Free Fiction Thursday – Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store

Happy Thursday, Internets!

How about a little horror story for this last Thursday in June? This week’s tale features G.I. Joe, Hoss Cartwright (or at least his hat), and a toy store that’s definitely not all sweetness and light.

Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed


Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store was Daniel Preston’s favorite place in the whole wide world.  Once a month, if he had been a good boy, Daniel’s mom took him on the bus downtown to Uncle Charlie’s and let him pick out one new toy.  He had been a very good boy this month, and Daniel knew exactly what he wanted: a G.I. Joe.

Daniel’s best friend Ned had his own G.I. Joe.  Daniel tried not to be jealous every time Ned played soldier with Joe, but it was hard when he really, really wanted one of his own.

From the outside Uncle Charlie’s looked like any other store. It had a red brick store front with big display windows, and a door with a sign hung in the glass that could be turned to read either “Open” or “Sorry, We’re Closed.”  When his mom opened the door to Uncle Charlie’s, a little brass bell that hung over the door jangled to welcome Daniel inside.  Daniel loved the sound of that bell because every time he heard it, he knew he’d be walking into a store made just for kids.

Uncle Charlie’s had just about every toy a kid could hope to have.  Rows and rows of wooden shelves with model ships and planes; model railroad cars and little trees and fences and plastic people for when you played railroad; plastic horses of every shape and size; stuffed bears and a stuffed monkey that played cymbals when you wound him up; packages of little green army men; marbles and jacks and jump ropes and kites and roller skates.

And most important, Uncle Charlie’s had G.I. Joe.

G.I. Joe not only came with a gun, he had a canteen and real army clothes.  If only he had his own G.I.Joe, Daniel and Ned could dig trenches in the dirt in the backyard, both their Joes could run from one trench to the next, prop their guns up in the dirt at the edge of the trench, and fire at the enemy just like real soldiers did.  Dust might get in Daniel’s nose and make him sneeze, and his sister would probably tease him about playing with dolls, but Daniel didn’t care.  G.I. Joe was worth it.

Then Daniel saw the Hoss Cartwright hats.

A big, tall hat like Hoss’s would be fun to wear when he watched Bonanza.  Daniel’s sister thought Little Joe was cute, but Daniel knew Hoss was really the best.  Hoss looked out for other people and helped his friends, and he did silly things that made Daniel laugh.  Hoss was good in a fight, too, just like G.I. Joe.

But Daniel wanted G.I. Joe, too.

Uncle Charlie had put a big stack of Hoss’s hats right next to the candy machine, the one where you put in a penny in the front and turned the lever around until the penny disappeared.  Mom always gave Daniel a penny to put in the machine.  Sometimes it had sour lemon drops inside, but Daniel liked the gum better.  It was crunchy and tasted like bubble gum, only the hard shell made it sweeter.

Daniel put his penny in the gum ball machine and got a red gum ball.  He popped it in his mouth and went to find his mom to ask her about getting both toys.  After all, he’d been a really, really good boy this month.

He found Uncle Charlie instead.

Daniel knew it was Uncle Charlie because Uncle Charlie had his own television show, just like Hoss.  Uncle Charlie wore the same blue denim overalls and red-checked shirt that he did on television.  He had the same thin sandy-colored beard and mustache, the same blue eyes, and the same friendly smile.

In all the months Daniel’s mom had brought him to get his toy, Daniel had never seen Uncle Charlie in the store before. The real, live Uncle Charlie.  Daniel was so nervous all of a sudden he almost forgot to chew his gum.

“Hello,” Uncle Charlie said to Daniel.  “And who might you be, cowboy?”

Uncle Charlie must have seen him looking at the Hoss hats.

“Daniel Preston,” Daniel said, being polite just like his mom had taught him.

Uncle Charlie held out his hand and Daniel shook it.  Uncle Charlie’s hand was warm and dry, and he smelled faintly of fresh mown grass and something else — an earthy, slightly unpleasant smell.  Daniel didn’t mind.  Ned smelled worse after they’d been playing in the back yard all afternoon.

(read the rest of the story here)

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