Ford unlocked his girlfriend’s apartment door to water the plants while she was visiting relatives on the coast. He grabbed the water pitcher and worked his way around the living room. She had several plants in every room, including the bathroom where they hung from a cast iron shelf.
He entered the bedroom to find a dozen stuffed animals set up on the bed like they were playing poker. Half empty beer bottles sat next to most of them. Some had cigarettes attached to their mouths, and the pot was pretty full of chips. Each plush toy had a hand of cards propped in their stubby arms.
The red cat had a straight, but the elephant had a full house, jacks high. The biggest teddy bear wore a cowboy hat and had a toy gun tucked behind him. Two long shelves of stuffed animals all seemed to be staring at the game.
“That’s adorable,” he said. “Not a tell among you.” He texted Jeannie: ‘Cute poker game. Nice details.’ He continued watering.
A text came back: ‘??’
‘The stuffed animals set up in a poker game,’ he texted. He finished watering, locked up, and headed for the elevators.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ she texted.
Ford chuckled. She was really going to play this out.
The next week, when he went into the living room, water pitcher in hand, things didn’t look right. One of the plants was tipped over. Nothing seemed to be missing or rifled through, but the red cat, the elephant, two teddy bears, and a penguin held onto a cord that led up to the curtain rod. The other end hung from the rod, one of the smaller teddies hanging from a noose.
Ford laughed aloud this time and texted. ‘Who did you put up to this? It’s hysterical.’ He snapped a photo and sent it.
As he navigated the apartment he found a clown fish stuck in a jar with cowboy teddy sitting on top. A plush shark sat on the back of the toilet with a beanie baby giraffe in its mouth, and a monkey was drowning a Raggedy Anne in the partially filled bathtub. “Fantastic.” He smiled.
‘GET OUT NOW!!! BEFORE THEY HURT YOU!’ came a text. “Wow, she’s really outdoing herself now.” Just for fun, he set several up in a pyramid on her desk, a Nebraska Cornhuskers pennant stuck in the wing of an owl sitting on top. Before heading out the door he turned and said, “I expect this place to be clean before Jeannie gets home.”
Ford was in a hurry the third week. He’d promised his mother he’d be at her place before dark to move some things around the yard. He sped past the reception desk with a perfunctory wave and hit the elevator up button several times. It started moving from the eleventh floor, gradually working its way down to the lobby. As he ducked inside, he could see the sky just starting to dim through the glass doors. He pressed the sixth floor several times and held the door closing button.
He burst out of the elevator on six and trotted down the hall, fumbling with the key. He inserted it into the lock, opened the door, and there before him were dozens of stuffed animals surrounding the entry. They had knives, forks, and a few other sharp utensils. The cat held a curling iron and the elephant a gun.
Ford shut the door. “She can water her own plants.”