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Lumphy, the stuffed buffalo, did not go with the Girl on winter vacation. StingRay did not go, either. She thought she would. The Girl even told her she would, because she and StingRay sleep together, every single night, on the high bed with the fluffy pillows. But in the end, when the suitcases were packed and the car loaded,the Girl and her parents drove awayand StingRay was left behind. Plastic, being only a ball, had not expected to go on the trip. No one plays with balls in snowy weather. She is here with StingRay and Lumphy in the empty house, finding it strange to have days go by without the good-natured ruckus of the people who livethere. No alarm clocks, no morning bustle, no baths, no cooking smells. No laughter, no arguments, no stories read aloud. The house is cold. For several daysthey are not sure how manyLumphy, StingRay, and Plastic play checkers and Hungry Hungry Hippos with the toy mice and the one-eared sheep. They chat with the rocking horse in the corner and with TukTuk, the old yellow towel in the hallwaybathroom. They watch television. But the hours go by much more slowly than usual. There is always the feeling of someone missing. The Girl they love. "When is she coming back, again?" Plastic wonders one afternoon. She and Lumphy are on the windowsill, downstairs in the living room. Lumphy is watching the snow falling outside, and Plastic has been reading a book about cheesekinds of cheese, whereit comes from, and how it's made. She is flipping the pages herself with a rolling technique she's invented. "The Saturday before school starts again, is what they said," Lumphy answers. He feels sick to his stomach when he thinks about how the Girl isn't here. "What Saturday is that?" Plastic asks. "I don't know. A week is how long they'll be gone." "But how long is a week?" Plastic persists. "StingRay says five days." "What day is it now?" wonders Plastic. "Is it Tuesday? I think it's maybe Tuesday." She rocks anxiously from side to side. "Urmph," mumbles Lumphy. He is counting in his head. "What are the days besides Tuesday, anyhow?" continues Plastic. "Does it go Onesday, Tuesday, Threesday, Foursday?" "I think they have already been gone more than five days," announces Lumphy. "You mean we already had Tuesday?" "I mean we already had Saturday," says Lumphy. "I mean, the week is up." Fwap! Gobble-a gobble-a. Fwap! Gobble-a gobble-a. They are interrupted. Fwap! Gobble-a gobble-a. StingRay is falling down the stairs. Flipper over plush flipper, bouncing first off the wall, then off the posts beneath the banister. Fwap! Gobble-a gobble-a. Fwap! Gobble-a gobble-a. And then eventually: Bonk! She lands at the bottom. Lumphy climbs gingerly off the windowsill while Plastic bounces over to StingRay. "Are you okay?" StingRay is lying on her back, and her head hurts where she banged it on a post, but she quickly turns over on her tummy and brushes her eye with her left flipper. "What do you mean?" "You fell down the stairs." "I don't know what you're talking about. I come down that way all the time on purpose." StingRay changes the subject. "What have you been doing?" "I was reading!" Plastic tells her. "Did you know cheese is made in caves? Because it is! You put milk in a cave and out comes cheese!" "Of course I knew that," says StingRay, although she didn't. "Listen. Do you know where the playing cards are? I can't find them anywhere and I want to play Fish." Plastic and Lumphy agree to help look for the cards. They search the downstairs, checking bookshelves and the drawers of the coffee tablebut the cards are not there. They go upstairs: Lumphy climbing, StingRay lurching up each step with a strong pushof her tail, and Plastic bouncing easily, five stairs at a time. They look through the Girl's bedroom again. Search under the high bed. Look behind the box that holds the board games. Then they realize: the Girl has packed the cards. She has taken them with her on vacation, where she has not taken Lumphy, or Plastic, or StingRay. "What else has she packed?" cries StingRay, frantic. She flops herself across the bedroom carpet. "Did she pack that book about the mouse in the dungeon?" Plastic takes a high bounce to look on the bedside table. "It's not here." "Now we'll never find out what happens!" moans StingRay. "What else did she pack?" Their survey reveals that the Girl has packed not only the book about the mouse in the dungeon and the deck of cards but a box of dominoes, a carton of LEGOs, a paint box and a pad of art paper, a jigsaw puzzle of a triceratops, two Barbie dolls that don'ttalk and never have, and a vinyl box of Barbie outfits. "Oh no!" StingRay cries when Plastic and Lumphy present her with the total. "Why did she take all the second-rate toys and leave us?" "There, there," says Plastic. "She just . . ." "She just what? She just forgot us, that's what! Forgot us and took those Barbie dolls who don't even say anything at all!" "Maybe she went to a place that was good for Barbies," says Plastic. "Some kind of special Barbie place, where stingrays would get bored." "Oh yeah?" StingRay throws herself on the carpet in distress. "And she needs her paint box there? And her dominoes? She hardly even likes the dominoes. She never does puzzles! She doesn't love me! She's left me!" "She's coming back," says Plastic. "She's coming back on Saturday." She doesn't tell StingRay what Lumphy told herthat maybe Saturday is already over. "By Saturday she'll have forgotten all about us!" cries StingRay. Now she is twisting over and back on the carpet, gasping and sobbing. And sobbing some more. And even more sobbing. This can't go on, thinks Lumphy. He has to do something.