I stood in the corner of the room—maybe, all I could see was the inside of the blindfold—my feet spread apart, trying to hold my balance, my head tilted to one side. I tried to think “Where am I?” or “What’s going on?” but I was dizzy and spinning in circles. The knot of the bandanna pressed into the base of my skull, tight enough to cut off the circulation to my brain. I wasn’t even quite sure what was happening anymore. So when Chris grabbed my shoulders and stopped my centrifugal twirl, I was very glad to be able to stop spinning for a little, in order to say “Okay, now what?” in a gloomy manner to him.
“Feel like you’re going to puke yet?” he sneered.
I shook my head from side to side, even though I felt like I was.
“I feel like I’m still spinning,” I said. “I feel like I’ve been spinning for eternity.”
“Sorry about that,” Chris said, not sorry at all. He spun me around once more. Then he pressed something into my hand. It was long, made of fabric, maybe felt, with a bow and a bushel of fuzz at one end and—I discovered as it pricked my finger, drawing blood—a sharp tack at the other.
“Pin the tail on the donkey,” he commanded.
This is so dumbt, I thought. We’re each sixteen now, too old to be playing these kids’ games. “Is there even a donkey in this room?”
“Well, either an ass is in here or isn’t in here. You can’t make a mistake about it,” he said in his irritating trying-to-be-cryptic style.
“Where is it?” I should pin it to his sorry ass, I thought.
“Have a look around,” Chris said, and I could hear him back away from me.
I turned slowly round, feeling the wall behind me, and then, because I couldn’t go that way, turned round the other way until I was probably facing the same direction I started in, so I squatted down, put my head between my legs, let the nausea sweep over me, and said, with a long sigh, “Alright, I’ll do it. Then I’m leaving. This is a Stupid Game.”
I started out, stumbling through the darkness of Chris’s bedroom. Occasionally, brave mid-morning sun from the window illuminated the thick fabric clouding my vision. I tripped and fell into a pile of toys Chris had scattered across the bedroom floor. They felt worn and seemed so old now, so old we couldn’t have even played with them in this lifetime. I hoped the tailless donkey was in the room, not wanting to wander the Wood around Chris’s house until I was tired and hungry and lost.
Feeling the shapes of the plush menagerie on the floor, I tossed aside a scrawny stuffed rabbit, and owl missing a wing, and the tiniest softest pig before my hand sunk into the exposed stuffing inside the ripped belly of a chubby toy bear. After setting the bear aside and groping stupidly around the floor, my hands closed around something unfamiliar, a toy I had never really noticed before, one neither of us must have ever wanted to play with. It had floppy ears, a squishy snout with a mouth shaped into a vague frown, a ragged mane, four legs which, had they been real, may have ended in hooves but were instead plain round lumps, and a fuzzy rump. No tail.
Gently, I pinned the tail to the small soft animal in my hands. I swear I heard it say, slowly and sadly, “Ouch.”
I pulled off the blindfold. Awareness returned slowly. Pins and needles prickled my reviving mind. Chris wasn’t even paying attention anymore; he was looking at something on his computer in the corner. Flesh-colored images reflected off his glasses.
“Where did you find this?” I asked him. Once I saw them, I recognized all the other toys. We played with them in the Woods when we were kids, when Chris’s dad still dressed him in little plaid jumpers like a girl. If my memories were a Forest, this donkey sat inconspicuously at its edge, a vague grey speck easily lost amidst one-hundred acres of Wood.
“I just came across it in the Forest. It was under a bush. Nobody seemed to want it, so I brought it home.” I could practically feel the tiny donkey sigh in the palm of my hand.
“Chris,” I said solemnly, “you made a mistake. Somebody does want it.”
“Who?” Chris asked. He didn’t take his eyes away from the screen. A muffled moan escaped the PC’s speakers.
“I don’t know, but I’m sure someone was fond of it.”
“Fond of it?”
“Attached to it,” I said sadly.
With these words I left Chris in his room. He probably didn’t even notice I had gone. I took a snack from the fridge to sustain me on the cold walk home. The little stuffed donkey was tucked into my jacket. I looked down and swore he was looking back at me. His frown had evened out a bit into a straight line, not quite a smile. I snuggled him tightly to my chest. Wiping the crumbs off my face, I sang quietly to the little donkey, a rhyme I remembered from a book Chris’s dad wrote when we were kids:
Who found the Tail?
“I,” said Pooh,
“At a quarter to two
(Only it was quarter to eleven really),
I found the Tail!”