BOSTON. The Wyznorksi family has always been close-knit, but since the death of second-born son Todd last year, they’ve taken their commitment to each other to an even higher level.
“When Todd drew the number one in the lottery for the clinical trial for OsSchlat,” an experimental drug cocktail to treat the minor pain of Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease, “we were overjoyed,” says his mother Debbie, fighting back tears. “When he succumbed–sucame?–to an allergic reaction, we sort of wished somebody else’s boy had gone first.”
Out of grief came a commitment to do something, even if it would have only an attenuated, indirect and miniscule effect on the ailment, which primarily strikes young boys and prevents them from playing vigorous games for periods as long as twenty-four hours. “I kinda regretted I gave Todd so many noogies,” says his older brother Mike. “With only twelve years on earth and the disease and what-not, it’s too bad I tormented him so much.”
And so today finds the Wyznorskis on the Boston Common where they have organized the first-ever “Never Forget Todd!” 6-kilometer walk-run. “It’ll be cold,” says Todd’s father Jim, “but we’ll have a lot of hot chocolate for everybody.”
“I didn’t buy any hot chocolate,” says Debbie, looking at Jim with surprise. “Did you?”
“I thought you were going to pick some up on the way in this morning,” Jim says with a look of embarrassment. “Maybe we can buy some at a convenience store.”
“It’s too late now,” Debbie says. “The people are already starting to arrive.”
An elderly couple, Bob and Maria Malinkrodt, approaches the starter’s table with an anguished look on their face. “When we heard about what you two went through, and what you were doing, we knew we had to pitch in,” Maria says. “How much is it?”
“It usually $65 or whatever you can give, but for senior citizens we only ask $50,” Jim says pleasantly.
“It’s a very worthy cause,” says Bob, who had the disease when he was a boy, as he pulls out his checkbook. “Do you have a pen?”
Jim looks at Debbie with a shrug of his shoulders, who in turn looks at their son Mike. “Do you have a pen?” she asks him.
“I don’t need pens,” Mike says as he looks at his phone. “I text everybody I know.”
“Well, uh, I can give you some cash,” Bob says as he fishes in his wallet and pulls out a twenty-dollar bill.
“Thanks, that’s great, really sorry about that,” Debbie says. “So two seniors, Mike, give them their free t-shirts.”
Mike looks at his mother with confusion. “T-shirts? Nobody told me anything about t-shirts.”
“Yes I did,” his mother says, slightly perturbed. “I said you had to go by the screen printer last night and load them up in your car.”
“Oh, right, right. Huh. I . . . uh . . . there’s that pizza place in the square, I stopped there and some friends of mine came by, and it sort of slipped my mind.”
The Wyznorskis look sheepishly at the Malinkrodts and, after an awkward moment, Jim apologizes. “Say, I’m really sorry, I guess we don’t have any of those souvenir t-shirts that charity run-walkers treasure so much,” he says.
“Maybe we’ll do something for people afterwards,” Debbie adds pleasantly.
“Oh, that’s fine,” Maria Malinkrodt says. “My closet’s stuffed anyway!”
“Excuse me folks,” a policeman says as he gently interrupts the group.
“Yes?” Mike Wyznorski asks.
“I’m gonna have to ask you to move your car. We got a charity thing comin’ through today.”
“Oh, we know,” Debbie Wyznorski says. “That’s us.”
“You’re the . . .” the officer begins before checking a clipboard, “March to Save the Komodo Dragon?”
The Wyznorskis exchange looks that turn from puzzlement to chagrin. “Did you get the parade permit?” Mike asks Debbie.
“I thought you were going to,” she responds.
“What group are you with?” the policeman interjects, hoping to end the byplay and get a cup of coffee before the event he’s been assigned to begin.
“We’re the ‘Never Forget Todd Run-Walk.'”
The policeman scratches his head and one eyebrow rises involuntary as he looks the three Wyznorskis over with a skeptical gaze he reserves for foreigners and suburbanites venturing into the city on weekends. “Look, everybody’s got a story why they need a parking space,” he says. “What did Todd die of–hereditary amnesia?”