Toy Warehouse Heaven. The biggest…the baddest…the monster mother of all toy stores.
Blair snickered under his breath as he watched William Ellison studiously consider the merits of Malibu Barbie versus Ballerina Barbie.
Unconsciously cuddling the soft teddy bear he held in his arms, Blair leaned against the nearby counter. Only Sally, the ever-patient housekeeper of William Ellison's home could have gotten all three…count 'em…three Ellisons into Toy Warehouse Heaven.
Not that she'd meant to do it. Not that she even KNEW about it.
The marriage of one of Sally's great-nieces had fallen apart. The scoundrel (the term courtesy of an indignant William Ellison) she'd married had left her and their four children for a showgirl in Las Vegas.
Blair didn't think William had anything personally against showgirls (Las Vegas or otherwise) so he mostly disregarded the ranting about this particular showgirl.
Sally's great-niece, Marilee, had returned to her grandmother's home with four small children and very little personal belongings. It seems the scoundrel (to use William's language) had sold almost everything he could lay his hands on including the children's toys.
In the eyes of all three Ellisons, this was probably the most heinous of acts. Blair silently hoped Marilee's soon-to-be-ex-husband stayed out of the way of the Vegas cops. He wouldn't have put it past Jim to have made a few phone calls to the LVPD.
It hasn't taken long for the Ellisons to unite in a common cause. Blair had been fascinated by the process. Gone were the hard feelings of past years. To look and listen to the three men, you would have thought the Ellisons would have given the Waltons a run for their money as a tight-knit family.
Blair snickered under his breath. More like the Addams or the Manson family, the way they got along most of the time.
Several hours later, the back seats of William's Lexus and Stephen's BMW were full of children's clothing. The back of Jim's truck was full of children's furniture. Marilee's sisters were taking care of clothing her, but none of them had children close in age to Marilee's.
Blair knew Sally had NO idea what was going on. William had asked if it would be acceptable if they stopped by with a few things for the children. The young anthropologist shook his head. A few things. God help them if they got this generous at Christmas!
They'd been on their way to Sally's sister's home where Marilee and the children were living when Jim saw the billboard sign for Toy Warehouse Heaven. He immediately got on his cellphone to his brother (just behind him in traffic) who called William (who was bringing up the rear). The next Blair knew, they were convoying into the huge parking lot.
While they'd gotten some toys for the children to replace their lost possessions, Jim had come up with the brilliant idea of one special toy for each child…something unique and individual.
When Blair pointed out they didn't know the children well enough to make such choices, he found himself confronted with identical glares from all three Ellisons. Mumbling "never mind", he quietly followed the others into the mega-store.
Somehow, they'd managed to each choose one child without World War III breaking out.
Blair chose Anthony, aged 13 months. He'd quickly found a soft teddy bear, much like the one he'd had as a small child. He then proceeded to follow William around the store while clutching the stuffed animal to his chest.
William had chosen Faith, aged 6. He'd immediately located the Barbie aisles (all four of them) and had spent the last 42 minutes narrowing his choice to either Malibu Barbie or Ballerina Barbie.
Blair thought Princess Barbie was the best choice. But William was doing the selection so he kept his mouth shut.
Jim had chosen Tyler, aged 7. He'd wandered past the Barbie aisle several minutes ago with a baseball in one hand and a baseball glove in the other.
"I think Malibu Barbie will be suitable, don't you think?" William finally spoke. "I'm afraid a Ballerina Barbie would put too much pressure on a small girl. Reenforce those unfortunate stereotypes. Don't you agree?"
Blair stared at the older man. 'Oh my God! At some point while we've been in here, the aliens abducted Jim's father! And I never saw it!'
"Blair?" William put a hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"Uh…yeah. Malibu Barbie's really cool," Blair stammered.
William nodded with a satisfied air. "Now. Where are Jim and Stephen?"
"I saw Jim a few minutes ago. Heading for the toddler section," Blair replied.
Stephen had chosen Ethan, aged 28 months.
"Let's go see if we can't hurry them along." William tucked the Barbie box under one arm. "Cute bear."
Blair flushed as he glanced down at the bear in his arms. "Well…I think the baby will like it."
William smiled to himself as he walked in front of Blair. He could imagine the younger man as a small curly-headed child clad in Dr. Dentons, thumb in mouth, cuddling a similar bear.
A few aisles later, his grin faded. He could hear his sons arguing two aisles away. After a moment, he groaned. "Not the pig again."
Blair's eyes widened. "Pig?" He quickly followed William.
They found Jim and Stephen standing in the middle of the aisle. The baseball and glove were lying on one of the counters. Both men were pulling on the same toy.
"No, you're not!" Jim snarled. He yanked on the toy.
"Yes, I am!" Stephen snarled in return. He yanked on the toy.
"Oh, for God's sake!" William angrily snorted. "And in public!" He gently lay the Barbie box against a display.
Blair glanced around at the noisy chaos. Personally, he didn't think anyone would notice a couple of women mud wrestling in the nude. Certainly, no one other than Blair and William were paying any attention to the squabbling brothers.
"That's enough!" William hissed as he yanked the toy from both of them.
"He's not giving Ethan that pig!" Jim firmly announced.
"I will if I want to!" Stephen angrily retorted.
Blair glanced at the toy in William's hands. It was a small wood-carved painted pig with a curly tail on one end and a plastic string on the other. Blair eyed the display. The child walked along pulling the toy behind. The pig "oinked", and the tail turned in a circle. He frowned. For the life of him, he couldn't understand why Jim was so upset.
"Enough!" William firmly repeated. "This is not the time nor the place to rehash this!"
"Stephen won't show Ethan how to take care of it," Jim argued. "He'll hurt the pig." He glared at his brother. "Just like he hurt mine."
'Jim had a pet pig?!' Somehow THAT idea didn't fit into the upscale Ellison household of Jim's youth. Blair began wondering when Rod Serling would show up.
"I didn't hurt your pig!" Stephen furiously denied.
"Oh, yes you did!" Jim glared.
"You'd outgrown it! You never played with it anyway!" Stephen defended himself.
Ka-Ching! 'Jim had a TOY pet pig like this one!' Blair sighed in relief. Rod Serling wouldn't be making an appearance.
"It was still mine! And you never asked to play with it! You just took it!" Jim's jaw clenched in anger. "Took it and hurt it!"
"I did NOT!" Stephen half-yelled. "And there was no excuse for you locking me in the closet!"
"You don't know the first thing about taking care of a pig like that!" Jim snarled. "You didn't pull it behind you! You took it by the tail and swung it around!"
"And for THAT you locked me in the closet?!" Stephen demanded.
"Hell, yes!" Jim put his hands on his hips and aggressively stared at his younger brother. "After you kept doing that to my pig, it never oinked right again!"
"That closet didn't have a doorknob on the inside!" Stephen angrily retorted.
Okay. Maybe Rod Serling WOULD be making an appearance, Blair decided.
"What you did, Stephen, was nothing more than criminal pig abuse," Jim snarled.
"It was a TOY!" Stephen argued.
"It had feelings," Jim hissed.
"Okay! That WILL be enough!" William firmly ordered. Stepping between his two sons, he grabbed the baseball and glove. "Stephen, you'll give these to Tyler. Do you think he'd enjoy them?"
"Yeah," Stephen slowly nodded.
"Good." William turned to his elder son. "Jim, you'll give this to Ethan. That way you can show him the proper way of taking care of it. Is that acceptable?"
Jim slowly nodded. "Yeah, Dad. That's doable."
"Good. Then let's get to the checkout lines. Now." He wearily picked up the Malibu Barbie box he'd laid against a nearby display.
Blair silently stepped aside as they passed.
"Idiot brother. It was a TOY," Stephen muttered.
"Idiot brother. Abusing a poor animal like that," Jim hissed under his breath.
"This is why I should have had girls," William quietly grunted.
Blair hesitated then slowly followed the other men. He gently stroked the head of his teddy bear. "It's okay," he whispered. "You aren't going home with any of them. You're going to a good home." He gently squeezed the bear who stared up at him with a relieved smile.
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