at the end of the longest day she can remember, mrs. kelly pulls into the parking lot of the children’s hospital. it’s been years since she’s been here. thirteen to be exact.
she’s tired of being exact.
she starts to climb out before she’s turned off the engine. the car bucks forward and hits the low cement bumper. she couldn’t be any more frazzled than she already was, so she takes it more or less in stride.
she opens the back door and coaxes out a large cardboard box. she has to put it on the ground to close the door again. she hoists the box up and makes her way toward the front door, or at least where she remembers the door to be. the box blocks her view.
she shuffles forward, inching her feet slowly, one by one, concerned that she’ll to hit a curb. she really doesn’t need a broken arm to remember this day by. there are other broken things.
she angles the box sideways and spies the door where a man walks out with a young boy, he pauses to hold the door for her.
great. now she has to hurry, so she won’t keep him waiting.
she speeds it up, careful not to trip. as she reaches the door, the man smiles. she nods back, but a smile is impossible. a gentleman would have offered to carry the box. and now she’s started to perspire.
the door swings closed behind her and she finds herself at the front desk.
she thought things would look more familiar. it looks like there has been some substantial remodeling. and besides, this isn’t the emergency room. she’s probably never been in this wing before.
she lowers the box to the floor and finds a heavy set woman behind the desk.
“hello, i want to donate some toys.”
“oh.” the woman in the white uniform tries to look happy about this, but this isn’t the normal flow of things. she starts to look around, helpless. it’s not clear whether she is a nurse, or a receptionist, or some poor volunteer.
“i’m sure there are children here who could use some good toys.” the words come out a little too fast, “these are all in good shape. they haven’t been played with in a long time.”
“uh, okay. let’s see what you have.”
the volunteer comes around to the front of the desk and finds that the box is taped securely shut.
the older woman shifts awkwardly. “didn’t want any to fall out on the way.”
“well, we’ll have to take a look…”
“no, no, that’s okay, you can have the lot.” she’s starting to panic, “i think they’re all rather lonely.”
“i’m sorry ma’am, but i can’t just…”
“thank you so much, i really appreciate it.” mrs. kelly turns and rushes out the door again.
“ma’am? ma’am?! you can’t just leave…”
but the woman is already getting in her car. the volunteer is frozen in place, unsure what to do next…
\a couple minutes later, a custodian answers her page. he suggests he haul the box down to the garbage.
it takes her a full hour to find someone who will take the box off her hands. someone who can properly get the toys taken in as a donation.
when the box is opened it reveals an eight-year old’s friends and family. all in immaculate condition, as if they’ve been on display at a museum.
the donation guy smiles, “looks like they need some kids to knock some life into them.”
the volunteer looks out the door. wondering why the woman had been in such a hurry.
and as the box is being wheeled into the bowels of the hospital, the woman sits shaking in her car. she only made it a half block from the hospital entrance before she had to pull over.
she can’t stop crying, feeling deep down that she’s made a great mistake.
but whether it is giving the toys away or keeping them all these years, she can’t be sure.