Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: RESOLUTION (01/07/16)
- TITLE: The Colonel Meets His Match
By Virginia Lee Bliss
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Would I—could I—find the courage?
I, Lieutenant Colonel Brian O’Sullivan, had faced bombing in Pakistan, enemy fire in Iraq, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
But could I face my nine-year-old daughter?
I knocked on her bedroom door. “Kaitlyn?”
“May I come in?”
“Of course, Daddy.”
I opened the door. Carefully—oh so carefully—I stepped into the room—and stumbled over Walter the Walrus.
Emma the Elephant greeted me with cold, glassy eyes. Clara the Camel glared at me accusingly.
Arranged on the faux fur rug like an old-fashioned sixties sit-in were Arthur the Antelope, Thomas the Tiger, Lucy the Lioness, Henry the Hippopotamus—and my daughter.
Samuel the Snake—all sixty pink plush inches of him—was coiled up on the bed. He glowered at me out of baleful blue glass eyes. There was something intrinsically abhorrent about Samuel. Besides being taxonomically incorrect—whoever heard of a fur-covered snake?—he wore a blue satin ribbon around what I suppose was meant to be a neck.
“Kaitlyn,” I began.
“Kaitlyn.” I tried to sound severe. “The holidays are over. It’s after New Years.”
“I know, Daddy. Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Kaitlyn, you know very well what you can help me with. We went through this last New Years.”
“Would you like to sit down, Daddy?”
I searched for a space that wasn't currently occupied. Gingerly, I began my descent into the armchair.
”Be careful, Daddy. Don’t squash Mildred the Mouse.”
Having saved Mildred from oblivion, I perched on the bed—as far away as possible from Samuel.
“Kaitlyn, you have entirely too many stuffed animals. Before Christmas you had seventeen. Now, thanks to our idiotic relatives, you have twenty-three and—.”
“Twenty-four, Daddy. And it’s not nice to call people idiots.”
“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, you have too many stuffed animals. By tomorrow morning, you must select one animal to take to the orphans at St. Jerome’s. We’ll drive over there, first thing.”
“All right, Daddy.”
There had to be something wrong. Last year, my insistence that we surrender one of the animals was greeted with torrents of tears and wails of despair.
Despite my suspicions, I graciously accepted her acquiescence. “I’m glad you see the wisdom of my decision. See you in the morning.”
“Good night, Daddy.”
I exited the room, being careful not to step on Lillian the Leopard or George the Giraffe.
“She’s up to something—I just know it,” I said to my wife, Lisa.
“You may be in for guerrilla warfare,” she agreed.
“Or gorilla warfare—as in Gertrude the Gorilla. Which reminds me—why does she give the animals weird names like Bertha and Clarence—like some Victorian menagerie? Don’t kids these days have names like Kyle and Danielle?”
”Those are so nineties dear,” my wife said. “Victorian names are hot now.”
Out of touch. That’s what fighting wars does to a person.
That night, I tossed and turned, trying to figure out Kaitlyn’s secret plan. I fell into a fitful sleep, my dreams populated by Florence the Fox, Richard the Rhinoceros, and Oliver the Ocelot.
The next morning, after breakfast, I said sternly. “Kaitlyn, you must fetch the animal that you have selected to donate to the orphanage.”
“Yes, Daddy.” She went up to her room.
I waited. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes and I’ll march up there and make the selection myself.
At fourteen minutes, Kaitlyn came downstairs, holding something behind her back.
“May I see the animal, Kaitlyn?”
Slowly, oh so slowly, she brought the animal to face forward.
“Here you are, Daddy.”
I gaped in horror.
Benjamin the Bear.
Benjy, the teddy bear I’d given Kaitlyn when she was six when I came home from Afghanistan. Benjy, who had comforted her when I was called up to Pakistan. Benjy, who had kept her company when she was hospitalized with a nasty burn.
“It’s okay, Daddy.” She covered her eyes with her free hand. “Take Benjy.”
Benjy! He’s not a stuffed animal. He’s not a pet. He’s one of the family!
I opened my mouth to say something but no sound came out.
I squared my shoulders and took a deep breath.
“Kaitlyn, I just remembered I have a dentist appointment this morning. We’ll have to postpone our trip to the orphanage.”
“That’s okay, Daddy. Have a nice day.”
Author’s Note: This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
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