I saw a broken toy out in the street this morning. My first reaction was that of a parent: "How sad that a child's toy was left in the street to be crushed underneath the wheels of passing cars." That sadness was quickly mitigated by the memory of being a child. I remembered the fate of a number of toys that lived past their love and fascination stage. Many of these simply found a spot in the bottom of a box or drawer where they became the stuff of "Toy Story" legend. I wondered if the blue box that had been splintered in a dozen small pieces wasn't part of a larger experiment. "What would happen if..."
I remember how well Major Matt Mason stood up to being placed inside a coffee can full of water, then left in our freezer for a couple of days. I remember road testing our GI Joes by dragging them behind my friend's parents' pickup truck. How high could you throw something made of "high impact plastic" before it surrendered to less space age physics? And I remembered being very intrigued by the inner workings of the voice mechanism of my older brother's Chester O'Chimp doll. When my younger brother got a smaller, orange puppet version of the same toy, I saw my opening.
"When you pull the string," I queried my naive sibling, "what do you think happens?"
Eager to be a part of the experiment, or less eager to be bullied into it, he gave up his lightly used toy. Using rudimentary tools (a pair of scissors) he watched as I hacked and cut the voice box out of the back of the ape's head. The grey plastic case still held a mystery. Jamming the scissors into a seam, I began to pry. I paid no attention to my brother's reaction. Was he as intrigued as I was, or was he squirming in tormented empathy for his puppet pal? I paid him no heed.
When at last there was a snap and then a crack, I was able to see what was happening inside the speech center: It looked like a tiny record player wired to a speaker about the size of a silver dollar. I held this mess up to my brother, who gave me the happy gift of curiosity. "Cool," he said as he stared at the remains of his talking chimp puppet.
Then there was the mess. We stuffed the brainless puppet back into his toy box, and the shards of our lobotomy into the back of his closet. I'm sure that at some point I intended to try and find some use for the pieces, but there was to be no restoration. I'm guessing that might have been the story behind the bright blue box I found in the street. Perhaps my sinister motives are merely a projection. I left them behind as well.