taking the new toy out of the bag. “You can keep the bag, too. I don’t need it.”

He left the gift shop, ripping the tags off the stuffed tiger and throwing them in a trashcan as he went outside. Finding a little bench in the shade, he set the tiger down and grabbed a handful of dirt from the ground.

He rubbed it into the toy’s plush fur.
That’s from when we had the dirt clod war with Susie.

He grabbed it by the tail and whipped it around a few times.
Remember when we used to play Catch-A-Tiger-By-Its-Tail?

He put it on the ground and stomped on it.
I’ll never forgive Moe for what he did to you.

He dragged it over some rocks, and tugged at its left ear.
We used to go everywhere together, didn’t we? Sorry I dragged you so much. 

“There,” he said, eventually. “Now you look a little more like the real Hobbes.” He smiled. “This will work.”

He took the toy back inside, pushed the call button on the elevator, and rode it up to the fourth floor. As he stepped out, a nurse appeared from behind her station.

“Mister–” she began, before Calvin cut her off.

“What happened?” he asked.

“There’s been a complication,” she replied.

“Is Christopher ok?”

She put her arm on Calvin’s shoulder, and motioned over to the chairs of the waiting room. “Let’s go sit down over here,” she said.

“No!” shouted Calvin, pushing her away. “Tell me what happened!”

“I’ll page a doctor for you–”

Calvin pushed her aside and ran to Christopher’s room. The door was open. There were carts in the hallway. People were walking in and out of the room.

A doctor saw Calvin, and looked up. They made eye contact. The doctor looked away.

“I’m sorry.”

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© 2017, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.