Paul is part of our family. He sits with us at the table, goes to bed with the kids at night and he even has his own toothbrush. He was there when we celebrated Norbert’s promotion, when our Marie was born and when I found out that my father was going to die.
Four years ago, at the fun fair we met Paul for the first time. In one of those booths he sat on a shelf, squeezed between two Teddys that were much bigger than him.
„That one, I want that one“, Max had said.
Like crazy we threw tennis balls at the tin cans, again and again. The whole family fought together for this cuddly toy. Max was so happy once he was able to hold Paul in his arms.
Some of my friends, who came for a visit to our house, told me that Paul‘s time is over. He only has one eye left, he is losing his hair and the cotton wool is coming out of his leg.
„It doesn’t matter“, I always answer.
„Why are we not just buying a new one?“, Norbert asks one morning during breakfast.
„Don’t let the kids hear you, especially not Max“, I answer.
It is a conversation that comes back to my mind a few days later, when Max suddenly stands in front of me with puffy eyes. „Paul is gone“, he sniffs.
„He just fell out of bed, for sure.“ I take Max by his hand and help him with the search.
Marie is fast asleep. Nothing can wake my little girl, not even her own mother who crawls with a flashlight on the floor in the search of an old teddy.
„That’s ridiculous.“ Norbert is standing in the doorway and looks at me. „Let it be.“
Max sits on his bed. New tears stream down his face. „He is gone.“
„Well, then we buy a new one.“ Norbert turns around and leaves.
I stop him in the hallway. „If you threw Paul away …“, I wispher with my raised finger.
„Then what? Are you going to call the Teddy Police?“ He grins at me.
I storm into the kitchen and open the cupboard underneath the sink. The dustbin is empty.
„You always tell me to take the trash outside“, says Norbert.
I push him out of the way and go outside. A cold wind blows in my face. I shiver. The bins are at the other side of the street. Like every week at that time they are jammed full. A streetlight brightens this part of the street. It makes it easier for me. I ransack the first bin. Nothing. The next. Again, nothing.
Someone clears his throat behind me.
I turn around with a look that should give Norbert the chills. But it’s not Norbert. In front of me stands our neighbour, Mister Müller. He has a few bottles of beer in his hands and blinks at me.
„What are you doing out here so late, Misses Weihmar?“
„What does it look like?“ I turn to the next bin.
„Can I help?
„When you see an old teddy with just one eye, let me know.“
The beer bottles rattle, then I hear something rustle. Mister Müller looks through the dustbin next to me. „What’s his name?“
I look at Mister Müller irritated.
„The teddy, what is the name of the teddy?
We dig through the trash together. The bin is deep, the smell of old shoes and cat poo burns in my nose.
„I had a giraffe when I was little“, says Mister Müller. „Her name was Louisa. I loved her. One morning I woke up and she didn’t lay next to me anymore. Instead there was another giraffe on my nightstand. She didn’t even look like Louisa.“
I take a step back and inhale the fresh air. The smell is unbearable. „Did you try to find her?“
„No. I was screaming and crying. None of the adults would understood.“
„You at least try“, Mister Müller says after a while.
Trying is not enough. I have to find Paul. He isn’t just a teddy. He is part of this family.
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