When I was a child I was given a stuffed chimp. I named him Chimpy. I know the correct term for such a thing is "plush toy," but Chimpy wasn't so plush.
Chimpy was given to me by my beagle, Pooh, who came trotting into the backyard from the cemetery and delivered him straight to me. Pooh had inadvertently torn off Chimpy’s left ear, but Chimpy's smile remained the same.
I knew Chimpy was a chimp and not a monkey because I was constantly returning to one of the first important books in my life: My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees, by Jane Goodall. It remains my favorite nonfiction children’s book.
Therefore, Chimpy and I are both offended if anyone calls him a monkey. He does not have a tail. Apes do not have tails. Chimpy wears white tennis shoes. Monkeys do not wear shoes.
Chimpy’s left hand has just enough flex to grip a small object, such as a Matchbox car. His right hand holds a perfectly ripe, peeled banana which fits satisfyingly in his mouth when he is hungry.
Note the present tense. Chimpy is still around. He now holds court on a bookshelf in my office.
It goes without saying that I love Chimpy. For so many years he was my security ape, my nighttime confidant, and, although with his one ear he lacked stereophonic hearing, he was always a caring and attentive listener.
But something has always troubled me about Chimpy.
Where did Pooh find him? Is there a kid out there — now in late middle age — missing him?
My son and I frequent a local “boutique” called, Repairers of the Breach. If you don’t know this place, think a poor man’s Goodwill. We love this place. If we need something like a cassette player motor, this is where we go. This is where Liam scored his perfectly-fitting, double breasted, peak lapel suit for the homecoming dance. It was eight dollars.
This past October, I made my way from a gig in Athens, Alabama to a show in Anderson, South Carolina. On this route, before leaving the state of Alabama, I was advised to stop by the little town of Scottsboro to experience a store called, Unclaimed Baggage. The name says it all; this is where the unclaimed luggage of the airlines of these United States ends up. Well, it just so happened that I was in need of some new “show clothing,” so I bought three sweaters. One of these had never been worn and still bore a brand name tag; it was knitted from the wool of such noble sheep, by a manufacturer of such high repute and quality, that I would not have been able to afford it in nature. I was greedily giddy with my purchases. I got out of there having spent less than $20.
But when I donned my unclaimed sweater, a chill went up my spine. I started thinking about Chimpy.
Okay, so if I find an item at Repairers of the Breach, I can rest assured that said item was donated by a family member, a benevolent survivor of a deceased loved one who might have said, "Grandpa would want someone to enjoy these shoes for a second time." Or an item could have been donated by someone who had upgraded their electronics. Or maybe someone had read and finished that book. Or, after doing a clear-out of the kitchen, someone may have questioned the veracity of the writing upon a coffee mug, bestowing upon another person the title, "World's Greatest Husband."
But these sweaters from the lost baggage store clearly once belonged to someone who never wanted them gone!
Indeed, there is a bit of anguish associated with these sweaters. Maybe even some bad juju.
I mean, on one of those days at the airport during which you have been patiently awaiting your luggage to come down the chute and/or ride on the belt, have you ever spied the hapless travelers lined up outside the little glass cage of the baggage services office of their chosen airline? Have you ever been one of those persons? And have ever wondered what act of ignominy must have been committed by the airline worker who ended up serving as the luggage services agent?
In my warm, cozy sweaters, I think about those lost-luggage people, just as I think about a kid who is now in his or her fifties in Covington, Georgia, who might be reading this very article and who may now and again, think on a beloved stuffed Chimp that was lost.
Or worse... stolen by a beagle named Pooh.
A native of Covington GA, Andy Offutt Irwin is a nationally renowned storyteller, humorist, singer, songwriter, musician, whistler, and human noise maker. Andy’s take on small town life has resulted in 10 albums, 1000s of shows, and many awards, including the 2013 Oracle Circle of Excellence from the National Storytelling Network. Andy Irwin is a native of Covington and a natural storyteller. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.