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History of a Toy

by Bette Pesetsky

     My father has a gift for me. It is not my birthday or Christmas or any known celebration. I know then that this gift will not be something expected or even wrapped. I am right. My father holds out his hands, each curled into a fist. “Guess,” he says. I know that trick. His fists are touching and with adroit movement of fingers the thing—whatever it is—will be transferred to the hand I do not pick. I push his hands apart holding them with the strength of my own hands.

           “The left one,” I say remembering too late that I always select that one.

           “Lose,” my father says opening that fist.

           “Two out of three,” I ask. He nods. By tradition the hidden item will now go into the left hand unless I’m wrong. I’m right. In the palm of his left hand is a perfectly made silvery miniature pistol with a safety that moves and a trigger that can be pulled and metal ring on the tip of the handle such as I have seen worn full sized by movie cowboys in Saturday matinees. He has strung this tiny gun onto a knotted white shoelace that he drops like a necklace over my head. I am delighted. This is certain to be the envy of my friends. “Where did you get it?” My voice is full of wonder. Ours is a street where necklaces of any sort are not easily acquired.


           I shake my head. “Tell me.”

           He won’t. He winks at me. “You’ll have to find out for yourself. Keep it forever,” he advises.



           Twenty-five years later I spend an afternoon in Tampa driving around with my son who is nine years old. We have visited all the expected sites and are now in search of a way to spend the rest of a rain-speckled afternoon. My suggestion that we stop at the house labeled “Museum of Toys” meets with no enthusiasm. “You will like it,” I insist using that versatile line of parents.

           The museum has a roomful of hands-on displays. I calculate that we have about an hour’s worth of entertainment. Glass cases in another room—do not lean on—hold older toys. I look at the shelves labeled 1900 to 1910. I almost call out to my son, but then I realize that he has never seen the miniature gun that I still have in a box somewhere, although the shoelace was lost long ago. That evening I call my father.

           “Crackerjack prize,” I say immediately without explanation.

           “Bingo,” he says. He could have kept the secret forever.

* * *

Author's Note

I held that tiny pistol in my hand. I was a child who enjoyed The Lone Ranger or Roy Rogers at Saturday matinees, but my weapon was more mysterious than theirs. Suppose you don't know the source of something—isn't that a story?

Bette Pesetsky has stories published or forthcoming in Oblong, Chicago Literati, Sleet, The Moth, Helen Literary Magazine, Thrice Fiction, Litro, Beechwood Review, LitMag, and elsewhere.

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