Friday, March 16, 2012

Leroy's Great Escape

Being sort of small and mostly black, Leroy is often overlooked when he ventures out into the world. For all you know, you may have passed him on the street of your own home town and not seen him. This comes in handy, as you can imagine, but it also gets my friend into a lot of trouble. A while back, he told me this story which should illustrate that point quite nicely.

Leroy is different from some other penguins you might know. For one thing, he doesn’t care for fish. For another, he’s not a strong swimmer. He also doesn’t like the cold. So, when the weather started to change, he decided he needed to buy some nice warm socks. Thus resulved, he strapped on his fannypack-backpack and went to the mall. Not surprisingly, none of the clothing stores he visited carried socks that would fit over his webbed penguin feet.

He was on his way out of the mall, wondering if he could order penguin socks on-line, when he passed a toy store. He thought checking out the toys would be a great way to cheer himself up after his sadly blunderous attempt to acquire socks so in he went. He walked down the aisles of Transformers, Barbie dolls, board games, drawing toys, Play-Doh, those things with the plastic rings that get bigger and bigger and little babies put them on a stick into a kind of a cone shape…what the heck are those things called? Oh, sorry, I’m digressing.

At length, he came upon a Tickle-Me Elmo doll. Having been in Antarctica when the last craze for this toy swept America, he missed out and wanted to give it a try. Unfortunately, once he had turned the doll on, it wouldn’t turn off. He tried shoving it back on the shelf and hoping no one would notice. This might’ve worked except the doll shook the entire shelving structure and an Elefun game, carelessly tossed in the overstock section by an employee, fell and hit Leroy right on the head, knocking him unconscious…

When he came to, several hours later, he found, to his horror, that he was on a shelf, surrounded by plush toys in a closed and locked toy store in an even more closed and locked mall! It took him no time to figure out what had happened: In his unconscious state, he must’ve looked like a toy and was shelved by a well meaning worker and left there when the store closed for business. At first, he was grateful that he hadn’t been sold…then he was annoyed by that fact and wondered why he hadn’t been sold. Then he came to his senses and started thinking of a way out. The iron shutters were down, the lights were out and for all he knew he was the only living creature in the mall.

“How do I get out of here?” he said out loud. He had no idea why he said it out loud, knowing that there was no one around to hear him.

“You get sold or stolen,” said a voice from behind him. “That’s about it.” Leroy spun around and saw that he was being addressed by a teddy bear with a red muffler. This didn’t surprise Leroy as much as you might think because, being an avid movie buff (which, come to think of it, might be a redundant phrase), he was well aware of the scientific fact that toys come to life when there are no people around. “You don’t look familiar,” the bear continued. “Are you part of a new shipment? Cuz we got some Disney merch just this morning that—”

“No, I’m not a toy! I’m a real penguin!” said Leroy.

“Oh, great!” said the bear, with an exasperated sigh. “Another Buzz Lightyear wannabe!”

“No, really. I’m a real live, honest-to-gosh penguin. See? I have a heartbeat and everything.”

“So you do!” said the bear, after listening to Leroy’s heart. “Well, welcome to **************!” (Yeah, Leroy and I have been asked to withhold the name of the store for legal reasons. Sufficed to say, it’s not the one you’re thinking of.) “I’m Colin.”

“Leroy. Look, I don’t belong here. How do I get out?”

“Nobody gets out,” said another voice and a remote control car rolled into view. “Not after that gate’s been lowered.”

“I can’t stay here all night! I’m alive. I need food and water and warm milk and my dehumidifier and my Comfy-Cozy-Quilt!” (Yeah, don’t tell him I put that part in. He doesn’t like people to know about his Comfy-Cozy-Quilt…I don’t know why, he’s just sensitive like that.)

“Okay, Leroy, calm down!” said Colin. “Would you like to give me a hug? I’ve been told I’m very snuggly.”

“Yes, that would help.” So Leroy gave Colin a hug and he was, indeed, snuggly. Then, so as not to appear rude, he tried to hug the R/C car, but it didn’t work so well…ya know, cuz he’s a car. After the subsequent Fergusonesque awkward pause (I'm trying to get that to catch on; spread the word), the problem of getting Leroy out of the store was addressed in earnest.

“We should burn the place to the ground!!!”

“Okay,” said Colin in a firm voice. “Bad guy toys are not allowed to suggest ideas!” Voldemort, The Joker and a few Decepticons grumbled angrily amongst themselves, but said no more on the subject.

“I have a ridiculously elaborate plan involving multiple operatives working a complex series of—”

“Also none of the good guys from Toy Story 3! That’s not what this is!”

After the stupid ideas had been filtered out, a real plan was settled on. Stretch Armstrong squeezed through the holes in the gate, then Colin handed him a bag of marbles. Stretch ran out into the middle of the floor and dropped the marbles. The plan was that the security guard would see the movement on his monitors and run down to investigate, at which point Leroy could get his attention and get out. The plan was executed perfectly…unfortunately, there was no security guard on duty, just security cameras and motion sensors on the doors of the high end stores which, sadly, didn’t include the toy store.

The next plan was suggested by Barbie Dressed As Lucille Ball For Some Reason. It involved using suction cup toys to climb up the gate and Erector set tools to deactivate the locking mechanism…it should be pretty obvious why this plan failed.

There were a few more misfires. A pirate action figure tried to pick the lock with his sword. G.I. Joe wanted to use artillery. Winnie the Pooh got all zen and suggested they try to not help Leroy, see if that might work. Hours passed and it was looking increasingly like Leroy would spend the night in the toy store. Until...

“I got out!”

Well, yeah, I know you did. But how?


Leroy, c’mon, we’re telling a story here. You gotta give me more than that.

“It was a triumph of…imagination and…innovation and…intervention and—”


“Okay fine! I remembered that I had a cell phone in my fannypack-backpack, but I’d turned it off while I was talking to the sales help at Penneys, so I turned it back on, called my friend Carla and she came and got me. Happy?”

Very. Because you told the truth.

“Shut up!”

So, yeah, it turns out this wasn’t a very exciting story after all and, honestly, I don’t think we learned much of a lesson from this one. Except maybe to keep your cellphone turned on in case of emergencies, don’t listen to plans suggested by plastic persons and if you’re working retail, be careful with the inventory so that penguins don’t get knocked out and mistaken for plush toys…so, no, not much of a payoff on this one. But, we got some good toy jokes and Leroy made friends with a teddy bear. And, after all this, Carla knitted Leroy a pair of warm socks, so he’s all set…that plus his Comfy-Cozy-Quilt should be—




Next Week: "The Wit and Wisdom of Nasreddin Hodja"