This week's suggestion is from Jen on Facebook:
“What have you got there, Noah?” she asked him.
He brought me out and held me in his palm. “Jack,” he said. One simple word and I had a name. My name was Jack.
His mother wasn’t so easily convinced. She picked up the box where I had been displayed. “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down,” she read. She looked back down at me in Noah’s hand. “Is that what you want, Noah? A Weeble?”
“Jack,” Noah agreed, his fingers closing around me once more.
“Well, alright, baby, but you have to make sure that you take good care of him, okay?” She knelt before him and placed her hand around her son’s. Noah nodded. “Good boy. Hand him over to me so I can pay for him.” Noah clutched me close to his chest. She held out her hand. “I’m just going to pay for Jack and then you can have him back.” He shook his head. His mother sighed. “Well, then why don’t you bring him to the counter with you and we’ll pay for him there?” She kept her hand outstretched and Noah, still holding me close to his chest in one hand, reached out with the other. The three of us approached the checkout counter. It was only once they were safely in the car and on their way home that Noah brought me into the light again.
That was three years before it happened.
Everything was wonderful. I was Noah’s favorite toy for the better part of a year. I got along well with the other toys. His family saw how much he enjoyed playing with me and bought him more Weeble toys. I was given a playground, a treehouse, and a cart. I was given friends of my own kind to play with. Sarah. Daniel. Jennifer.
Time went on and birthdays and Christmases brought new toys. At the end of every year, Noah’s mother took out all of his toys and bade him choose which he would keep. Toys that were broken were immediately discarded. Many toys ended up disappearing as Noah got older and grew bored with them. Even some of my Weeble friends were placed into black plastic bags and sent away.
But I stayed.
Disaster struck two weeks after Noah’s sixth birthday. Cancer. Noah’s parents tried to hide his mother’s condition as much as possible, but the signs of chemotherapy began to show. Noah’s mother got tired. Her hair started to fall out. She stopped going to work. She began to forget things.
Noah’s father was attentive and caring. He rose early to make breakfast and lunch for his wife and son. He took Noah to school before heading off to work. He would stay home on weekends to spend as much time as possible with his family. He’d watch movies with his wife and play games with Noah. I remember his father’s rough hands were gentle when he held me and he’d even speak in a funny voice while playing. On weekdays, he came home directly after work and cooked dinner. Noah liked to help. He often brought me to sit on the counter and watch. It went on like this for a year.
Then we received the news that the chemotherapy wasn’t working. Noah’s parents struggled to find other avenues of therapy, but many of them were expensive and without two incomes, it was already hard to make ends meet. Noah’s mother continued to deteriorate. She forgot more and more and her frustration grew with each lost piece of information.
“Mommy is sick, Jack,” Noah told me one night. “Daddy told me today that Mommy is sick and she isn’t going to get better. He said I have to be careful not to bother her or ask her for too much.” There were tears in his eyes. “I don’t want Mommy to die.” He held me very tightly.
Noah’s father started to show signs of wear and tear as well. Bags grew under his eyes and his cheeks became gaunt. I could hear him wandering around the house at night, crying softly. I watched, from my position on Noah’s shelf, as his father would enter his bedroom and place a hand on his sleeping son’s head. It became a nightly occurrence.
Noah’s father loved him. He never meant to break him.
It was a Tuesday like any other when Noah’s mother passed away. I went to the funeral in Noah’s pocket. His father didn’t want him to bring me along, but he insisted and he brought me out from time to time. He rubbed me between his hands for comfort, but he didn’t cry.
That night, his father came into his room as always, but this time, Noah was awake and waiting for him. He sat down on the side of his son’s bed. Noah immediately crawled into his father’s arms and they just sat there for a long time, holding each other. Only then did Noah let the tears flow. He sobbed against his father’s chest for a long time. Finally, Noah’s father kissed him on the forehead and spoke in a soft voice.
“Your mother loved you very much, Noah. So do I.”
He stayed until Noah fell asleep. Then he stood, silent tears sliding down his cheeks, and left the room. I watched Noah as he slumbered, the lines of sadness smoothed from his face.
The next two days passed in a blur. Noah’s father, hoping to regain some sense of normalcy, sent him to school. Noah’s teachers were aware of the situation and they let him sit quietly during class. They even allowed me to be placed on his desk. Noah, to his credit, tried to pay attention, but more often than not, I could see he had tuned out.
Thursday night was when it happened. Noah’s father was in the kitchen, making dinner. Noah was helping and I was on the counter, presiding over the process. The air was heavy with unspoken words and the scent of chicken cooking. I could see that Noah’s father was holding back tears as he used a large metal spoon to add sauce to the pan.
He spoke quietly. “Noah, did you finish your homework?”
“Not yet, Daddy,” said Noah.
“Why don’t you go and get your things while this finishes and we can go over it together?”
“Yes, Daddy.” Noah left the room.
Noah’s father waited until he was out of the room. I could see him struggle to hold the bubbling grief inside, but it became too much for him. He screamed and slammed the spoon against the counter over and over. He became wild, hitting everything in sight. The hollering and banging created a racket that brought Noah running.
He didn’t mean to do it. If you had been there, you would have seen that Noah’s father couldn’t even hear him coming. It just happened too fast. Noah’s father turned quickly, the spoon making a whooshing sound as he whipped it through the air.
When the paramedics arrived, they told Noah’s father that there was nothing they could do. The metal had bit into the windpipe and he had been too long without oxygen. Noah’s father made a sound I had never heard before; an inhuman howl that vibrated in waves, rippling outward. He clutched his broken son to his chest. He was still like that when the police appeared on the scene. They had to pry him off, but once he had let go, he went limp. He didn’t even resist as they placed handcuffs around his wrist and led him from the room. I watched Noah vanish into a black plastic bag as I had seen happen to so many of my friends over the years.
The house stood empty for many days. Then, one day, strangers appeared with cleaning products and started to work on removing the blood from the kitchen. When they saw me, they simply threw me into a black plastic bag and for the first time since that night, there was a surge of hope. Perhaps I was going to see Noah and all of the other broken toys again.
That’s how I ended up here among the rest of the once-beloved items that people have thrown away. I searched for signs of Noah, but he isn’t here. It’s just piles and piles of things. Forty years, I’ve sat here, sharing my story with the other discards. Just like I’m doing with you now. Don’t worry; you’ll get used to it. Eventually, it all seems like a distant memory, but you never forget. Not truly.
The blood dried a long time ago, but it still stains my surface; my own memento of the boy who once loved me. And I still love him. Wherever he is.
I wish I could lie down and cry.