Touch the Puppy
A Bedtime Story for Grownups and Impressionable Children

Have you ever seen those TOUCH AND SEE books for little kids in a store? You know, with the felt and the pop-outs and the big letters? They're cool.

Now, are stuck in a supermarket line with a screaming four-year-old and desperately trying to calm him down. Ooh--a stimtoy for the littlun--you pick up the book, innocently enough. Touch the puppy, son.

But he only screams louder, cacophonous poundings on your eardrums. Your queue neighbors are quickly losing patience. You think...but come up with no better idea. TOUCH the PUPPY, son. And still he refuses to touch the larval canis lupus familaris.

Now you're (finally) at the register and, on a whim, you buy the book--it just feels right.

At night, after you've unpacked your groceries and fed your son, you realize that "Touch the Puppy" wasn't in the bag. In fact, it was missing. You feel no great sense of loss--it was, after all, just a book. You go pleasantly to restful, well-deserved sleep.

Suddenly, you hear a voice from under your bed.

"touch the puppy," it whispers, velveteen, persuasive.

You stir, roll, and awake from an horrific dream--that must've been dreaming. But just as you're about to nod off again, thinking of the gnocchi in that aisle...Clare...

"Touch the puppy."

There it is again. It can't be denied this time. You arise, walk to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face. You go back to bed...ah, blessed silence. All is good. you are calm and have forgotten that lousy---


You shriek. You do not stop shrieking for six hours. The neighbors call the police; your son stares in uncomprehending horror as they take you away, his grandparents trying to avert his eyes from your disheveled figure. Only you see a telling glint of something mischievous in his eye...the cute little urchin is probably planning to run away and go see you. He's a darling--but all that is gone for now. Reluctantly, you let the nice men in uniform wheel you away.

As you are escorted, limp and straitjacketed, to the sanitarium, your mind collapses.

If only...if only you had touched the puppy while there was still time.

And as you step into that small, padded cell, yelling "Touch the Puppy!" to anyone who will listen, you hear a quiet little voice behind you. It is your son's voice.

"Touch the puppy, daddy." "Stop screaming, daddy." "Touch the puppy, daddy."