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  The Toy Home.                                                       Page 7 of 12
 

             After that, the toys grew quiet again.  The sky darkened into an early wintry evening, and a fitful wind swirled bits of snow along the streets and alleys.  Then a bit of newspaper, pushed by the breeze, landed on top of the little bear, so that he couldn’t see what was happening.  He started to call out for the rocking horse, to see if she was still there.  Then he thought how silly and un-brave that was:  the rocking horse hadn’t moved!  ...Still -- “...Rocking horse?”

            The rocking horse didn’t answer.

            The little bear grew worried.  He began to call for the rocking horse again, but then he realized he couldn’t make a sound.  That meant there were people close by.  Then he heard footsteps, and the sound of something large and heavy being wheeled on creaky wheels down the sidewalk.  And then, for reasons he didn’t understand, the little bear became frightened.  He was not normally afraid of people, but this time a feeling began to grow in him.  He heard the wheels creaking and rumbling closer, closer, until they stopped right next to him.  What was happening?

            “What about that one?” a man’s voice asked.

            “Let’s take a look,” a woman’s voice answered.

            The footsteps drew close, very close now, it seemed, and the little bear wondered if it was his turn.  But instead of feeling hopeful, the little bear instead felt very afraid.  He didn’t want to stay on the street, but for some reason he didn’t want to be picked up, either.  The footsteps stopped.  “Okay, up you come,” the woman said, and the little bear waited.  But the footsteps started up again.

            The rocking horse!

            “Whaddaya think, Billy?  Worth saving?”

            The silence seemed endless to the little bear.  Please, don’t let anything happen to the rocking horse!

            “Nah,” the man’s voice said at last.  “ -- see?  Them legs are too far gone.  Just throw it in the cart with the rest of the trash an’ let’s get movin’, it’s cold out.”

            No!  Not the rocking horse!  The little bear began to cry.  There was a crunching sound, and the wheels of the cart began creaking again.  A bitter gust of wind tore the newspaper from the little bear’s face, and he looked, wide-eyed, helpless, as the cart carrying his best friend rumbled slowly down the street, the man pushing and the woman searching here and there, and the little bear felt as though his heart would break as the cart turned a corner and he strained to see a last glimpse of mane, tail -- was that a gleam?

            And it was gone.

            A great sad emptiness overcame the little bear.  He felt too tired, cold and alone to cry, to be afraid, to be angry.  He felt himself drifting away from wakefulness and simply allowed it to happen.  Nothing mattered any more.

***

            The little bear awoke to a sharpening of voices.  It was nighttime, now.  As if from a great distance, the voices reached the little bear, saying:

            “Are we ready?”  A woman’s voice.

            “Okay, okay, three seconds, two, one, and -- “

            “I’m standing in front of the remains of the St. Vincent de Paul main warehouse,” the woman began, “and at my feet is a singed teddy bear, perhaps a symbol of the tremendous tragedy that has taken place.  Details are sketchy, but it appears as though the fire started two days ago in one of the administrative offices and went to five alarms as it spread throughout three buildings of this huge distribution complex.  More than 120 firefighters and 30 trucks from stations throughout the Detroit area battled the blaze all that night and much of the day yesterday, and by the time the fire was finally put out, over a million dollars in clothing and toys for needy families had been destroyed.  Now, with barely a week to go before Christmas, it is uncertain how St. Vincent’s will be able to meet the needs of the hundreds of families for whom these donations had been planned.  Officials from St. Vincent’s have so far declined comment on any specific plans.  Back to you.”  There was a pause, during which the woman stood with a hand at one ear, as though she were listening.  Then she said, “At this point, the fire chief has made no comment, but there is some speculation that a donated space heater may have been the cause of this terrible loss.”

            There was another pause.  Then the woman said, “Are we off? ...Good, then, that’s a wrap.  Boy, are my feet ever cold!  Let’s head back to the station!”

***

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