We were in Lowe’s the other day when I lost my wife.
I guess what happened was that we were in some aisle with hardware she really digs, copper pipe elbow fittings or sandstone grout, stuff like that, and then, as I wheeled the cart ahead, concentrated on keeping our two kids from the Boredom Meltdown I knew was coming sooner or later, she went MIA.
That’s cool, I figured.
She’ll probably just end up being accosted by some over-anxious super clerk who comes rappelling down from the rafters in his company smock, asking her if she’s finding everything she is looking for today.
I had two hair-trigger outlaws in a shopping cart in front of me, so I wasn’t thinking about any of that stuff.
The three of us were passing bathroom vanities. Violet had her feet balanced on that bottom metal rung of the shopping cart, her plum fists death gripping the hard plastic that was keeping her from flying backwards off of the train caboose we were pretending we were riding. But, for whatever reason, she was also clinging to her favorite book of the week.
Hank was laid back in his car seat, down in the belly of the cart. I saw him see her, I saw him notice her fatal flaw.
His eyes widened just a wee bit, enough to give away his inner-surprise as he kept one shifty eyehole on his sister and the other on the paperback. He raised his left arm once and then let it fall back on to his stubby Michelin Man leg. Little sneak, I thought to myself. He’s conniving.
Violet was in another world.
She was a hobo dangling off the steam of a whistle’s blow somewhere in the upper Rockies.
She was campfire baked beans cooked right in the can, under a gillion stars.
She was a palm-sized Derringer all alone in the wild west.
She was a dreamer dreaming her dream half way down this Aisle 6.
Henry raised his small hand, spread two of his eternally syrupy-tarred and dog-hair-feathered digits, and simply plucked Biscuit Wants To Play out of her hand as if the book was a still-beating heart and he was the very first buzzard to glide down to the body.
Violet let out a wild animal noise, part sigh and part cry. There were elements of deep bitter sadness in there. And a tinge of genuine regret: that she had been so darn careless, that she had been flinging her treasure around like such a dang fool. Still, mostly there was this rising song of warrior fury lifting up out of her three year old bones.
She had started saying the word ‘hey!’, but that didn’t last long. The poor word had barely noticed that it had no brakes when it smashed violently into the rear of all these other feelings; mostly anger/little girl anger, the kind that is still tough for other human people to get their thick heads around after a lifetime of being told that little girls are powdered sugar delicate ballet slipper cute.
Truth is, friend, at around three, little girls are just Satan’s Elves dressed up in the cute crap you made them wear. Otherwise, they’d be wearing all black all the time and carrying a pitchfork made of squirrel bones.
Henry moved the book right to his mouth, just to tick her off. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was a book or a plastic farm animal or a lump of dog dirt, his thing is getting something up in to his gob as soon as possible. And he’s good at it and fast at it, too.
Now, Violet loves her little brother. Deep down, I know this to be true. But, if you had come around the corner there in Lowe’s the other day, a stranger out picking up a few things for the old spring fix-it weekend, you wouldn’t have probably been thinking: “I’ll be damned. Look at all this love going down right here by the toilet bowls, would ya?”
You would have been freakin’ afraid, is what you would have been.
Violet’s reaction to the theft of her sack of gold was to let go of her grip on the train. She landed down beside the tracks and immediately went into a squat position, the anger inside of her pulling her down/centering her the way that Father Time takes dust and slowly presses it down into a big old stone. She shook, too. She convulsed.
I looked around to make sure no one was near.
Violet whipped her fists across the air and looked up at me and her sweet brown eyes had gone rogue. In side them, and in her puckered lips and crinkled up brow, I could see a little bit of a feeling I have known well in my time on Earth. She pumped her weak arms as is if she was rowing hard against a bad bad current. I had rowed that rough sea. Many many times.
Finally, with a few half-hearted leaps into the sky, she brought her one hand up to her mouth and just bit down on it the same she would have done if it was a chocolate Santa or three chicken nuggets microwaved together.
Poor kid, I thought. It’s hard to feel the way we feel so often and not commit a bit of murder in icy cold blood.
I was strangely proud of her too. Here she was/ my baby-cakes standing there wanting to chomp her little brothers cheek off for stealing her book. She wore the hatred on her eyeball for the world to see it. She was a spurned toddler and I will tell you this: that is worse danger than any kind of thing Jesse James or Billy the Kid ever brought into town..
Then, when I was all caught up in the madness, watching it like a car crash, some other couple snuck up on us and passed us as Violet was eating her own arm.
These people, they didn’t even look down at her twice.
“Parents”, I sighed to myself. “They gotta be parents.”
Then I stood there and watched them as they walked off into the sunset/past the crappers destined for another man’s home.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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