I clutched the small piece of paper closely to my chest, running hard and fast away from the group of people. I slowed down just enough to look back a time or two. They were giving me strange looks, and i trembled and picked up my pace. I slowed again a little later, this time to a stop: I had reached where i was going.
I took a deep breath - and entered. Walk slowly, i told myself. Be respectful. My feet were unusually quiet upon the floor, as i was walking toe-heel, toe-heel, always bringing the latter down carefully.
I stopped, just two feet away from the Heirloom Box. It was a lovely thing, all dark subtle green, like the color of a dark pine, just ready for you to decorate for Christmas, full of promise and mystique. There was a black plastic bag inside, to protect the Box itself, and to package up the heirlooms to make room for more. The bag was also a thing of beauty; both Box and bag were made of the finest plastic, picked from the rare and hushed-up plastic trees way up in the Himalayas. A special group of monks, snipers, and upholsterers went to pick and choose the very finest for Heirloom Boxes and bags, and also to nourish and prune all the plastic trees and saplings, in hopes that someday there will be more.
I gazed lovingly at the Heirloom Box, but i was still thinking of the group of people back in the hall, and it would be terrible to approach the Box with angry or frightened thoughts.
Involuntarily, i remembered what had happened…
We (the youth group) were putting Christmas cookie platters together for the bake sale, and we had just finished. I was taking one last plate in to the room where two people were putting plastic wrap (made of cheap, discount synthetic plastic) on them, and when i came back, everybody else was gathered in a sort of group, laughing. I wedged my way in to see what was up, and there it was: the paper. The poor little thing was frightened beyond its wits, and was fluttering at every movement of the plastic-gloved (also cheap plastic) people. At a quarter the size of most papers, the paper was already too tiny to be out on its own, not to mention crumpled up to be made smaller. When i was still for a moment, i saw the holes in one shoulder where it had been stapled to its fellows.
Quicker than i would have thought i could, before i could think at all, i crouched down and scooped it up. It struggled feebly for a moment, but it was only paper, and i held it carefully so as not to spook it further, if possible. Then i ran.
And now here i was. My heart was steady now. I was calm.
I almost took a step right then. When i look back at it, i still shiver a little. How could i have not thought? I forget things sometimes, but this is the most important, memorized from the first. I sat for a moment and pulled off my shoes, then my socks. A small clod of dirt fell from the crevices of my shoe's sole, and after a moment's thought, i collected that along with the paper. It, too, was an heirloom.
Then i stepped. One, two, two and a half steps altogether, taking baby steps. I kneeled to the Heirloom Box and pressed my free hand, my left, to its side, asking permission. I kept it there for the count of six Hippopotami, and as it was still there and intact after the last one, i stood once more, hugging the - my - heirlooms one last time. Carefully, though. That dirt clod could break pretty easily.
I took the lid off the Box and took it smoothly to the floor. And gently, ever so gently, i placed the heirlooms in their Box. I could almost hear them getting happier. They were in their place now, and if i wanted i could go visit them at the Heirloomyard. Oh to be an Heirloomgirl, the glamor! Like the Heirloomman in Dilbert. One of the few who appreciates it openly. I hear they have strict tests for Heirloompeople, though. They have to.
I put the lid back on the Heirloom Box and backed away a few feet, back to my shoes and socks, put them back on, and exited silently. My work here was done.