Toy Story - gena

Kay-Gee Hobby and Toy's semi-annual half-price clearance sale was less than thirty minutes away. "Sharon, here's the last of them," Tootie Horn called. She emerged from the storeroom clutching a swaying tower of dusty boxes.

"Great," Sharon said and together they began marking them down. "Hey, where'd this come from?" Sharon held up a battered box, a pair of crystal blue eyes could just be seen beneath a film of grime. "Sentinel Jim? They don't make him anymore. He must have been back there a long time."

"Oh well," Tootie said with a laugh, "that's why we have clearance sales, to get rid of junk!" They slapped a $5 sticker on his box and tossed it into the bin with the other unwanted merchandise.

Naomi Sandburg considered the incense burner shaped like a starfish, and the necklace made of healing crystals. Buying for her twenty-five year old son was getting harder each year. She turned away and almost stumbled over a clearance bin, all items marked $5. She dug through a variety of things, none of them what she wanted until her hand closed on a slightly crushed box. "Sentinel Jim." It had been years since her son had asked for a doll, she could just imagine his face when she presented him with it now. She rubbed some of the dirt off the box and peered inside. Sentinel Jim had obviously been made with the Ideal Man in mind; his body was sculpted to show generous muscle without being too bulky, his face had classic lines and the eyes - the eyes were gorgeous blue and almost lifelike. "You're coming with me, handsome," she murmured.

At the counter the clerk grinned, "Your little boy will love this."

"I'm sure he will," Naomi replied. "I am curious about something though. I see you have other Jim dolls, why's this one so cheap?"

The woman's mega-watt smile dimmed and she glanced around before answering. "Yes, Jim is a popular doll. Biker Jim is the best seller of the bunch. We use to carry Detective Jim but he was recalled after complaints," the clerk admitted. "His gun kept falling out of his hand. Then they made Porn Star Jim but ran into trouble in the Bible Belt. I can't tell you how many little girls in Missouri and Nebraska were disappointed last Christmas. Now Maytel only makes Biker Jim, Ex-Con Jim, and Soldier Jim."

"No more Sentinel Jim?"

"To tell the truth, this one was discontinued years ago. Parents complained he was too much trouble."

Naomi blinked, "Too much trouble? What exactly do you mean?"

"Well," the clerk began, "Sentinel Jim is made from a revolutionary new material - it's very realistic, but he tends to get hives if exposed to certain things. Don't get felt tip marker on him, and none of those tattoo things either, and for heaven's sake never clean him with certain brands of bottled water!"

"Oh, Blair would never….."

"And you've got to keep him away from Assassin Barbee!" Naomi's stunned expression prompted the clerk to explain in detail. "Assassin Barbee is another Maytel doll, part of the "talk show" line. Someone in production got tired of making Teacher Barbee and Librarian Barbee so they manufactured Hooker Barbee with Vice Cop Kenny, Lesbian Barbee, who wears Kenny's clothes, and Homeless Barbee, she has her own cardboard box. Then to balance the scale they made Assassin Barbee, Thief Barbee, and Sleeping with her Husband's Best Friend Barbee but Sentinel Jim reacts badly with those. I think it's in the interactive chip."

"Is- is there anything else I should know?" Naomi asked in a trembling voice.

"Your son doesn't have Sentinel Alex, does he?"

Naomi left the shop carrying her parcel, walking with care to avoid triggering Sentinel Jim's "Amazing interactive Hyper-senses". She wasn't exactly sure what those were but the clerk had pointed to the thick instruction book included and referred her to page 307. Environmental stimuli. According to the manual Sentinel Jim would react to his surroundings with one of the 3000 phrases programmed into his memory. So far he'd scolded her for bumping his bag in a surprisingly realistic voice. 'The more you interact with him,' the clerk had informed her, 'the more he'll say. He'll even use your son's name or a colorful nickname.' God help her son.

***

Blair Sandburg opened the door to his apartment. "Mom! What a great surprise, I wasn't expecting….."

"Here," Naomi shoved the package into his hands, and turned to leave.

"Mom? Where are you going?"

"As far away from Interactive-Real-Life-Assassin-Sentinel stuff as I can!" She fled for the elevator, calling, "love you sweetie, happy birthday," just before the doors closed. Blair stared at the spot she'd been for a moment before turning his attention to his gift. "God, what's she bought now?" He wondered. Once, on his tenth birthday when he'd begged for a microscope Naomi had brought home a macramé kit, another time he'd gotten a set of Tarot cards instead of a book on Pre-Columbian myths he'd desired. Years of bizarre gifts had taught him not to ask for anything at all, and just shove whatever he got into the back of the closet until Naomi's annual visit rolled back around.

He closed his apartment door, carried the box to the table and slowly unwrapped it. Dust floated in the late afternoon sun as he finally uncovered the worn box containing the doll. "Sentinel Jim?" Blair scratched his head, turning the box first one way then the other so that he could read the incredible claims Maytel held for their product. The instruction book fell out, landing on his foot with a weighty thud. "Shit!"

"Watch you're mouth, sonny."

"What? Who said that?" Blair jerked to his feet, scanning his small room with wide eyes. There was no one behind him. "Too much caffeine," he muttered to himself. Blair picked up the Sentinel manual, flipped through the pages until his eye caught on the chapter - SO YOU WANT TO BE A GUIDE. He spent two hours reading and all the while Sentinel Jim sat in his box, staring out at the man who would soon direct his life.

***

Jim sighed and immediately regretted the action, dust billowed up in a gray cloud, choking him. He sneezed, once, twice, three times. His new owner Blair, what a name, didn't even spare him a glance. Blair had been absorbed by the guide book for hours now and Jim was beginning to think he'd made a mistake. It hadn't seemed like one when the red-headed looker had walked in to Kay-Gee. No, that Naomi woman's aura had rung all his bells. Jim had known right then, that she would deliver him to his destination.

And now he was sitting in his box, without so much as a Corn Patch Kid to talk to. Boring! What was wrong with this guy? He'd just been given an amazing new gift and he was reading the instructions! Everyone knew instructions were to be filed in a drawer and forgotten for twenty years, and remembered only then because you were looking for an important document which without knowing you'd tossed ten years earlier. Jim glared at his companion, wanting nothing more than to spout one of the inventive lines he knew but he couldn't. Not until the guy started talking to him. Being Sentinel Jim had never been so difficult.

"Okay, it says I should tell you my name," Blair said. He bent down, cracked open the top of the box and pulled Jim out by his head. Sentinel Jim resisted screaming only because his programmer had inserted a Strong But Silent chip. Still when Blair held him close to his face and shouted "I'M BLAIR SANDBURG" at the top of his lungs, Sentinel Jim wished he'd been given two chips.

"You don't have to bellow, Chief," he warned, slapping the side of his ringing head, "I'm not deaf. At least I wasn't until a second ago."

"My god, you really talk!" Blair dropped him and only cat like reflexes saved Jim from having his bendable legs bent the wrong way.

"Of course I talk! Are you an idiot? Have you just been staring at the pictures?" Jim climbed to his feet, dusted off his "jungle wear" and stood with his hands on his hips. "I'm interactive, remember? You talk, I talk. It's part of the program, Sandburg."

"But - but, you sound so - lifelike."

"So do you." Jim walked across the table, looking at the big apartment. "Nice place, kid. I see you've got plenty of room for my stuff."

"Stuff? What stuff?"

"My accessories," Jim told him. He pointed to the box he'd been in. "See, I come with the Action Pack. There's my other clothes, a cell phone, fishing gear, a lab for experiments," he shot Sandburg a stern look, "which we won't be using. I've also got the optional truck. I had a gun but I dropped it a few years ago…."

"Let me get this straight," Blair said. He put his elbows on the table, resting his chin in his hands so that they were on eye level. "You are a doll?"

Sentinel Jim scowled, "I'm an action figure!"

"But you're so - real!"

"As far as I know, I'm the last of my kind," Jim explained. "I've been imprisoned in that damn cardboard box for ages. I knew someday I'd find the right person, a person I could be myself with," he smiled at Blair, a dazzling smile that has the kid grinning along with him. "You're it, Sport. You're who I've been waiting for all along."

Blair reached down, extending his hand, palm up. Jim stepped into it and was lifted high. "A real live Sentinel." His eyes roamed Jim's face and his smile grew even brighter, "and you're damn good looking too. Is there anything else I should know about you?"

Sentinel Jim grinned. He blessed Blair with his sultriest look. "Well, I'm anatomically correct and if you soak me overnight in warm water I'll grow 6 times my current height."

The End

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Acknowledgements: Thanks to everyone at Maytel Toys for such a "useful" toy. Sentinel Jim can be ordered for 13 Tofu Trail Mix boxtops plus $532 shipping/handling from: sentinelgirl@yahoo.com. Maytel can not be held responsible for breakage due to misuse of our product. Void in some states.

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