The wrinkled woman guarding the money slowly gathered her things as she made her way to the door. Buttoning her coat and preparing for the blast of the winter air, her hand quivered on the doorknob. A final look back into the rundown shop reaffirmed her suspicions; it would soon be bankrupt.
It wasn’t that she didn’t have any merchandise to sell. In fact, the problem was that since the new store opened up down the street, she was selling less and less. Their toys have screens and need batteries to operate. None of us know what batteries are, but we hear of them when the woman complains about it.
Before the new store, children came in and played with us after school for hours while the woman watched us smiling. We never grew tired of the games the children came up with. One boy pretended that I was a knight, once…it seems like such a long time ago.
Seeing children walk past the shop with their new toys held passionately close to their face reminded us of the days when we met our children for the first time. What it must be like to be held like that! Always the center of attention for a child would be a dream come true for me. I’ve forgotten the warmth of their hands, the laughter that comes when I fall to the ground. I’ve forgotten all of it.
The room falls into darkness as the woman closes the door on not only the shop, but also on a long stressful day. She doesn’t bother leaving a light on at night anymore. She says there isn’t anything here people want anymore. I don’t know why, but, I feel empty inside now.
With nothing to do in the darkness, I fall to my side and drift off to sleep.
The sunlight streams through the glass reflecting off the polished tin tops and other unpainted toys in the window. The wooden rooster crows, bringing us out of the sleep that claimed us the night before. Normally, I would sit up and stretch the stiffness from my seams. But, today, I couldn’t find the strength to sit up at all. A heavy weight was inside me, although I knew it was only sawdust that filled me with a phony feeling of substance. Is this what it is like to reach the end of your existence? To feel worthless and empty?
It was hours later that the woman finally came to the shop. She was coming by later and later as the days progressed without anyone coming in except the wrinkled woman. The crossed off days on the calendar grew closer to the one circled in red called, ‘Christmas Day!’ I remember the first Christmas that I spent with a boy named Joey. He replaced me the next Christmas with a metal car with blue paint. From the bookshelf, I would spend hours watching him play with the car. How he loved that toy! His mother soon gathered several of us together in a box and brought us here where very few have gone home with a new child. Roger, the soldier and I have shared this same shelf ever since. We are the oldest ones in the shop and we will never feel the joy radiating through a child’s hand again.
The wrinkled woman only comes in the afternoons now. She stays for a few hours and then leaves. Several times, she doesn’t lock the door behind her. Our value as toys has reached a level so low that she no longer deems us worthy to protect from thieves. The circled day on the calendar has become a sign of the end of times. In large black letters that smother the original red ones is written, ‘Last day.’ I never dreamed that there would be a day that children didn’t want to play with toys.
Today is the last blank day on the calendar. I haven’t seen another person other than the wrinkled woman for over a month. It’s like we don’t exist anymore. She’s sitting at the counter, staring out the dirty glass windows at nothing in particular. People can be seen across the street, oblivious to the world as they stare at their new toys. They seem so lifeless to me. When a child used to pick me up, I could wave my arms around while they laughed and danced with me. That was when I felt truly alive. The new toys don’t move at all, but, the people stare at them constantly.
A man huddled in his coat walked by the window and stopped to look in the shop. Curiosity pulled him into the shop, waking the wrinkled woman from dozing off. As his eyes took in the different toys, something pulled him towards Roger and I. The other toys were doing their best to hold his attention when it fell on them, but, ultimately his eyes lingered back to us each time.
He reached up and delicately pulled me into his massive hands. I felt so small as he looked at me from all angles. That was when I saw Roger. He looked as if he were a ghost because he knew that he was never going to be chosen and he would end up in the trash with the other broken toys. I couldn’t bear it any longer.
The second the man looked away, I grabbed the worn stitches on my left arm and pulled with everything I had causing it to fall into his palm. Shock came to his face as he turned to the woman and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. The arm of this toy just fell off in my hand.”
Dismissively, the woman said, “That one is older than you are, Hun’. Just put it back on the shelf and I’ll fix it later.” The man gingerly placed me back on the shelf, laying my arm beside me. He looked again at Roger and picked him up. Roger was half my size, and built like a boat anchor.
“What is this soldier made of? He’s heavy.” The question was directed towards the woman while she slowly shuffled her way over to him.
“That was made back when toys were made to last. Nobody today knows his real worth because they can’t see past his chipped paint. Why don’t you take him with you?”
“What does he cost?”
“More than you can afford. Which is why I want you to take him.”
“Are you sure? It doesn’t feel right for me to just take this without paying.”
“Take him and go. Now shoo!” She said this with the largest smile she could muster. “Young man, I want to go home some time tonight.” The man said his thanks and left the store. That was when the woman picked me up with her loving hands. “You’re coming home with me tonight. I have a special grandson that is going to love you.”