Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)
- TITLE: Shopping for my Second Grade Girl at Sixteen
By TJ Nickel
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Some of the other half of the mall’s population were moms dragging kids, moms dragging huge bags full of what I’d guess were toys, although the bags were so big and full, there may have been kids in the bags. Dads were like dancers, wanting to be direct, but not aware of the traveling routes, stutter-stepping, bobbing, weaving, I even saw one fake a spin by stopping halfway to come back to his previous spot to shake his oncoming traffic from his path. Kids were climbing the ropes that are the arms of their parents, yanking their ears closer to their noisemakers, and throughout the mall you can hear it: “I want…”
I arrived at her store. It’s so busy in here that I’m lost, overcome by the speed and volumes. She’s mastered it by now, and she can slow the room down for herself. She’s slowed me down too, so slow I’m sitting on a bench, eyes down. She taps my shoulder and I look up. Jeans, too tight, shirt, too tight and too low, her hair is more blond than it was in the second grade. My head wags. She smiles. She grabs my arm, reels herself closer to my ear, asks, “Please”.
Another wag and a stern face to boot, I stand. The room still races by me. She appeals to my supposedly better senses, begging me to look around me, to see all these others whizzing by me in her store, younger than her, older than her, her age, racing in and out of dressing rooms in much less, much tighter. I’m spinning. I’m baffled, but not changing my mind.
She appeals to my frugality; showing me the red tags, the price slash, and shows me her negotiating skills by informing me of the money she is saving me by getting clothes at such bargains. I smile. I smile because she’s witty, and her wit is much closer to her second-grade self than her hair color. I wag my head again, smiling. She frowns, is sincerely impacted, but listens. She changes back. I walk her out of the store and to the bench in the middle of all the traffic. It’s where old people wait for young people, she thinks. She won’t sit at first, but eventually does. There are old people there. Anyone over forty is ancient to her.
We watch for a few minutes. Then I point out a girl to her, dressed modestly, walking with her father through the mall. We watch her and those that come into her path. She sees how the girls look at her and then respond with one another. Their looks are shy glimpses and their reactions boisterous coverings. Then I point out another girl to her, dressed like the other girls, but more provocative, walking with her father through the mall. We watch her and those that come into her path. She sees how the girls look at her and then respond with one another. Their looks are direct oglings, and their reactions timid shudderings. Then I point out another girl to her, dressed just like the others, walking with her father through the mall. We watch her and those that come into her path. She sees how the girls look at her and then respond with one another. They can’t bear to see her and they can’t bear to talk about it, the girl was essentially invisible.
We sat quietly for a few more minutes with the elderly.
She leaned in and wrapped herself around my arm. “Can we go now, daddy?”
She hadn’t called me that since the second grade.
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