A small brown object straddled the dotted yellow line that divided the eastbound traffic from the westbound traffic a block away from my home. From a distance, I thought it was a dead raccoon, so I took a wide berth to avoid getting its blood on my tires. I then thought it was a brown, fuzzy sweater when I drove a little closer. I slowed down on the off chance that it was Dolce & Gabbana or Prada; if it were cute enough, maybe I’d pick it up and try it on.
A few feet away from the object, I saw it was a much sadder loss than my previous two guesses. What lay on the road was a brown plush monster with a gaping red maw and two brown buttons for eyes. It was the sort of toy that, in its description, sounds like it might be the making of a child’s nightmare, but had just enough roundness to it that it was adorable. It lay on its back, arms outstretched and looking heavenward as if to ask God, “Why hast that child forsook me?”
When I saw what it was, I wondered whether this was a beloved toy. Why didst that kid forsaketh the poor stuffed animal? The possibilities were limitless. The child could’ve been sitting in her stroller as her dad absentmindedly jaywalked while talking on the phone so he didn’t notice the gigantic stuffed animal falling at his feet. The child may have tempted fate and dangled the monster out the window and, when it flew out onto the street, the mom in the front seat who hears her kid scream incessantly just thought it was another false alarm. Maybe today was the day that child learned the valuable lesson of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
As I wondered about what led to the tragic situation I was beholding, I made a hideous decision. I kept driving. I looked carefully at the possibly beloved toy and kept moving.
I thought of the "lost" sign I had seen a couple of weeks before. A child had drawn a picture of a stuffed cat, and an adult had written a paragraph dictated by the kid: Lost stuffed cat. Goes by the name "Boots." Small and gray with whiskers. Lost on the intersection of Commonwealth and Franklin. I miss my cat. Please help me find her.
I read the sign and was overwhelmed by how much I wanted to be the hero who found the plush cat for that little girl. I fantasized about calling the girl’s parents with the news and bask in their joyous gratitude. Maybe we’d appear on the local news as a beautiful human interest story to distract us all from the reality that we live in a world where families are torn apart, and children have to live in fear of school shootings. At least some people take two seconds out of their day to comfort a small child!
Despite this fantasy, I kept driving. By the time I pulled into my parking spot, I felt like I was as big of a monster as that stuffed animal. The only difference is that the beast just looked sort of scary, but was a source of comfort for some small child. Me, on the other hand, was a monster on the inside who couldn’t take two minutes out of her day to pick up a stuffed animal on the off chance that some small child’s love for it was so massive that they’d make signs and post them up around town. My guilt tore me apart, and I restarted my car to go back to the monster.
Before I could pull out of my parking spot, I thought of something. What if that toy comes from a house with bed bugs or lice? Lord knows I can’t save the world if I’m sifting through books and burning my sheets to combat a bedbug outbreak in my apartment. With that, I turned off my car, went inside, and felt confident with my decision to leave the stuffed animal on the side of the road.