John Chavers: Cutie Patootie (memoir)
Southern Legitimacy Statement: “Almost half of my life has been spent in the South. I’ve lived in Boston, Paris, and a few other places as well. I call Austin, TX home now.”
I fell in love with him the moment he said he could ride a unicycle backwards and did. At least in my mind he did – given that great soundtrack of circus sounds emanating from his red flannel covered belly when you pulled his string. His name was Patootie and he was a clown doll.
Cutie Patootie was a gift from my parents for Christmas. I know clowns are scary to some people, especially clowns that can talk, but Patootie’s not a scary clown. Really, he’s not.
Patootie could say all sorts of things when you pulled his string like, “Have you ever ridden an elephant to school… Off with my hat… Look Ma no hair,” and he had colorful clown accessories like a plastic sad face mask, a yellow felt hat with an orange wig attached, and the requisite clown outfit that included a ruffled white collar. I called him “Partootie.” It was always a “party” to me when he was around. I later renamed him to Joey and that’s the name that stuck.
Joey did a lot for me. He got me through thunderstorms, bad days at school, and other mean moments in childhood when I needed a friend.
He’s still my friend. What he says now each time I pull his string reminds my sister and me of a cartoon-like “BOING!” from an episode of the Road Runner or Bugs Bunny show.
At least once a year on some random occasion when we are in the storage area of the garage at our parents’ house, my sister points towards Joey and says I should have him repaired. “They can do that,” she tells me. “I’ve seen it online.”
I tell her he doesn’t need repair. He’s fine as is. She removes him from the box on the shelf and pulls his string to bolster her claim. “What’s he saying?” she asks laughing. I take him from her and rub his little flannel covered belly and say, “That’s the unicycle. That’s the best part.”