I’m awake, for some reason, but it’s still pitch dark. I peer through the gloom and am able to squint the clock into focus: 4:34am. Suddenly I become aware that a small form is standing next to the bed. “Daddy,” her voice comes from the darkness. “I can’t find Dolphiny.”
Stella is obsessed with Dolphins. Not just any dolphins, mind you. She is into a family of toy dolphins who live in our home. This is not a play set, it’s a motley crew of ‘phins who began to gather from the broken vestiges of other playsets and the wreckage of the toybox to find strength in each other’s company. And that of some mermaids. And sea stars. They have deep, meaningful personal lives and a rich history of saving other toys, and each other, from peril.
This is Dolphiny- the very diminutive of Dolphin. Practically microscopic. I should have included a quarter in this photo. “He’s cute!” you are exclaiming. I don’t blame you. I said the same thing. I was rewarded with this icy response: “It’s a GIRL, Dad.” Dolphiny is a Squinkie, which is a kind of little rubber creature. Rolling them around in your fingers and eyeballing them up close is surprisingly enjoyable. They are just so… rubbery. They smell nice too. A bit like rubber worms. Dolphiny even has a hat.
Squinkies are cunningly sculpted. They have Toy Story Squinkies, Disney Princess Squinkies, Marvel Squinkies, Cars Squinkies, Barbie Squinkies, Hello Kitty Squinkies, and more other kinds of Squinkies, but I am tired of typing Squinkies repeatedly (try it, it’s a pain in the neck) and I don’t really feel like researching the different kinds of Squinkies on google. Suffice to say there are a LOT of different kinds of Squinkies. There are new Squinkie-Doos which have crazy troll-hair. Those are kind of dope. I can see the appeal, though I am terrified an appetizing little Squinkie will choke and kill a baby, so they have limited travel visas.
Anyway, from the sale aisle at Target came a generic ‘sea creatures’ Squinkies set. I suppose they were cheap because they aren’t based on a series of 3D Pixar movies, but even the generic ones are pretty cute. We bought them as a behavior bribe. $3 well spent. Little did we know this little blue dolphin-child would become the small, rubbery sun around which all the other toy-planets in our home would revolve. I have no life.
PINK RUBBER DOLPHIN
Pink Rubber Dolphin is the name of a pink rubber dolphin. Creative, eh? Pink came from a set of mermaids which live in an underwater mermaid amusment park with a spinning octopus who squirts water at them while they ride swings attached to her tentacles. (The octopus, Octopussy, is pink and wearing heavy makeup, so I think it is a girl. Either that or Octopussy is in drag. I am open minded.) Nearby a water slide plops them into a little pool. Why do these mermaids lead a better life than me? And how do they afford this extravagance? There are treasure chests full of gold laying around for decoration. What is that octopus making per hour? Because they are working her like a DOG. (I just spent way too long finding this set online, and it’s a Barbie thing. Go figure. No wonder PRD and the Octopussy both have trampy eye makeup.)
But I digress. Pink Rubber obviously didn’t dig her Mermaid Overlords, because she soon said goodbye to her drag queen Octopus friend and defected from that playset to join up with Dolphiny, reuniting with her long lost daughter. That’s right- PRD is the mother of Dophiny! She’s also a bath toy that squirts out of her mouth.
These are Dolphiny’s friends. Left to Right: BubberCuppy the snail, who is made of ice cream. Shatter the Dogfish, who has no discernable backstory. Dolphiny’s best friend, who came in that very same set of Sea Squinkies- Squashy the Sea Star. They don’t call starfish starfish anymore. Apparently, they aren’t fish. Squashy’s mom (not pictured) is called Squishy, even though she is made of hard plastic and is rather sharp.
DOPLHINY’S NEW, NAMELESS SISTER
Dolphiny has a new adopted sister! I can’t remember her name, but she wears this silly band as a kind of silly sash. Jaunty style, Dolphiny’s nameless sister! Stella has her rated as younger than Dolphiny, but I am having trouble swallowing that. She rates as a teen dolphin, or a tween at least, based on size alone. She has low status-I think that is what Stella’s getting at. I think she may be a foster child. I asked Stella what her name was and Stella said shortly, “I don’t need her.”
DRUM: THE WIND UP DOLPHIN
I set Stella loose at Junkman’s Daughter, and this is what she picked. A windup swimming Dolphin with clear sides so you can see the styrofoam in his/her head. Drum is an older dolphin, an aunt figure I think. When we play, Stella is usually all the other dolphins, and I am stuck keeping things coherent with the reasonable Drum. Drum used to be cool- I’m not sure what happened. I tried to find Drum to photograph her, but she is misplaced and Stella refused to help me find her. Finally she turned up. Not popular.
THE TWO DOLPHINS TRAPPED IN A BUBBLE
These guys swim in a bubble. Whenever you pop up the lid, they swim and swim and go nowhere. Since they are perpetually trapped, they can’t do much at playtime but swim, and hang out and watch the other Dolphins, dreaming of a time when they can help Dolphiny save Snakey from the Bat People. But alas- that will always be a mere… (Lid snaps closed. Darkness. Lid opens) Swim swim swim swim!
I thought, “One bonus is that it is a built in family unit- a parent and a kid dolphin! At least they have company in the external meaningless loop of their existence.” And then Stella told me they are more children of Pink Rubber. Apparently they are critically ill and must remain bubbled. PRD is a saint.
SUCTION CUP DOLPHIN
This guy is not a Squinkie, but he sure is cute, and he looks a lot like Dolphiny. He’s pleasing to handle. Perhaps that’s why he gets short shrift. Dolphiny rules this roost. She doesn’t tolerate interlopers, and she does not suffer fools gladly. So suction-cup dolphin is nameless; he is persona non grata. He is Dolphiny’s infant brother.
LAUGHING SHARK TOOTH DOLPHIN
This is a new one, from Santa- it came from the same set as the foster sister. I think it’s a little scary, and that’s kept the other dolphins from really inviting LSTD to play very much. Do dolphins really have cold yellow eyes and horrible scary fangs like this? The only mention I have heard was when he said to the others, “I’m Laughing Dolphin and I have Shark Teeth!”
Reaction from the other dolphins must not have been good, because Stella put him back in the bucket of sea creatures pretty quickly.
NEWSFLASH: Further questioning reveals this is DOLPHINY’S FATHER. Apparently he is the Darth Vader of this story. Stella just informed me of this, telling me “You don’t see him much because he works a lot a lot a lot.” His name is “Crumb.”
My head is spinning.