(The following story is based upon a true event -- the devastating fire at the central St. Vincent de Paul distribution complex in Detroit, just before Christmas, 1995. The little stuffed bear in the story also existed. And the miracles really did happen.)
In the cool darkness, the little stuffed bear awakened. He wasn’t sure how long he’d not been awake. It was almost as though he’d come awake for the first time. But he knew that that couldn’t be true. So he thought a bit, and remembered sunny days, a little golden-haired girl, tea parties, being pulled through a mint garden in a red and white wagon, jays chattering and laughing...
But then what had happened? ...Oh, yes! He remembered being put in a box with many other toys, then a long haze of darkness, and then ... here. But where was here?
He looked down at the light brown fuzz of his tummy. Why, he’d lost a button! How had that happened? And then, in a sudden fright, he quickly searched for and found his two arms and two legs. So he hadn’t had an arm or leg pulled off, wasn’t ripped and leaking stuffing everywhere -- the most frightening thing that could possibly happen to a little toy bear. He gave a small sigh of relief.
“Oh, they’re all there, don’t worry,” rasped a voice to his left -- a narrow, hard voice, like stones on glass. The little bear looked in the direction of the voice and saw that it belonged to a yellow-suited Punchinello clown. “What is it with you bears, anyway,” the clown was saying, “--always worried that you’re missing an arm or a leg. What a buncha wimps!” The clown’s legs dangled over the edge of the shelf on which it sat. One of the legs was stained with something brown -- chocolate, perhaps. “You want to know what fear is? The person who owned me used to swing me around his head by my legs, let me go, and then laugh when I crashed into the wall! You probably just spent your time either tucked in bed or in some tea party! What do you got to be scared about?”
“I - I - I” the little bear began, his voice creaky from disuse.
“Well, at least both of you were played with, dearies!” This time the voice, an old woman’s voice, came from the little bear’s right. It belonged to a witch on a broken broomstick, who looked as though she was ready to fall from the high shelf where she was perched. “I was brought home and played with for only a little while. Then my little girl forgot all about me and left me for days, just lying on the floor, until a big man stepped on me and broke my broomstick. That’s how I ended up here. What’d you do wrong?”
“I--don’t think I did any --” Where was here?
“Yah don’t haveta do anything wrong to end up here,” the Punchinello clown rasped. "Sometimes you’re made wrong, and sometimes the people you’re with forget about you or even lose you. I was lost for weeks before I came here. That was the best time of my life, too.”