“The assignment was to write a piece, where the story centers around a toy”
Greg started his day much like any other. He got up, and headed for the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea and something to eat. He placed two pieces of toast in the old machine and opened the newspaper. Stuck on the fridge, was a picture of his wife, taken one day at the sea, when they were newly weds. He smiled to the pretty face in the photograph and casually started talking to her as if she was right there with him.
“Now where did I put that sugar, Mary? Yes, yes, I know. Right where I left it yesterday, isn’t it? ”
He was used to his morning ritual and he found comfort in the small routine. It gave him purpose. It hadn’t always been like that, but since his Mary passed away 5 years ago, it was the little things that made him get out of bed in the morning. Greg sat down in the conservatory with his cup of tea, his toast and butter and started reading the news. He wondered if the moles had dug up yet another hole in his garden over the night, and turned his head towards it.
“Goddamn! Look Mary, the wretched creature dug another one. I really must call those boys to let their ferret loose in the garden for a while” he smilingly said while returning to his paper. He stopped mid-way and turned back towards the garden. There was something else on that molehill. For an instant, through the moving branches of the old willow tree, a ray of sun touched the blind pest’s creation and there was a brief flicker that caught the corner of his eyes.
“What was that?” He waited to see if he’d imagined it or if his eyes were playing a trick on him. He was sure he saw something. There it was again. Could it be it? What were the chances? No, it couldn’t be. He’d searched the whole garden for it, years ago and had long since promised to give up hoping to find it. What twisted God would make this shadow from his past reappear now, so many sleepless nights after. He was whispering these thoughts in his mind, afraid Mary would hear him. She had scolded him many times for his contagious, often naive belief that everything would turn up the way he hoped they would. She always did that like you would scold a toddler for breaking a glass; not because you are upset about the glass, but because you care about the child not getting hurt.
Slowly, with a hint of hesitation and a smile remnant of his mischievous self, he pushed the chair back and got up, heading for the garden. Greg pictured himself kneeling down and picking it up before he actually did. It was such a powerful feeling, he was sure this time he was going to find it. He closed his eyes and saw the toy doll so clearly, as if it had happened yesterday. Not bigger than a walnut, dressed in a silver dress. She was called Len, a baby girl’s way of saying Helen.
He saw his tiny daughter holding it, pushing it into the small doll house from one room to another. She hid Len somewhere and he was supposed to find her. She was only 4 years old then, it was spring, and the garden was filled by the smell of chicken soup and fresh bread coming from the kitchen where Mary was cooking and singing to a new radio hit.
“How sweet it is to be loved by you…”
He couldn’t remember the song’s name or the performer’s, but he could hear his wife’s voice as if she was near him right this moment. That was when the madness began. When nice people from his city would turn into brutes for a week as if they had been drinking drugged water. He lost his daughter to a stray bullet that left him with no one person to hate, but a humanity to doubt. He was left with a big house and no child in it. Maybe that’s why he searched for so long for the little toy. He wanted to get the playhouse to be like it had been before that day.
He knelt before the molehill and opened his eyes. He smiled. Tears appeared in his eyes and dropped from his wrinkled skin to the ground. It was just an old shard of glass from a bottle broken long ago at some barbecue party. He saw his daughter’s play house turned into a grill, the spot where she was playing turning into the place where he had cooked some meaningless food.
He punched the earth, pushing the piece of glass deep into the hole. He tried to push away the memory of the pointless party and get back the one of his lost daughter. He got up and went back to his tea, his right hand hanging down, blood drops hitting the carpet. He saw his daughter playing again and heard his Mary singing…
“How sweet it is…”
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