Barney goes to hell The tale of an unfortunate dino

I think he was blue. I can’t be sure. The first time I saw him, two weeks ago, it was morning and he was impaled on a fence in front of Tucker Drug on Washington Street, his hand eternally frozen in a friendly wave. The next time I saw the unnamed plush dinosaur, around noon, he had been moved by an anonymous person to a bench in front of a local eatery. He was a pleasant-looking creature who bore a cheerful grin and an outstretched hand. He looked like he was beckoning people into the store, greeting them with a happy hello.

I guess some kid had left him on the corner in the morning, or someone had tried to throw him out, and people considered it funny to take him and stick him in different places. He did brighten things up on that corner of Washington Street all day long.

Around 11:15 p.m., I was sitting in my apartment and heard some noise on the street below. Then, I smelled fire. I didn’t see any smoke in my apartment, so I trotted downstairs.

On the sidewalk, atop a torn side of an Amstel box, were white tufts of charred fluff.

It was a few moments before I realized the debris was the cremains of said dinosaur. Apparently, a group of people had seen him there smiling on the bench and decided to incinerate him.

As I stood over his embers on the sidewalk, I heard sirens from up the street. I looked north and saw the fire engines coming. I worried that I would be suspect number one. Don’t most arsonists stay behind to watch the result of their destruction? I steadily and swiftly returned to the apartment, trotted upstairs, and looked out my window.

Not one, but two fire trucks showed up to attend to the charred pile of stuffing.

Neighbors were lured out onto the street to see what was up.

“It was a stuffed animal,” someone called out of a window to a fireman.

“A what?”

“A stuffed animal.”

And then, I couldn’t help myself.

I started laughing.

And I laughed some more.

I remembered the happy face of the poor plush beast. It had worn that cotton-eating grin on its puss all day long. It had been moved from place to place, stuck in that eternal jolly wave, and had finally gone up in flames.

I laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more.

Then I looked downward. And I realized that the guy in one of the fire trucks was looking up at me.

He’s sure it’s me, I thought.I’d better stop laughing about it.

And then, I had to laugh more. And more. Since I was trying to stop laughing, I had to laugh more and more and more.

There I was, doubled up in my window. My sides hurt, and peals of laughter erupted from my gut. Now, I was suspect one in an arson investigation.

Meanwhile, people on the street stopped to stare at the carnage, shaking their heads sadly. I couldn’t hear what they were saying.

I removed myself from the window. The firemen left the scene without even taking a piece of fur. A police car stopped briefly, then quickly departed. Incinerated stuffed animals, apparently, were not their problem.

Finally, I went downstairs with my camera to document the remains of Puff the Tragic Dragon. A car parked and three teenagers got out. They gazed upon the mess.

“What happened to it?” one asked.

I looked at him coyly. “How do you know,” I asked, “what it was?”

The three of them were all silent for a minute.

“Oh!” said one. “Was it that cookie monster?”

“I saw that sh– today when I passed by,” said another.

“Someone was bent,” said the third.

Today, if you look carefully, you might be able to spot some of the feather-like remains of one of Hoboken’s own, Puff the Tragic Dragon, embedded in the sidewalk like the Sinatra star.

Join with me, if you will, as we sing a verse to our departed cotton friend.


Puff the Tragic Dragon
Lived by the Se (cret Ingredient)
Now he coats the sidewalk like
a soupy hom-i-ny!
Puff the Tragic Dragon’s
life went awry.
Now he’s climbed the stairwell to
that Toys R Us in the sky!
Puff the Tragic Dragon
went up in smoke
like that grilled veggie sandwich next door
that goes so well with Coke!
Puff the Tragic Dragon
Who can ask why?
Next time Johnny will save his monny
for a Razor scooter to ride! – Anonymous


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