Take an impending bug invasion, and reading bedtime stories to my kids, and what do you get?
There was once a velveteen cockroach, and he was really splendid. He was brown and blotchy, with long feelers and skinny little legs. On Christmas morning, he sat wedged in the bottom of Boy’s stocking. He was a gag gift from Boy’s weird uncle.
There were other things in the stocking, nuts and oranges, a toy engine and a velveteen rabbit, but the cockroach was the best of all.
But Boy thought the cockroach was ugly, and dropped him in his toy box. Boy played with Rabbit for two hours. Then Aunts and Uncles came to dinner, and the cockroach and the rabbit were forgotten.
For a long time, the cockroach lived in the toy box. He was naturally shy, and being a cockroach, all the other toys shunned him, especially Rabbit. Even the toy horse, who was usually nice to everyone, wouldn’t talk or look at him.
One day, the Rabbit asked the horse, “What is REAL?”
The horse said, “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
One evening, when the Boy was going to bed, he couldn’t find the dog that always slept with him. Nana was in a hurry, and grabbed Rabbit for Boy from the toy box.
“Here,” she said. “Take this bunny. You can sleep with him.” And she put Rabbit in Boy’s arms.
Nana also saw Cockroach. “What a disgusting toy,” she thought to herself. She took him and threw him in the trash outside. Nana did not see that Cockroach bounced out of the trash onto the dirty ground.
Boy and Rabbit grew very close. They did everything together. Sometimes they would walk past Cockroach, who was getting dirtier and dirtier, and was very, very sad.
As time went on, and Rabbit was very happy, he didn’t notice his fur getting shabbier and shabbier. For the cockroach, who still lay on the dirty ground, sadness gave way to hate.
One day the boy grew very ill. Nana took the rabbit because the doctor said it was full of germs, and threw it in the garbage when Boy was sleeping.
Cockroach looked at Rabbit. In a dirty leg he picked up a tiny shard of glass. Cockroach crept toward Rabbit, who was starting to cry because he missed Boy.
With a quick slash, Cockroach sliced Rabbit from his neck to his tummy.
“Barrgggghhhhhhhh!” said Rabbit. He was dead.
Cockroach grabbed Rabbit’s carcass and pulled it over his insect body. As Rabbit’s pelt settled onto Cockroach’s head and back, a tear dripped from Rabbit’s fur on to the dirty ground.
From where the tear fell on the ground, a mysterious flower grew. A blossom opened and a lovely fairy stepped out.
“Do you know who I am, little bunny?” she asked.
Cockroach was quiet.
“I am the toy fairy,” she said. “I take care of toys that children have loved. When they are old and worn and the children don’t need them any more, I make them Real.”
“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one.”
She waved her wand, and in a flash, Cockroach was real!
“What the?” the toy fairy said. “Rabbit? Rabbit? Hmm. This usually works.” Fairy shrugged her shoulders and disappeared in a shower of sparkles.
Autumn passed and Winter, and in the Spring, when the days grew warm and sunny, boy was in his kitchen.
“Agh!” Nana cried. “A cockroach!”
Boy grabbed a dictionary and smashed the bug into goo.
But he never knew that it really was his own Cockroach, come back to look at the child who had first helped him to be Real.