I pushed the wooden door open with my elbows and strolled into
the shop. Maybe this one will finally bring an end to my quest
for Aunt Beatrice's Christmas present. I knew that if I didn't
find one before Christmas Eve, I would suffer more teasing than
my little 14 year-old brain could handle.
As I entered the shop I smelt the crisp scent of gingerbread and all sorts of Christmas smells from the numerous air fresheners tied to the tinsel that hung from the rafters. It was a small store that I could probably traverse in about 7 or 8 paces. , but the amount of shelves crammed into this space made it appear larger. There were only two other people in the shop. A ragged old women staring at an old stop watch hanging from a hook on the wall, and a little boy who was mesmerized by a pair of golden cuff links in the glass case next to the checkout desk. The teller, a portly and rosy-faced man, was leaning on the counter and talking to the boy quietly.
I ducked into the first isle and began casually looking at the assortment of items on the shelves. I noticed that something was off about them. They were all different in a way, and didn't appear to be sorted into groups. Mostly they were stuffed animals or blankets, with the occasional wrist watch or ornate earring. The items were also frayed or breaking in places, as if they had been used before.the entire thing would have been unnerving, but the coziness of the shop made it more odd than freaky.
I continued browsing the isles for something that might arouse Aunt Beatrice's attention, when a little stuffed turtle caught my eye. I knew that turtle. I've had it since I was one year-old. I picked it up and looked at the seams. It was even broken at the tail and neck, with small bits if stuffing coming out, just like mine was.
"That's a very nice turtle you have there" said a soft voice behind me.
I whirled around and quickly . It was the teller standing behind me with his hands folded behind his back.
He smiled at me and his eyes twinkled.
"This......is mine", I said feebly as I stared down at it.
"Yes it is", said the shopkeeper, " and you've had it for quite a while now, haven't you?",
"Yeah", I said, "since I was one."
"May I see it?", he said and extended one of his hands towards me.
I hesitated at first, but then placed the stuffed turtle into his hand. It was warm and soft, and he gently looked over it and caressed the broken seams.
"I often find.....",said the shopkeeper," that there's a small bit of ourselves that we keep in the toys we cherish. It becomes a part of us. We cannot help but connect with the toy.
The other occupants of the shop weren't there anymore. And the warmth and scent of the room was pressing in like a soft pillow. "Sadly we tend to get "too old" or mature for the toy and its forgotten or taken from us" He lifted the turtle up and looked at its belly.
While he examined it I reached into my pocket and grabbed for the pocket money intended for Aunties present. I opened my hand and counted the money. "Can I buy this?", I asked.
"If you don't believe it's time", he said.
He looked at me with his twinkling eyes.I stared down at the money in my hand and then outstretched my other hand toward my turtle. "No", I said, "I don't think its time
" If you're sure," he said and placed it carefully in my palm and walked over to the counter. I walked over and placed it on the top of the counter. He started typing into the old antique register beside him.
I stared at my turtle and clenched my fists over the money. I thought about all the time I spent with it. I thought about what aunt Beatrice would think when I she didn't receive her present and about what the shopkeeper said.
"Actually........",I started. "I do think its time"
"Good" said the shopkeeper with a warm smile. He lifted the turtle off the counter and placed it on the shelf above the checkout.
A tear rolled down my cheek but I knew it was for the best. I walked slowly to the door and stopped. I turned toward the shopkeeper who regarded me with an almost proud stature.
"Make sure it's a good kid.......that he goes to "I said.
"I will", he replied and winked as he replaced the cuff links that the boy had moved.
I waited a moment, and then turned out the door. Into the brisk winter snow.
I woke with a start.My sweat sticking to the back of my
pajamas.the snow fell silently outside my window. Was that really
just a dream? I sat up from my bed and felt for my flashlight. I
found it and flicked it on. It shown it's beam through my room
and landed on my small stuffed turtle sitting on my desk. I
looked at it for a while, and thought about my the strange shop
and the teller.I stood up and slowly walked over to the desk and
picked it up.I stood there and stared at it for a while. The
pressure of my own conflicting feelings made my temples
Finally I decided. I turned around and slowly slipped my feet into my shoes and put on my blue robe.
I turned the doorknob slowly to the side and the pulled back, so as not to make any noise. I then slipped down the stairs, unlocked the from door, and slid out onto the quiet neighborhood sidewalk. I folded the robe around me and started walking toward the single street lamp that lit our corner. I turned right at the intersection, following the road that led to the post office.
Was that where it was? I couldn't remember. I had never really thought about it before. I turned into the post office drive way and lifted my head, exposing my cheeks to the brisk winter air. My slippers were getting soaked from the snow they collected on their fuzzy exteriors, which was then melted by the warmth from my feet.
My breath stretched out in front of me as I slowly made my way to the back of the small blue building, my hands clasping my stuffed turtle.
As I rounded the edge of the building I looked up and saw what I had been looking for. I stood in front of the old and chipped metal container with the word "Goodwill" printed on the front in large yellow letters. Slowly I placed my hand on the cold metal handle and pulled back the iron flap. There was barely anything in it.
I reached inside with the hand holding my turtle and dropped him on top of the small pile of clothes so it would cushion his fall.
I stayed frozen there for a minute, standing on the tips of my toes trying to realize what I had done. I remembered the shopkeeper and the promise he made. I withdrew my arm and stepped back from the donation box.
It was time to get home. My slippers were soaked and I could feel my toes sting as the cold encompassed them. It definitely was time.