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                -- t. e. lawrence

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  The Toy Home.                                                       Page 9 of 12

              As it happened, there was not just one miracle, but three that occurred that Christmas.  And all three involved the little bear.

            The first happened that very morning.

            The little bear awoke, feeling himself being lifted very gently.  He opened his eyes and looked directly into a pair of dark brown twinkly eyes.  The dark brown eyes belonged to a little girl.  She was wearing an old blue wool cap and a tattered rose-colored coat, and her cheeks were redder than her coat.  “Well, hello, Mr. Bear.  What in the world has happened to you?  We must see about fixing up your arm!”

            “Sarah!” a woman’s voice called.  “Come on, sweetie, don’t lag behind!  We need to drop these things off!”

            “‘K, Mom!”  Then, whispering:  “C’mon, Mr. Bear, let’s go meet my mom!”

            The little bear felt suddenly secure, carried so carefully.  Sarah’s mother, a tall, slender lady with a friendly face and light-colored hair that reached her shoulders, adjusted her brown coat as she peered down at the bear.  “Why, what do you have there, dear?”

            “I found Mr. Bear on the sidewalk.  His arm is hurt!”

            “I should say so!”  Sarah’s mother regarded the little girl for a moment, seeing the unasked question.  “Oh, honey, I’m not sure what we can do with an old ripped-up bear!”

            “Daddy can fix him.  Daddy’s good a fixing things!”

            “Well...” -- the little bear scarcely dared to hope -- “...All right.  Be sure and carry it carefully, so it doesn’t lose anymore stuffing!  Now, I wonder where Daddy said we should go to drop off our things..."

            Walking along the sidewalk beside her mother, Sarah carried the little bear ever so gently.  He could see bits of building, charred wood, scattered bricks everywhere.  Sarah’s mother shook her head and clicked her tongue.  She was carrying a bulging shopping bag.

            Finally, they reached a small building that had been spared by the fire.  Inside was a table with a couple of people sitting at it.  Much of the dimly-lit interior was taken up by boxes and bags piled everywhere.

            Sarah’s mother approached the table.  “We heard about the fire on the radio ... We had no idea how bad it was!”  She held up the shopping bag.  “We don’t have very much ourselves, but ... We’d like to give what we can, to help -- to help -- “

            One of the seated people, a large black lady, gave Sarah’s mother a wide smile.  “Gah bless you.  Gah bless you.  We can surely use it.  But if it was a whole lotta stuff, you’d a needed to take it to one of our other dropoffs.  We're startin' to run outta room!”

            The second person, a thin old black man in a ski cap, looked at Sarah and the little bear.  “That’s a nice-lookin’ bear you have there, young lady,” he said.  “What happened to his arm?”

            Sarah didn’t answer at first.  Then, suddenly, she held the little bear straight out toward the old man.  “Mr. Bear wants to help, too!” she said.

            “Help?” the old man puzzled.  “Help in what way?”

            “I found Mr. Bear on the sidewalk by where the fire was, and he told me all about what had happened and how he’d been burned in the fire and how he wants to help collect toys and clothes by being a, being a “

            “Whoa whoa whoa, slow down, girl!”  The black lady laughed.  “Lemme hear it again:  You found the bear--”

            Mr. Bear.”

            “Okay, ‘n’ now you want to give us the, Mr. Bear, so he can be, like, our--”

            “Mascot!” the old man finished.

             “Well ... yes, I mean --”  Sarah shifted from one foot to the other, and she pulled the little bear back towards her a bit.

            “ ... Well, maybe not give,” the black lady suggested:  “Maybe lend it, him, to us?”

            “Yes, that’s what I mean,” Sarah said with relief.

            “We could make a sign!” the old man said.

            “How long do you want to lend the bear?” Sarah’s mother asked.

            Mr. Bear!  Until ... Until Christmas Eve!”

            “Christmas Eve!” Sarah’s mother began.  “Why -- “

            “Because he has to come home with us for Christmas!” Sarah exclaimed.

            “‘Please Help!’  That’s what the sign’ll say,” the old man said.

            Sarah’s mother sighed, but she was smiling, too.  “All right, until Christmas Eve!”  Then, to the people at the table, she said, “Will you be open?”

            “Until 2 p.m.”

            The little bear felt himself exchanged from Sarah to the old man, who sat him up on the table.  “Careful so his stuffing doesn’t leak!” Sarah exclaimed, and the little bear watched as Sarah and her mother left the building, with Sarah’s mother saying on the way out, “That was a very nice thing you did, Sarah...”

            And all the little bear wondered was, how had Sarah known so much about what had happened to him?


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