Honourable mention in the 3rd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
I lost my pretty mother in a toy store.
Entirely my fault.
Despite her usual warnings, I wandered, I strayed.
Up one aisle down the next.
I became so bewitched by the dolls and accessories only after an hour did I turn myself in.
I was a lanky thing—all limbs, lace and hair.
A hefty clerk boosted me by my hips onto the service desk.
His name-tag read: CARL.
Above our heads hung a sign on a chain: LAYAWAYS & RETURNS.
“What’s your name, sweetheart,” Carl said.
He had a clipboard with a pencil on a string.
“Last name first, first name last,” said Carl.
But I had been taught to ignore the inquiries of strangers.
So I played dumb, content to gaze and click my heels.
Carl looked me over, up and down, up and down, then jotted a few words on his clipboard.
He told me to “wait right there,” so I crossed my legs and waited.
Within minutes the store manager, a short ugly man with a patch of thinning hair, handed me an ice-cold bottle of Coke.
“What do you say,” he said.
He wanted a thank you, but I’d seen him fetch the soda using keys to the machine so it hadn’t cost him a dime.
“What’s your mother look like, kid?”
“She’s tall,” I said. “Tall as a tree.”
“What colour hair?”
“Foxy blonde, streaked with grey.”
“Head to toe,” I said.
“Me or her?”
“Let’s stick with her.”
“Agelessness is her secret,” I said.
“Approximately,” he said.
I sipped the Coke: “Do the math. Three times me.”
“Okay, then. How old are you, honey?”
“Guess,” I said.
He shook his head, showing his yellow teeth.
“Bet you can’t guess,” I said, and stuck out my tongue.
“Bet what? With what will you bet?”
“Bet you another Coke,” I said.
He guessed wrong four times in a row. I giggled after guesses three and four. The fool was going higher, not lower.
“Hey,” he said. “Did you really lose a mother, or is this some type of scam?”
I squeezed my face, closed my eyes. I made myself ugly and started to cry. I kicked and banged my heels until both my shoes flew off.
A lady customer looked my way. “What's that child fussing about,” she said.
Carl the clerk said, “I forget her story. Will that be cash or charge, ma’am?”
I screamed a terrific scream, a howl that would make any mother proud. I screamed so hard I hurt my throat. So loud the clerk punched out and went home.
Not entirely my fault. It was closing time anyway.
The ceiling lights went dark in rows. The ugly manager jiggled his keys to get my attention. He had my shoes hooked on the ends of his fat fingers. He strolled over and set them on my lap.
“Pretty legs,” he said.
All night the ice-cold Cokes slid down my throat like kittens down a well.