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Toy Story fanfic: Benson's Melancholy
#1

Benson's Melancholy

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The following is a work of fiction, and I do not in any way claim ownership of the Toy Story franchise or its characters, created by Pixar and produced by Disney.

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Benson remembers his former career as a ventriloquist's dummy in the 1940s, and the time he spent being Gabby Gabby's loyal assistant and brother. Set post-TS4.




The thud of the pram at the carnival grounds struck me as an end of a friendship between my brothers and I and someone whom I since considered to be my sister. Maybe I've been a pawn for so long. A tool. A button man as what I've heard.

The elderly antique shop proprietress' daughter promptly took me back in storage, wondering about the bizarre occurrences that has been going on ever since Woody and the others went in and took Forky back with them. Sitting alone in one corner of the curio cabinet while my brothers are daydreaming in another corner, I took off my suit jacket and cushioned it behind me as I sat down and reminisced. I've never done that often, apart from when my previous owner, a once-famous ventriloquist named Martin Fisher, also known as Marvellous Marty, had to clean me and my brothers up after a long and gruelling tour throughout the country. Mr. Fisher knew no other immediate relatives after his parents died and viewed us all like family, something which I am more than glad to know.

Gabby has been a good kid, a sister to me if I might add. Realizing this goal of hers to be free from the torment of gathering dust in a shelf, in a way, I, too, wanted to experience being loved and cherished again. It's sad, really, all they think of the likes of us these days, apart from those who bore more of a resemblance to plush toys like those in Sesame Street, is that we were terrifying or creepy. Sure enough, the very sight of us moving a limb or two would give someone the jeepers, thinking we were cursed or something. Or that we reminded them of some popular horror series in the 90s from that Steine fellow with a dummy who looked a touch like us. It's stigmatizing, really, I can understand the fear but that wasn't my brothers and I intend to do, let alone maim someone.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah... I don't exactly remember when I was made, though it was in the early 1940s at the earliest. An elderly French guy named Sébastien Camilli did all the handiwork, as he had been making puppets and dummies during the early 20th century before moving to the States. Mr. Fisher commissioned Monsieur Camilli to do us all for his theater and carnival appearances for the kids. He had dummies like us before, but memories of those were rather fuzzy to say the least.

The earliest performance that I could recall was in the town of Jefferson, Illinois in 1943, where the kids, one of whom is the daughter of an Army doctor who happened to be a classmate of Mr. Fisher in elementary, were quite amused by the antics he and us dummies did. Mr. Fisher would sometimes ask the girl, whose name is Molly, to say hi to his father for him, being it's been quite a while since the two school pals met each other. Through his voice I did impersonations, cracked jokes, and basically entertained everyone who would pay for such an act. There were also times when Mr. Fisher and I, along with my brothers, would meet with Fred McCracken and his pal Wacky, who as we all know had a radio show when they rubbed elbows with a certain orphan girl from New York who was looking for her long-lost parents, in a collaborative act. The more, the merrier, right? And it was – backstage I would grunt at Wacky and we would do pranks at each other when our owners aren't around. Too bad it was Mr. McCracken's swan song at the time and he was compelled to retire with Wacky after a one-night show at the Tri-County Theatre. Which gave me the sinking feeling of being put in a closet, never to make a kid smile again.

It was in the mid-1960s when Mr. Fisher sadly passed away after a debilitating stroke that signaled the end of his career as a popular children's entertainer. I could have been under the employ of another ventriloquist, but honestly, it would never be the same. The voice may sound alike but it's the subtleties that some may point out. It may not matter much to children but it does to someone who has the dedication. I wanted to let out tears as what humans do, but that is sadly not what I am capable of. Nevertheless, I felt it was all done with for me and my brothers. Lucky for Pinocchio, his days as a puppet ended with a happily ever after; to us, it's being a permanent guest at the antique store which would serve as our home for decades after being handed over by Mr. Fisher's relatives.

I never harbored any disdain for those who put us all in storage, it was a fact of life for us playthings. I'm just disappointed that we could have made more kids smile and all that. And it feels rather dreadful that no one would view you in a positive way for being a staple of horror stories and Halloween pranks. It was an unintended consequence of looking eerily like a human, something I have no control over. Whenever I felt rather lonesome and somewhat despondent from the stark reality of not being played with any more, my brothers would sometimes cheer me up with circus acts and other sorts of tomfoolery. While the other three were rather silent and would grunt at most when left to our own devices, I learned to speak on my own after picking up the mannerisms both from my theatrical character and from other people over the years, often influenced by popular culture and from what I have read whenever I stumble upon reams of National Geographic magazines collecting dust, though to be honest I am yet to fully grasp today's modern culture being that my brothers and I have been trapped in this sort of prison for decades, the likes of Davy Crockett and black and white televisions and things as recent as Evel Knievel and Niki Lauda would be something I'm having more of a grasp of.

It's not that the old lady running the place is any cruel though. I'm just sad that no one would appreciate us other than just a mere museum piece or a haunted house prop to strike fear into the hearts of those who dare enter one. If anything, it was like Woody's sister Jessie who suffered pretty much the same fate as us – loved at first but eventually forgotten when people move on or pass away. I'm glad Jessie got over her resentment as well; it was never a good thing to hold a grudge, that's for sure. Mrs. Riley, the proprietress, would occasionally do an inventory check and see if any one of us is accounted for, and while some antique or charity shop owners would sell things for clearance or crassly recycle them, she preferred to let things trickle down naturally and use the newly vacated space for "new" items. Fortunately for us, she wasn't that scared and would dust the specks off us and talk to us in a rather gentle way.

"Oh, I hope you four fellows will be all fine there," the elderly woman spoke gently, "Don't you boys worry though, I'm not that scared,"

I'm glad we knew a woman who would treat us just fine if not for having us stay here sitting ducks. For every person who'd cower in fear at pariahs like us, there's always someone who'd actually care for you one bit without having any scorn or ridicule. At least being at her antique shop is a better consolation than either decaying in a dumpster or slowly eaten away be termites who'd find my wooden head and limbs to be a tasty morsel for whatever reason. And then there's this little fellow in a yellow polka-dot dress, red pig-tailed hair and Mary Jane shoes. Except she is twenty inches tall and sitting un-played with in a glass cabinet for as long as she and I could remember, her blue-grey eyes and vinyl face reflecting both sadness, joy and a longing for someone to have a quaint tea party with her. We never crossed paths with each other being my brothers and I were at a different part of the store, until Vinnie, the mischievous of us dummies, wandered off in search of something. Running around like a cross between a reanimated corpse and Raggedy Ann, Vinnie was looking for a banjo to try and play some tunes in when he bumped into Gabby, who built up the courage to wander around on her own at night.

"AAAAHH! Don't hurt me!" Gabby shrieked, terrified at what she saw and crawling back from what appeared to be a rather ghoulish figure.

Vinnie gestured that he meant no harm to her in the clumsiest way possible. In a swift change of mood, Gabby was quite amused and laughed at the lanky curtsy my brother tried to do. He didn't mind being laughed at, as to us it was all part of the act. After all, we were meant to be performers anyway, even for a solitary audience such as this doll we've just met. My brothers and I came to where Vinnie was at, and he and Gabby seemed okay and unhurt.

Being that Gabby was meant to be a friend to everyone, the girl simply smiled at us once she learned we were of no ill intent.

"Hi there! My name is Gabby Gabby. What's your name?"

"B–B–B–Ben... son," I stammered, "Ch–Ch–Charlie Benson,"

I didn't really want to say more than a few words, let alone hold a conversation, being I was used to having my ventriloquist employer do all the talking for me, so to speak. Either that or I was just too shy.

"Would you like to be my friend?" asked the redhead.

I nodded and smiled, or at least as much as what my stiff and stilted wooden face can do. Gabby gave us all a big, big hug, and it felt like a glimmer of hope for us four, if not a definite answer to our prayers.

To be honest, Gabby, or Gabrielle as I jovially call her sometimes, can be a little annoying and bratty, but overall, she has a big heart and of good character from within. I just lament that she had the rather cruel misfortune of having a defective voice box, rendering her an inferior toy for children to play with. Not that a girl can't have a tea party with her and use her imagination though, but Gabby's distorted record player meant like a sort of life sentence to her. To her it was a curse, a punishment, sometimes grumbling to herself that the factory didn't know better. She didn't harbor any ill will at anyone though, only sighing that she would've been like any other of her kind if not for this fault.

Over time I learned to open up to her and share my thoughts on life and things, as well as my experiences with Mr. Fisher, Bert Healy and Fred McCracken – even if my conversations with her were rather stuttery and laconic at first, with Gabby's aid I gradually learned how to speak to her in a passable if not perfect manner. We'd crack jokes, play card games like "Go fish!", and just do what a brother and sister pair would do as what human siblings do. She was quite amused at the rather hammy and clumsy vaudeville acts me and my brothers would pull off. It didn't matter to her even if they aren't perfect or well-rehearsed as long as we put on a show. Gabby would meanwhile tell me about her experiences here at the antique shop, as well as vague memories of the day when she was made in 1959, springing to life as the factory worker was done with her.

"I don't get it," Gabby sighed, "They could have tested my voice box more, right?"

I simply sighed in commiseration. Nothing much I could do, I'm afraid.

"I freed myself from the restraints and came out of the box for a bit, pulling the string behind me," Gabby recalled, "I knew something was wrong to begin with, and it's no wonder my first owner didn't like me,"

"O–Okay..." I agreed.

"If only someone could give me a new voice box so I can talk properly,"

I nodded and gave her a pat in the shoulder. As it was late in the evening, I gestured that I needed some sleep, and we all went to take some shut-eye. I didn't have any night clothes of course, so I simply took off my jacket and tie and went to limp myself down at a nearby box, folding my suit to serve as a makeshift pillow.

Years passed and it was all the same routine as before – same old morning and evening stroll with Gabby and the others, pushing the pram around for her when no one is looking, and warding off intruders who'd dare harm the girl, like that cat who'd walk along the floor and claw at those unfortunate enough to be in her reach. My brothers and I did it out of gratitude for being good friends with her, and in return Gabby showed kindness to us.

And there came one early morning when a pull-string cowboy named Woody and a makeshift toy named Forky. Woody was just looking for an old friend of his, someone who had been away from his life for more than a decade or so. Oh, I could tell that Bo Peep has changed a lot over the years. Tell you what, she sure knows how to give me and the other boys a rough time. I feel sorry for Woody and his girlfriend though, I really am. It was understandable that Gabby was driven by sheer hopelessness and desperation when she thought cannibalizing the cowboy's voice box would be a great idea. To me it wasn't necessarily so, as Gabby will always be loved by a child no matter who she is in my opinion. I simply had to do what I had to do for a sister. In the end my brothers and I made amends with Woody and the rest of the gang, knowing I've wronged them unwillingly. Gabby of course did the same, and being the generous old fellow that Woody is, he gave his old voice box away for the girl to be given a chance to be loved, even if Harmony, the child who Gabby longed for, callously dismissed her as uninteresting. There's obviously more to love than just Harmony, said Woody, and he was right, there was.

My brothers and I volunteered to help with carrying out a daring escape from the antique shop. Tying Bo Peep's "skunk-mobile" to the pram, we rallied our way out of the place, flat-out and into the carnival, where Gabby and the others would rendezvous with Woody's current owner, Bonnie. Woody, Gabby, the two plushies and I were the ones in the pram, sitting there until the carriage hit an obstacle, spilling us out of the cart. Suffice it to say, the woman who encountered me was horrified at my rather macabre self.

To Gabby, it was the last time she saw me and my brothers. To me, I felt gutted and somewhat betrayed as a sibling. I asked myself, why did she do this to us? She had been so kind to us and then she'd leave us all like this! Vinnie, Benny and George sympathized, but at the same time comforted me and assured that she didn't want to leave us all for good either. I then thought, if there's any silver lining to this, it's that we fulfilled our purpose to her and gave her the means to be loved and cherished more than we could even muster.

Still I have these pangs of loneliness and guilt as I sit here by the cabinet where my sister used to be. I didn't know of any other way to get in touch with her, so I sneaked out on my own and scouted the park for Amy, the girl whom Gabby befriended. Fortunately, she left her bag at a park bench with her address on it, which I made a mental note of. I surreptitiously went back to the shop and got my friends to hand some supplies to me so I could type a letter on one of those old Underwoods. If this ain't a circus stunt we're doing to get everything done, I don't know what it is. Pat Morita would've dismissed us as Karate Kid rejects for our lankiness, but it just works. Imaginary tears welling in my painted eyes, I tapped the keys until I wrote something of a letter for a dear sister who had been a good friend to us all...

Dear sis,

I'm sorry if your brothers and I have failed or disappointed you, and I'm sorry if I've been rough with everyone, especially Woody and Bo. I know, we never meant to harm or hurt anyone, and it's very much understandable that you only wanted a better life than years and years of monotony at the antique shop where we lived for most of our lives. I really do hope we'd meet each other again, even just for a bit at your new house. And can you say hi to Amy for me please? I know it's rather awkward but eh, it shouldn't hurt to ask, right?

Rest be assured that we'd look after ourselves for as much as we can, and Gabby, take care of yourself too and be a good doll to your Amy.

Your loving brother,
- Charlie Benson


Again as no one was looking, my brothers and I sneaked our way out of the shop for a while, and in another circus act, deposited the letter I made in the mailbox. The next morning the mailman came and took the parcels to be delivered to their destinations, our letter included. It was fortunate enough that Amy didn't dismiss the letter as junk, even if she wondered who on earth is that Charlie Benson and "Gabrielle O'Neil" on the mail. Thinking it could be for another person, she left the mail in her room until she found the time to give it to its supposedly intended recipient.

Gabby couldn't help but cry equally imaginary tears as she read the letter. She was overjoyed to know that I didn't get mad or feel any ill will towards her after that incident at the carnival. With the help of her fellow toy friends whom she had the pleasure of meeting and playing with, she too wrote and printed a response on Amy's computer, having learned more about 21st-century technology and all from her new toy friends. My sister sure had a lot of catching up to do.

Dear bro,
If anything, I should be the one to apologize for that sudden departure I made a while back. I hope you can forgive me though, but I'm glad that you are more than willing to do so. And how's life at the antique store lately? Still finding that pinstripe suit of yours stuffy, I presume? Don't worry, Amy has a sewing machine and I might as well do some clothes for you guys so you could look a little more, um, fashionable. I've actually made friends with some of Woody's friends on the Internet like Trixie and Rex. I mean, they're a 'swell bunch and I'll see if I could introduce them to you some time. Take care of yourselves, and let me know if you guys get a new ventriloquist owner too.

Your loving sister,
- Gabby Gabby xoxo



Author's notes: Couldn't resist doing another TS4 fanfic so here you go. I decided to portray Gabby and the Benson boys as siblings since I don't see them in a romantic relationship or anything of that sort anyway. I always felt that Benson was a big brother to Gab, someone who is more than willing to care and protect her with all he can do for a lanky dummy.

The Sebastien Camilli name was a portmanteau of Sebastien Ogier and Eric Camilli, two rally drivers who have been competing in the World Rally Championship. The former gained notoriety for scoring six consecutive driver's championships since 2012.
Bert Healy and Fred McCracken and his dummy Wacky was, as some of you might guess, were from the Annie musical. Thought I'd do a mini-crossover for good measure and to add up to the backstory.

And speaking of mini-crossovers, there's also a cameo from Molly McIntire from the American Girl series of books and toys, since a friend of mine is a huge fan of Molly and I thought of her when I incorporated this into the narrative.

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