Wednesday, June 08, 2005
The Bad Man

"Momma, momma!" I was trying to pick out a new tie for my husband when my little boy came barreling up the aisle. He threw himself against my legs and held on tightly.

"Honey, what happened? What's wrong?"

He pointed over to the right where a distinguished looking elderly gentleman was quickly making his way across the store towards us. "That man. He's a bad man, momma. He tried to . . ." Brian broke off in mid-sentence and hid behind my skirt.

As the man drew closer, I could see he was a store clerk. "I'm so sorry, miss. I believe there's been a misunderstanding." He eyed my son worriedly.

Bewildered, I looked from my child to the elderly clerk. "What in the world is going on?"

"That's a fine young boy you have there. I was just having a little conversation with him, and I think he must have misunderstood my intentions."

"I did not!" Brian yelled indignantly, peering around my leg. "He tried to take my money!"

"What?" The old man appeared genuinely startled.

My son nodded emphatically. "You tried to take my money! You told me to give you five!"

I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing.

Brian stared at me as if I had lost my mind. The poor man stood mortified, stunned that his innocent attempt at hipness with a toddler had taken a such terrible and unexpected turn. Then he too started laughing.

I wiped my eyes and tried hard to gain my composure. "Sweetheart, when somebody says 'give me five' they aren't asking you for money. It's just a figure of speech. "

My son looked puzzled.

The old man squatted down and smiled at him in relief. "Your mother's right. It's a way of saying hi to someone. Only instead of shaking hands, you kind of slap your hands together like this." He demonstrated. "Now you try."

Shyly Brian slapped the man's palm.

"Good job!"

. . . . . . . . . . . .

"Momma?" Brian asked thoughtfully as we left the store. "You know how you're always telling me that it's bad to hit people?"

I had a feeling I knew what was coming. "Yes."

"Isn't this giving five stuff like hitting?"

I considered this. "Well, I guess you could look at it that way. Except you're not really hurting the other person. It's more like you're both agreeing to play with each other."

Brian grinned, and I realized I had just handed my kid a whopper of a loophole he could use the next time he and his sister starting getting into it. Great. I decided to clam up before I made it worse.

He shook his head. "Grownups are funny." he laughed.
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I'm a 40-something writer, artist, and Jill-of-All-Trades. For me, magic is looking at the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary. My writing tends to take me to unexpected places--not so surprising when I think about it. I had an unusual growing up and have always chosen the offbeat over the "safe". I prefer interesting people over beautiful ones, and I am fascinated by people's stories. What I love most about life is its glorious imperfections and fantastic plot twists.

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