In one of the thousands of aisles in the blindingly lit big-box toy store, the sales clerk hemmed and hawed, bobbed and weaved and shuffled all neat pressed before the customer, saying, Ma’am? Can I help you? You looking for toys? Is this the right age-group? Or can I show you to another section if the age-group is wrong you know – my hand came to answer him as my lips opened and closed and said, Oh, yes – I said, through my jagged fingertips pressing to the plastic and steel cool of the defective shopping carts push handle, me and my husband and our eight year old Janie are taking a trip to Switzerland week after next, and I want to surprise Janie with some neat new toys to bring along on the flight and also to play with after Ma comes home and then we can get up and go, could even sleep a while in the plane if Janie is busy making little friends attracting them with her neat toys as would some old-school ventriloquism midget of two or three or five days in a row outside laying food traps all rotten and stenchy with maggots hatching and knowing like I do that poor greedy creatures of all kinds will come and grasp and feel, wow what a sky above and what slimy skunk cabbage below but our parents you know were too careless with climbing their rapidly dissolving to vapor corporate step ladders, to think to plan and do an assessment of anything they were too busy to snag down away from the great thick heavy crushing tsunami of a continuous eternity of the future pouring over now and then back to the wide astonished but unaffected face of the store clerk who had asked if I needed help because, as always in bustling places like this, I stood alone frozen lost and forlorn – having thusly thought his question over, I said to him, Yes, what do you recommend. Toys for five to eight days, some in close quarters like a plane seat of waiting room standing to the side forest green tall garbage cans in the office we need to stop by and visit for a few which is okay because I really am supposed to be in the office now, anyway but this needs to get done get done yes get done now!
Oh, yes, no problem ma’am. Let me pull a few items from the shelf. Here.
He moved as a thin slippery lizard and pulled down a very minor tiny imperceptible slide of colorful small toys in boxes and bags each of which I look at I cannot understand what you do with each one but it seems like kids today are you know they’re – hey! What are these?
Those? Oh. Those are Koosh balls.
Koosh balls. Kids love them – and see, you spotted them in the bargain bin, everything in there is buy one get two free. See there?
What? Oh – yeah. I see that. What do kids do with these?
Play catch, pretty much.
Huh? He stood waiting to get an answer but the answer would have to be, God, that is ridiculous you can’t play catch to keep busy on a plane where once in a while they’ll let Janie play in the aisle but where most of the time she’ll be between me and Jamed, plus so what they’re soft and all that, number one; you can’t play catch good with less than a solid hard ball, and, number two; so what they’re soft and won’t hurt anybody they go off course go bad throw or whatever, nobody in a cramped airplane on an intercontinental flight will take kindly to being pummeled at random intervals by a featherweight yucky little wisp of a ball, no matter how cute the players, because on a long flight everything around everybody turns black-hearted ugly and –
What about it, ma’am? Like the Koosh balls?
Not sure, spit from my lips, as the final and worse problem with playing ball in tight crowded spaces full of bad air and bad vibes broke all surf-like and foamy, obliterating the clerk fully, erasing his fairly unimportant question, flowed down and down showing its reason for having appeared to me; yes, it needed to come and tell me, curving down before me like a scroll, upon which words came in great black block letters, yelling up into my face there is one more problem about playing catch for air travel amusement, that being that it assumes you have friends to play with; and no, yes, we don’t know for sure if we will; as stated previously yes stated previously, it’s a not too much of a logical stretch to think her happy manner brand new toys and the smiles her parents, yes her parents, in the real world outside this loopy thought-stream being me and Jamed, will go out of our way to coo and ahh and grin and nod and make the other parents crammed in on the plane sure that their prayers have been answered and here is a way to get a break from the twenty-four seven strain of nosing unruly children, yes, unruly and slow to learn like unsocialized young adult dogs, a strain to train indeed, and the strain varying by breed and it’s not like choosing a breed at the shelter since people – breeds come out and what you get is the deck you’re dealt, it’s like saying at the pound to the pound people give me a dog any dog any age my eyes are closed I will conceive this child and take the roll of the dice, even though if the possibility that I may receive a dog too large too evil non-housebreakable stinky drooling noisy super-shedding hard-to-handle and no good actually at all. Is not conceiving like a Russian roulette spin? Here, we put one in the chamber go on and spin GI spin and point to your head and click the orgasmic trigger and hang on through what seems the eternal nine-month wait to see if your head blows off being given a child with the genes of a serial killer, or with the hollow click and the pee-in-your-pants relief that you will give birth to a smart honest healthy trainable maybe even already trained blasted from Zeus’ forehead as-goddess style fully formed and perfect yes perfect Athena-like ball of effortless and perfect and no work at all child – you know – the couple in the seat two rows back on the other side of the plane will nod to their perfectly trained Jesus-like superclean in body and mind, child fit to play with Janie, to come over to play.
Or maybe not. You can’t tell a serial killer at first sight. Love at first sight doesn’t work out, either. Haste makes waste and all that too. The answer is given. The store comes back from the surrounding pondering hard-thinking mist, and I tell the slithery-slick sales associate whether or not I’ll buy the Koosh balls, without looking at his gleaming white shirt whiter than white he looks like he’s standing at the superhot focal point of the world’s largest new BrightSource solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert that burns birds down from the sky like some god-damned real life death ray – sure look it up if you don’t think that’s true, look it us yes up and yes up yes –
Ma’am, do you want these or not? a voice says from the mass of burning birds falling down into one black mass coming closer coming into the sales clerk patiently thrusting out the bag of ball in my face; the question! Yes! And the question has an answer which I blurt out, Yes! Yes, I will, yes sure fine okay no problem give it here; the bags of polyethylene wrapped Koosh balls comes at my face; the only way to survive is to go with the flow in almost any situation; so, abruptly I break character and dive into the jungle, it’s after all a jungle beneath the crinkling mass into which I leapt to get away, because the question he demanded to be answered has no answer thus the question can’t ever have really been. Safe at last safe fine yes, I run away spooked for dark mile after dark mile toward the future far out from where I almost go melted down and – no-no details don’t ask me for details there can be no details come from something that never really happened thank God.
Jim Meirose’s short work has appeared in numerous venues. His published books include Understanding Franklin Thompson (JEF pubs (2018)), Sunday Dinner With Father Dwyer (Scarlet Leaf Press (2018)), and Le Overgivers au Club de la Résurrection (Adelaide Books (2018)). Find out more from his website here.