'That is it!' Woody upended the tub of cowboys and indians, spilling the coloured plastic figures across the floor. 'Who did this?' He gestured at his trailing pullstring, prevented from reeling in by a double-knot against his back. Several of the figures sniggered.
'Weren't us,' said a cowboy. 'T'was them indians. We saw them do it, but we don't protect outsiders.'
'I don't need protecting, just leave me out of your squabbles,' Woody snapped. 'Just because I'm a cowboy it doesn't mean I'm on your side.'
'Yeah, you're doing a great job looking after yourself,' said the cowboy.
Woody drew himself up to his full height, which was several times theirs. 'If I taped your tub shut and hid it down the back of the desk, how long do you think it would take Jake to find you? Of course, he might not bother looking.'
Which was the signal for both cowboys and indians to put aside their differences and mob him. Woody picked them off him and threw them, but they grabbed hold of him faster and pulled him down. The brawl was interrupted by a soft growly voice from the bed. 'What is going on down there?'
The toys stopped fighting a little sheepishly. Cinnamon had been Jake's father's and both Jake's brothers' before being passed on to Jake and becoming his favourite before he could even talk. The bear had been bright red once but was now dingy and bald in patches, stuffing so flat with age that he bent over when he stood and couldn't walk without a stick.
'He threatened us,' said an indian.
'Look what they did to my pullstring,' said Woody, lifting the trailing end.
'That will do,' said Cinnamon. 'Woody, come up here and let me have a look at that. And you,' he said to the cowboys and indians. 'This is no way to treat a new toy.'
'Guess we should be fawning over him like everyone else?' muttered a cowboy. 'C'mon, let's get back in the tub.'
Most of the toys in the room were passed on from Jake's brothers. At two weeks old, completely new, and with the ability to speak giving him the technological edge, Woody was an anomaly. The other toys were inclined to make a fuss of him for that, making him something of the spoiled child of the playroom.
Woody did as he was told and swung up onto the bed next to Cinnamon, who moved around to examine the knot. 'Can you undo it?' he asked anxiously. So far his pullstring had been the one thing that made him special, he didn't want to lose it.
'Yes, just hold still,' said Cinnamon. Woody wasn't sure how he could untie knots with paws, but he wasn't going to argue.
'What's their problem anyway?' he said, kicking his legs against he side of the bed. 'They live in the same tub, what do they have to fight about?'
'They were designed as rivals for each other. Some toys can't get over that kind of thing,' said Cinnamon. 'Just stay out of it.'
'I am, and all that's done is get both sides mad at me. Can't you make them knock it off?'
Cinnamon chuckled. 'You think they listen to me?'
'More than they listen to anyone else.' The last knot came undone and the pullstring reeled in. 'Somebody's poisoned the waterhole,' said Woody. 'Thanks, Cinnamon.'
'You're welcome. And I'll talk to them. Don't worry about it.'
Woody jumped down and went to find Slinky. They'd been halfway through a checkers tournament before the last playtime.
They managed to finish the tournament before Jake came running up the stairs, making enough noise that everyone was in their places long before he reached them. He'd been outdoors, his face was flushed with cold from the snow the toys could see through the window. His two Combat Carls were picked up and set in position. A felt tipped moustache made one of them a villain, the other had been the hero before Woody's arrival. These days he was mostly Woody's sidekick. Cinnamon was usually left out of the games, although he was still the toy that Jake took to bed every night. Today, however, the villain had a bear pit and Cinnamon was swept up to become a dangerous grizzly.
They reached the climax, the good Carl had been thrown into the bear pit and Woody was about to attempt a daring rescue. Jake picked up Cinnamon and made him maul good Carl, only for Carl's sticking up hand to somehow catch in Cinnamon's fabric. There was a ripping noise that seemed to fill the room and Jake lifted Cinnamon, staring wide eyed at the damage. He stood up, hugging Cinnamon to him, and ran downstairs as loudly as he had come up. The toys slowly sat up, staring at the open door.
'That's the last we'll see of him,' said evil Carl sadly.
'Don't say things like that,' said Woody sharply.
Good Carl shook his head. 'You think it doesn't happen?'
'What do you expect from someone fresh out of the box?' said a toy horse from the windowsill.
'Jake'll fix him,' said Slinky. 'He's Jake's favourite.'
'You two keep telling yourselves that,' said good Carl.
Woody glanced at the open door and wondered whether he dared to go out and try to listen to what was going on downstairs. Jake's mother had strict rules about toys staying in the playroom, rules the toys abided by for fear of getting Jake into trouble.
'Don't. What good do you think you'd do?' said evil Carl.
Woody sighed and patted Slinky, not quite sure which of them he was trying to comfort.
'Jake's got him outside,' called the horse. The toys immediately ran to the windowsill, climbing up to see Jake below them. He was wearing shoes but no coat and Cinnamon was clutched in one hand. They watched as Jake carried him over to the dustbin, gave him one last, regretful, hug, and then lifted the lid and dropped him in. 'And there he goes,' concluded the horse.
'He really did it,' said Woody, stunned by what he'd just seen.
Evil Carl sighed and patted his shoulder. 'It happens, kid.'
That night Woody couldn't sleep. Part of it was fear that if a toy that had been loved as deeply and as long as Cinnamon could be discarded so easily then the rest of them had no chance. But part of it was that he had liked Cinnamon and he knew the bear wasn't dead, just alone in a dark place waiting for a one way trip to the dump. He shuddered, the confines of the toy box suddenly seeming far too small. He pushed the lid up and slipped out, trying not to disturb anyone as he did. Jake was sleeping restlessly, perhaps missing Cinnamon's comforting presence. Woody thought bitterly that it served him right.
The door to the room was ajar and Woody regarded it thoughtfully. What good could he do by going down? Not much but…he could talk to Cinnamon, maybe, at least. If Woody was trapped in a dustbin he wouldn't want to be alone. The other toys would tell him to leave it, but they were asleep right now. So Woody crept around the door and onto the landing. The only time he'd been outside of Jake's room before was when he'd been unwrapped at Christmas. It hadn't been long ago but he hadn't exactly been trying to memorise the layout. Going downstairs was obvious, though, so he started with that.
He was nearly at the bottom when the sight of two glowing green eyes in the dark caused him to lose his balance and tumble down the last few steps. A curious 'mew' and the soft padding of paws told him what he'd just seen.
'Hey, Whiskey,' he whispered, reaching up to pet the cat's neck in the dark. 'You know the way outside?'
Whiskey rumbled happily and flopped down.
'I bet a dog would know the way,' said Woody. His knowledge of dogs was limited to games in which Slinky the Wonder Dog rescued people from burning buildings, but if those games were at all accurate then dogs were a lot more useful than cats. Whiskey narrowed his eyes and continued to purr. Woody gave him one last rub behind the ears and walked past him.
Whiskey did turn out to be useful, in a sense, because the door had a cat flap in it. Woody pushed it up with one hand and looked out into the garden, which was black and silver with moonlit snow. He must not have had a firm enough grip on the cat flap because it slipped and knocked into him, sending him flying into the snow. Woody sat up, spitting snow, and found himself held to the spot by a realisation. The world was very, very big and he was very, very small. In the sky above him stars, and the moving lights of airplanes, twinkled. It was endless, depthless. Around him was space, white with snow, and even in a fenced in garden he was struck by the size of everything, so much bigger than Jake's room. A creature yowling could be a wild animal as easily as a cat, and anything could jump the fence.
Woody backed up against the door before cautiously standing up. He tiptoed towards the dustbin, hoping the footprints he was leaving could be taken for paw prints by anyone who looked, then knocked against the metal bin, wincing at the hollow clang it made. 'Cinnamon?'
'Woody? What on earth are you doing down here?'
'I'm here to help you,' said Woody with far more confidence than he felt. 'I might be able to get the lid off.'
'Foxes and racoons can't and you're not as strong as either of them,' said Cinnamon calmly.
'I could get the others. Maybe.'
'And then what?' asked Cinnamon, still sounding oddly calm for someone who had just been thrown out.
'Then - then we'll fix you. Sewing can't be that hard.'
'If it was that easy Jake would've done it. This isn't a popped seam, my fabric's torn. And it would happen again. I'm just too old and worn to be played with any more and I'm hardly decorative enough to keep on a shelf. But thank you.' There was a gentle humour to his voice that seemed infuriating under the circumstances.
'How can you be okay with this?' Woody demanded. 'You were his favourite and he just threw you out.'
'Don't blame Jake for this,' said Cinnamon. 'I had a good life, better than a lot of toys get. But I served my purpose and now I can't be played with anymore I can't be any good to him. This may be the best way to end it.'
Woody jumped for one of the handles on the side of the dustbin and pulled himself up to balance on it. He felt if he could just reach Cinnamon he could make the bear listen to him and come back inside. He pushed his hands under the rim of the lid, straining to lift it with all the strength in his floppy body. It didn't budge. He pushed with everything he had and slipped, landing in a crumpled heap in the snow. Cinnamon was right, the Carls were right, there was nothing he could do.
'What are we going to do without you?' he asked weakly.
'You'll be fine,' said Cinnamon. 'You should go back inside. Jake will be in trouble if his parents find you out here.'
Woody considered protesting that it was the middle of the night. But the truth was he didn't want to stay. Cinnamon's fatalism was too depressing. 'Goodbye, Cinnamon,' he said.
'Goodbye, Woody. Take care of Jake.'
'Sure thing.' Woody rested his hand against the dustbin, feeling there must be more to say. Then he turned away and trudged inside.
Whiskey met him as soon as he was back in the warmth of the kitchen, probably looking for another head rub. He regarded Woody with the serious expression common to cats before ducking his head and butting it against Woody's chest with a 'mew' which sounded oddly sympathetic. Woody wrapped his arms around Whiskey and buried his face against the cat's neck, grateful for someone warm and unquestioning to lean on.
Afterwards, and after he'd given Whiskey his head rub, Woody climbed the stairs and slipped back into Jake's room. Jake was sleeping more deeply now and Woody regarded him with a mixture of resentment and tenderness that was quite confusing to feel. He climbed onto the bed and looked down at Jake's sleeping face. 'You threw him away,' he whispered. 'And he still loves you.' Maybe Jake even deserved that love, for having given Cinnamon so many good years. Maybe how it ended wasn't the important part. Woody tugged the rumpled covers back over Jake as best he could and slid down to the floor.
The other toys in the toy box were still asleep when Woody climbed back in, they hadn't noticed he was gone. That was likely for the best, he certainly didn't want to talk about it. So with nothing else to do he curled up in a corner, closed his eyes and tried to will himself to sleep without dreaming.