A/N: Like "Video Games and Ventriloquism", this fic with Amy and Slappy was an idea I wanted to do for a while. (I think I started drafting it way back in 2016.) However, I don't want to commit to a full-length novel for it. So, enjoy this one shot instead.

Disclaimer: If you're only familiar with the TV version, the opening of this fic is based on Chapter 18 of the book. If you want to check out the book yourself, at the time of this writing, you can find the audio book on YouTube.

Amy Kramer paced her bedroom, thinking hard. Her history textbook laid abandoned on her desk beside her computer. She was supposed to be reading about the Civil War battle at Fort Sumter, and after her bad report card she needed every opportunity to bring her grades up. However, she had her own battle strategies she needed to focus on which didn't include Yankees and Rebels. It was Monday night, and in two days - two days - her mother would send her to an appointment with Dr. Palmer, the psychiatrist. Yet Amy didn't need a psychiatrist; she needed her family to believe her.

Think, Amy, think! she told herself, going back and forth over the carpet between her bed and the armchair where her old dummy, Dennis, sat gazing blankly at her with his good eye. Amy considered herself an average kid - sometimes even less than average when she compared herself to the stellar accomplishments of her older sister, Sara, or the free-spirited goofiness of her younger brother, Jed. She was of an average height for a twelve-year-old girl, had straight black hair which she kept in a ponytail, dark green eyes, and tan skin. Although it was after ten o'clock, she still wore the outfit she had donned that warm, spring morning: a red sleeveless shirt and olive-green shorts. Amy could concede she had a few worthwhile traits, like her interest in ventriloquism, but on the whole, she saw herself as normal. So, how did she end up in this abnormal situation that turned her parents against her?

She had to prove she was both sane and innocent; she hadn't been the one who ruined her sister's carpet by toppling over her paints. She also hadn't scribbled AMY AMY AMY over Sara's walls. Amy knew exactly who the culprit was, but that was part of the problem. It wasn't Jed or Sara or her parents. The person ruining her life wasn't even a person at all.

"Arrrgh!" she cried, pulling at her black hair with both hands. She couldn't think of anything that would help her situation. The fact was, if someone else tried to claim that the new ventriloquist's dummy their dad brought home had magically come to life and had started framing them for horrible things and made their family think they were crazy, Amy might have taken the family's side in that discussion. To blame a puppet for anything wasn't something normal people did - but it was the truth. Amy's new dummy, Slappy, was alive, and he was evil.

The first major way Slappy had gotten her in trouble was on one of their Family Sharing Nights when Slappy had started insulting her mother's weight and her father's bald head. Nobody believed Amy that Slappy had spoken on his own - Amy hadn't really believed it herself back then. Slappy had then moved onto vandalizing Sara's room, but perhaps the worst thing he had done occurred when Amy had taken him to her first job at The Party House. Her best friend's father had hired Amy to entertain at a three-year-old's birthday party, but Amy never got to perform her act. Instead, she went home early because Slappy hurt the birthday girl. She couldn't even tell Margo, her best friend, what had happened to hurt her father's business.

Why was Slappy doing this? Why was he so malicious? Whatever the reason, she couldn't let him destroy her life. She had to do something.

Maybe I'll just rid of Slappy, she thought. Maybe I'll take him outside and toss him in the trash. And that will end the whole problem. Amy nodded to herself, feeling a little better. A simple plan was better than no plan.

She whirled toward her closet where she had stowed Slappy. However, before she could take more than two steps, she stopped cold, gasping. The doorknob of her closet slowly twisted, and the door creaked open. Amy stared, rooted to her floor, as the wooden face emerged.


The ventriloquist's dummy stood a little over three feet tall, and he had been clothed in a dark-gray double-breast suit with a red bow tie and carnation. His head had been carved to look like he had curly hair, which was brown. His face had been painted peach, much lighter than Amy's tan skin, and he had scratches across his features. His red grin had now looked baleful and mocking.

Slappy slumped forward on his boneless legs and stopped a few feet from Amy. His brown eyebrows sank, making his blue eyes glare at the taller girl and somehow causing the rest of his face to seem more wicked. "Amy," he said in his shrill, hoarse voice, "it's time you and I had a little talk."

Amy fell back a step. Her green eyes grew wide. Slappy had never spoken to her directly before. She gaped at him, unable to reply under his glassy glower. Slappy slumped forward another step, breaking the terrified spell over her. She finally asked, "What do you want?"

Slappy clicked his sliding jaw and pointed at her face with a deliberate motion. "You read the ancient words that brought me to life," he rasped, and his eerie voice made her shiver. "It's time you started to take responsibility for your actions."

Amy's eyes shot to her bedroom door and back to the dummy. She shuffled sideward, ready to bolt if he tried to hurt her. "What… What do you mean?"

"Just how long have you suspected I was alive?" he demanded. The glare deepened.

"A-Awhile," she answered.

Slappy drew himself up. "So," he said slowly, his voice coming out like dry coughs, "when were you planning to start treating me with respect?"

Amy blinked at him. Then all at once her fear vanished. Every rotten, cruel thing he had done flashed across her mind. She glared, balling her fists. "Respect?!" she repeated, incredulous. "You made fat jokes at my mom and compared my dad's head to an ostrich egg! What kinda 'respect' do you deserve?"

Slappy clicked his jaw again, like he was grinding his teeth. "Oh, because I told a few jokes to fix your dumb act, you think you can just touch me whenever you like without asking my permission?" His blue eyes became accusatory.

Amy's indignation abated slightly, and she averted her gaze for a brief moment. Yet she stood firm. "Well, you're a puppet, and you shouldn't - "

"So, that gives you the right to forget common decency?" he interrupted. He staggered a few steps closer. "The night we did the show for your family, your mother fixed spaghetti for supper. I know because you didn't wash your hands before you shoved them into my back and started yanking my string without so much as a kiss-my-foot. I still smell like tomato sauce and garlic, Amy," he growled, rubbing his hollow back.

Amy leaned away without meaning to. "But - "

"And even after you suspected I was alive, you kept picking me up, sitting me on your lap, tugging my string, making me listen to your stupid knock-knock jokes. You didn't even offer to split the money Margo's dad wanted to pay you."

"What would you need money for?" Amy retorted, but her face grew hot at his accusations. Had she really done those things to him?

"Maybe I don't need it, but it's nice to be asked!" he answered. Then Slappy's glare shifted into a sudden smirk. He gave his double-breast jacket a tug, straightening it, and he gazed at Amy with an expression like he knew which cards were in his opponent's hands during a game of Go Fish. "But I'm a reasonable man, kid. I'm gonna give you the chance to make it up to me, and then we can call a truce."

Amy gave him a stern glare in response, but she thought about his claims. From his point of view, she must have come across as a monster, but she hadn't meant anything by it. She hadn't really allowed herself to accept the possibility that Slappy was alive until Alicia's birthday party…

Amy's eyes flashed as she remembered that horrible day, and her momentary guilt evaporated. "Hey! You hurt that little girl on purpose," she hissed. Alicia, the three-year-old birthday girl, had wanted to shake Slappy's hand. Within two minutes she cried and screamed, struggling to free herself from the dummy's tightening grip. "You almost broke her hand, squeezing it like that!"

"And you didn't even ask me if I wanted to shake her hand," Slappy shot back.

"You still don't do that to a toddler!" Amy cried, throwing up her arms. "Not only did you get me in trouble, Alicia's mom wanted to sue Margo's dad for what you did!"

"Well, how else was I supposed to get through to you?" Slappy fumed. "I spoke in front of your family, but you still wouldn't acknowledge my existence! You suspected I was alive, but you just expected me to do whatever you wanted without asking my opinion first - and you didn't even wash your hands after eating that tuna fish sandwich before the party either," he accused. "Do I need to buy you a bar of soap before you stop treating me like I'm just a piece of property?"

But you ARE property, she started to say, but she stopped herself. No, that wasn't the right way to go about this argument. Wasn't she learning about Fort Sumter and its role in the Civil War? If a dummy was alive, did that mean he was a person? And wasn't it wrong to treat people like property?

Amy drew in a deep breath. She wanted to scream at him that it still didn't excuse him from hurting a little girl, but she could see she had to say something to appease him, even if she faked it. If Slappy had done all those horrible things because she treated him like a toy, then maybe an apology (even a pretend one) could make him behave and stop getting her in trouble. "...I'm sorry," she said softly, trying not to make it sound forced.

"Good to know!" sneered Slappy, folding his arms. "So, how are you gonna make up for it, Amy?"

Amy frowned at him. "Before we talk about that," she began, resting her hands on her hips, "let me tell you something. Because of you, my parents think I'm insane, and they're sending me to Dr. Palmer in two days. What were you gonna do if they sent me away to a crazy house, huh?"

Slappy lowered his eyelids into a look of pure condescension. "No wonder you're such a lousy student with those kinda brains. I don't even have one myself, and I've already thought of a solution to your problem."

"Which is?"

Slappy raised his eyebrows, not speaking.

Amy considered going through with her original plan of tossing him in the garbage, but she forced herself to take another deep breath. When she could manage a kind(er) tone, she asked, "What do you want me to do for you?"

"Good question," the dummy replied. "What is a fitting redemption for how I've been manhandled and forced to act like a lifeless toy? Hmmm..." He made an elaborate motion of rubbing his hand against his chin. His blue eyes closed as if in thought, but Amy had a feeling he already had a plan.

He's quite an actor, Amy thought. Or quite a trickster.

Finally, the dummy clicked his fingers. "Oh, here's an idea." He shifted a few steps to his right, turning now to Dennis in the armchair. The lifeless puppet smiled at them both, his one good eye considerably friendlier than Slappy's functioning pair. Slappy waved a little hand at his counterpart. "When humans are in the room, I have to act like Humpty Denny here and do nothing to amuse myself. So, I need a human to do things for me as I require. Fetch me wood polish. Iron my clothes. Take me outside to shops that I wish to visit, and so on."

"What kind of shop does a dummy need to visit?" she asked.

"The ones he needs to," Slappy returned, shooting her a sharp look. "If you can do little trifles for me, I will help you with the doc and your parents."

She studied the puppet, doubtful. "You really can?"

Slappy nodded, a grin finally returning to his face. "But only if you're nice to me," he said. He waddled closer to the armchair. He grabbed Dennis by the leg and hauled him onto the floor. "I would prefer sleeping somewhere that I don't have to watch you snoring."

"I don't snore," Amy shot back. She strode forward, just near enough to snatch up Dennis. She held her old dummy close, adjusting his faded head which almost fell off. If only he were alive instead of Slappy!

Slappy in response held up a finger, lowering his eyebrows again. "Oh, and another thing. Absolutely no complaining. If I have hear you whine about one more thing, I'll tear off my ears and put them through a wood chipper."

"I don't whine!" Amy protested, but her cheeks warmed.

"Oh, puh-leeze!" Slappy cried. He held both fists against his eyes, mimicking a bawling child. "Wah! Wah!" he said in a baby voice. "Margo, Mommy and Daddy pay more attention to Sara than me! Wah! Margo, David Miller sent me that special note a month ago, but now he's hanging out with Connie Reese. Wah!" He glared at Amy. "Do you know how many hours I've had to listen to you talk on the phone since I got here?"

"Hey, shut up!" Amy fumed, clutching Dennis closer to hide her embarrassment. "You don't know what it's like."

"And I don't want to know what it's like," Slappy growled. "If you're going to complain about being an upper middle-class kid who has both a phone and a computer in her bedroom, do it when I'm in a coma." He then shuffled himself back toward her and held out his wooden hand. "Now, do you agree to the terms of this truce or not?"

Amy frowned at the tiny paw and turned to Dennis, adjusting the red turtleneck collar around his unstable head.

"Well, Amy?" Slappy rasped.

Amy didn't meet his gaze. Can I trust him? she wondered.

Slappy had hurt a three-year-old girl - even if Amy had been wrong to let Alicia touch him without permission, the dummy didn't have to make a little girl scream and cry in retaliation. He had also insulted Amy's family and gotten her in trouble. He ruined her sister's painting and framed Amy. He had no excuse for how he had dealt with his anger.

Yet it was either agree to the truce or continue their war, which would mean either Amy went to an asylum or Slappy went into the trash. Who knew how long the fighting would last if they didn't call peace then?

Amy took a deep breath, hoping she wouldn't regret her decision. Then she thrust her stiff arm forward and grabbed his hand. "I'm willing to try," she muttered, but she was careful not to position her fingers where they could get caught and squeezed like Alicia's.

Slappy shook with a firm grip. "Good," he rasped. "I think you and I could have several fine years together." At last he leaned back. His large blue eyes regarded her the same way George the cat did when he expected the family to read his mind and open a can of tuna. "So, what's the first nice thing you're planning to do for me, Amy?"

Amy laid Dennis on her bed and sighed. She said the only thing she could think of. "Would you like something to eat?" she asked. "If you can eat."

"I can," Slappy nodded, and his expression became a satisfied smirk. "What sort of grub do your folks cook up?"

Amy slipped into the quiet hall with Slappy at her heels. At the other end of the Kramers' ranch-style house, the nightlight outside of her parents' bedroom glowed cheerfully, illuminating the way to the bathroom. Sara's bedroom light beamed out from between the crack of her door, but fortunately her parents had already gone to bed.

Amy led the way to the dark kitchen, but it was slow going. Slappy stumbled as he walked, having no bones or muscles to speak of. If he didn't lock his knees just so, his legs bent like rubber, and he did a convincing impersonation of the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. When he had to grab the wall for support, Amy thought about offering to pick him up or grabbing his hand to steady him. However, after all his complaints about being manhandled, he would probably snap at her to keep her mitts to herself.

At last they reached the kitchen, and Amy flicked on the stove light since it would draw the least attention. Slappy staggered to the counter. He used the horizontal beams of one stool to pull himself up and sat with hands folded on the counter top. Amy brought him a paper plate from the closet and hauled out an assortment of leftovers from the fridge, placing them in front of the dummy. Slappy stuck his fingers into the Tupperware with the fried vegetables Dad had fixed in his Chinese Wok - and he made a face, spitting it onto his plate.

"Dad tries," Amy said with a sympathetic look as he hurriedly wiped his mouth, gagging. None of the family had the heart to tell her father the truth about his cooking.

"He could try harder," Slappy sniffed. "Is he trying to choke all of you with that much saffron?"

Amy started to hand him a clear plastic spoon, but she stopped and blinked. "You know what saffron is?"

The dummy nodded, opening a different container which held the macaroni and cheese Mom had made. "My father had to cook for himself after he lost his slav - servants," he said, retrieving the utensil from her hovering hand. "He died before I came to life, but you could say I inherited his tastes in many things." He dipped the plastic spoon into the elbow macaroni and brought a single noodle to his mouth. He smacked his wooden lips, brightening a little, and then shoveled some onto his paper plate.

Amy bit her lip. Father? Died? She had wondered how her dummy could be alive, but it hadn't occurred to her to ask who brought him to life. Did she really have an orphaned puppet? Or was it a trick? "Was he a puppet too?" she asked.

"Toy maker. I just said he lost his servants," he glared. "But enough about my family. Let's talk about yours."

Now there was a plan. Amy jerked a nod and settled across from him. "What am I going to do about my parents?" she demanded. "They're sending me to see Dr. Palmer in two days."

Slappy sniffed a tub of Spanish rice and moved onto another bin. "Tell them you're ready to confess," he said, undisturbed.

She frowned. "I'm not gonna confess to something I didn't do."

"Then go to the shrink appointment," he said, sticking his spoon into coleslaw for a taste. "Tell Palmer a dummy is talking to you. See where your honesty gets you."

She gave him a dirty look. He had a lot of nerve! "You know, my parents would probably cancel the appointment if they knew the truth - "

"Not gonna happen," he clipped. He stopped in the middle of dishing out Mom's seasoned potatoes and shook the plastic spoon of her. "Since the moment I came into this world, I've had to fend for myself, kid. How do I know your parents won't sell me to become rich?"

Amy shook her head vehemently. "They wouldn't - "

"You don't know that," Slappy retorted, brandishing his utensil with each syllable. "You may think your parents are paragons of morality, but it's not until humans want something desperately enough that you see their true colors. Selling me to the highest bidder could pay off the mortgage and give them a Cadbury of a nest egg for their retirement. Maybe you're too young to know what those big words mean, but I've seen it happen before. And more than once." Slappy flung his spoon onto the counter, sending specks of food flying. He crossed his arms and eyed Amy, challenging her to contradict him.

Amy raised her hands, pursing her lips to shush him. She craned her neck quickly, listening for any hint of her parents or her siblings coming out to inspect the noise. When only the nighttime stillness met her, she slowly turned back to him.

"Okay," she said quietly. "We don't tell anyone about you right now."

"Or ever."

"Or ever," she agreed, doing her best to say the right thing. She didn't like telling her parents that she had done the things Slappy framed her for and that she had only pretended to believe her dummy lived. However, unless Slappy changed his mind, Amy would have to see Dr. Palmer.

She handed Slappy back his spoon, and he begrudgingly accepted it. As Slappy nibbled his way through the after-hours smorgasbord, Amy pretended to busy herself with rearranging the plastic bins and snuck glimpses to study him.

Does he have an invisible stomach? she pondered, but that was just a drop compared to the ocean of questions she burned to ask him. How did a toy maker bring a dummy to life? How could he die before Slappy was 'born'? How did Slappy learn to read and walk and talk? Could dummies have childhoods? How old was he anyway? Were there others like him?

And just how many times have people tried to sell him for profit? Amy shivered at the idea, and although she didn't like him, a spark of sympathy leapt up inside her. She remembered Stromboli from the Disney version of Pinocchio. The villainous puppeteer had been willing to exploit the stringless marionette for money and planned to burn him for firewood when Pinocchio grew too old to perform. Had Slappy encountered a real person like that?

He may do horrible things, but am I horrible for not thinking about his point of view? She shifted on her chair, wincing.

However, a soft but distinct ker-tat! broke her out of her uncomfortable reverie, and an orange body of fur stood on one corner of the counter.

"George!" Amy half-scolded, sliding off her stool as the cat stuck his pink nose into an open bin of spaghetti. "There's no tuna up here!" She scooped him into her arms. George purred innocently, but he turned his striped head to eye the buffet like a burglar casing a museum to grab a rare diamond. Amy carried him back to her stool, turning him over so that she cradled him like an infant. She scratched the white spot on his chest, pinning him in her grip. His presence brought a sense of normalcy to this strange repast, and his purrs and warm fur gave Amy a tiny bit of comfort, like an anchor to her pre-Slappy life.

She gave his furry forehead a quick kiss and turned back to Slappy, who regarded the feline with a cautious expression. She quirked an eyebrow. "Don't you like cats?"

"Not the kinds that try to use me as a scratching post," he replied. He then added under his breath, "Or make tornadoes."

"Oh, George is declawed in his front paws. That's how we found him at the shelter," Amy told him. She felt tempted to ask about the tornado comment, but she didn't in case Slappy was making fun of her. "Besides, if you ever wanted to make friends with a cat, get yourself an orange tabby like George. They love being loved and will warm up to almost anyone immediately." She scratched George under the chin, and his soft neck vibrated beneath her fingers with a fresh wave of purrs.

Slappy nodded slightly. His blue eyes grew contemplative. "No wonder he didn't bother me when I first went to Sara's room," he rasped. "He was laying in the middle of the hallway. He just looked at me and only sniffed me a little as I passed him."

Amy stared at him in surprise. He had an opportunity to hurt George like he did to Alicia - but he didn't. She shivered at the sudden images which flashed across her mind and cuddled her kitty, grateful he was in one piece. Did that mean Slappy was legitimately only out to defend himself and wasn't the evil toy she had imagined him to be? If Slappy was completely bad, he wouldn't have left George alone, right?

George stopped purring suddenly and twisted his front paws, trying to get onto the counter, but Amy caught him in time. "You let Slappy eat in peace," she admonished, holding him in place. "You're big enough as it is, Garfield."

George started up another thunderous purr, but Amy could tell he was only biding his time until her grip loosened. The little faker, she thought.

Slappy chuckled softly. "Garfield. I'll have to remember that one," he murmured around his spoon.

Amy stopped in the middle of reaching for a crumb of hamburger meat to distract the cat. She glanced at the dummy. Had Slappy actually complimented her? His face didn't suggest the kind of person who gave praise readily, and his smile seemed a tiny bit more genuine now.

She held up the tiny treat for George to sniff, and the cat decided he would experiment with a few licks. With her feline satisfied for the moment, Amy ventured to ask a few more (safe) questions. "So, besides food, what else do you like? Music?"

"Like I can just flipped on the radio whenever I please," Slappy cracked, rolling his eyes. "But, yes, some songs aren't completely horrible."

"You like reggae?" she asked automatically but not expecting him to. Her family covered their ears and groaned when she tried to share any of her favorite music. "Bob Marley's the absolute best. Bobby McFerrin is good too."

His eyes narrowed in thought. "McFerrin. He sings 'Don't Worry, Be Happy', right?"

"Yep. You like it?"

"It's not too bad," he replied, "but I would change it to 'Don't Worry, Be Slappy.'" He let out a high-pitched giggle at his own joke.

What are the odds that HE would be the one other person who likes some reggae in this house? The world was a funny place - especially now that she knew dummies could come to life.

"Margo and I listen to the Beatles together too," she added.

Slappy suddenly straightened, and his cold blue eyes gleamed with a new light she hadn't seen in them before. "Hey, there's hope for you yet, Amy!" he smirked. "Maybe you do got some taste."

Amy rolled her eyes at the insult, but she smiled a little, glad to be getting somewhere. "So, you like them?"

Slappy nodded his grinning head. "I just loved the photo cover for their album Yesterday and Tomorrow," he said, pausing to give another chuckle. "But my favorite song's gotta be 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer.'"

Amy knitted her brow, thinking over the different cassette tapes Margo owned. A lot of them were collections of the more popular hits like "Help!" and "Love Me Do", but Amy wouldn't be surprised if her best friend had the more obscure songs somewhere in her collection. "How does that one go?" she asked.

Slappy cleared his throat and began to sing in his hoarse voice: "Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer came down upon her head. Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer made sure that she was dead."

Amy shuddered, glaring at him. "Yuck! That's not a Beatles song!"

"It is!" Slappy insisted. "It was part of the album, Abbey Road."

"Yeah right!"

"Call Margo in the morning if you don't believe me," he shot back. "If I'm wrong, I'll walk right up to your parents and sing 'I'm a Little Teapot'!"

He's that certain, huh? "Okay, okay. I believe you," she said hurriedly, shifting George onto her shoulder as he started to squirm again. However, Slappy's declaration reminded her of their earlier discussion about how to appease her family. After Slappy resumed his dining, she asked, "So, what happens after I tell my parents that I'm responsible for what you did?"

"You wait out whatever punishment they dish out," Slappy said. He scraped some of the grape gelatin from last night's dessert. "When you're allowed to leave the house, I need you to take me somewhere."


His eyes flicked to her, growing sharp. "That's on a need-to-know basis."

Amy paused in scratching Georges back and made a pointed rap on the counter with her hand. "If you want me to help you, you gotta tell me so that I can plan properly."

His dark brows shot down into a hard glower. Amy shivered a little, but she didn't retract her terms. Finally, Slappy leaned his elbows against the counter.

"Fine," he all but spat. "I need you to take me back to the pawnshop your dad picked me up at."

"Maybe, if it isn't too far."

"You already know how to take a city bus. You got us home from that birthday party," he reminded her. "The pawnshop owner who shoved that sandwich into my head has something which belongs to me."

Amy remembered the moldy sandwich she had found inside Slappy, and just the memory of its smell and wormholes made her gag. "What does he have? Your spare suit?"

Slappy shook his head. "Papers that belonged to the toy maker who built me. They're mine, and I want them back."

"What kinda papers?"

"Private ones," Slappy retorted. "Between a papa and his son." He pointed at Amy's face. "Imagine your dad dropped dead tonight, and he only left you some letters to remember him by. Would you want some guy hanging onto them where you could never see them?"

Amy shook her head.

"Then help me get them," he ordered. "You help me out, I help you out. Got it?"

Amy flinched a little under his cold stare, but she wasn't going to let herself be bossed around by a puppet either. Temper tantrums didn't work on her when Jed had pulled them in his preschool days, and no dummy was going to bully her. "Be nice to me, and I'll help you," she said. "One more prank and you can walk yourself to the pawnshop."

Slappy drummed his fingers on the counter, considering her with that cold expression. "Well, we got a week at least before you're ungrounded," he said in a low voice. "Let's see how it goes."

When they turned in for the night, Amy took the seat cushion from her armchair and stuffed it into the closet for Slappy. She also retrieved the pillows from the living-room couch and a blanket from the linen closet for his use. Slappy grunted something that might have been thanks, and he shut the door behind him.

Amy gently laid Dennis on his cushionless seat, positioning his arms in his lap. She patted his hair, and his good eye gazed back at her. It might have been her imagination, but he looked a little sad, as if he understood what she was going through right then.

After she changed into her nightgown, Amy laid awake, staring at the moon beams across the walls, unable to sleep despite the late hour.

Can I trust him?

It was a question she couldn't shake. Was Slappy just a poor orphan who never had a parent to teach him how to solve his problems in a civil way? Or was Slappy laughing at her right then over how gullible he thought she was?

Somebody had to have built him, she reasoned. So, he might be telling the truth about a toy maker who left him papers. But somebody shoved that sandwich into his head, and they definitely had a reason. Slappy had said the pawnshop owner had done it, and the pawnshop owner had sold him to Dad really cheap, probably because he wanted to get rid of him. So, what did Slappy do to the pawnshop owner?

Maybe she couldn't trust Slappy at all. But what did she do then? Toss a living thing into a furnace? Mail him to Abu Dhabi? Bury him in the backyard?

She rolled onto her side. She wished she could ask someone for advice, but nobody in her family believed her about Slappy. She was on her own.

Kinda like Slappy.

She paused, reflecting on that. Even if her family wanted to ship her to a shrink, at least she had a family, and her parents were actually concerned for her. Slappy had nobody. Just some papers his toy maker left him.

If he behaves himself this week, I'll help him, she decided, pulling the covers up to her cheek. Nobody deserved to lose a memento of a family member, not even a rude dummy.

She just hoped she was doing the right thing


A/N: I don't think the book says what kind of cat George is, so I made him an orange tabby since they are often highly social. (I once met an orange tabby while walking through a cemetery, and he purred and wanted me to pet him even though I was a total stranger.)

If you spot any typos I've missed, please let me know in a PM.