Welcome to Walmart

I went to Walmart a little bit ago. Don’t be alarmed. I mostly kept my eyes averted and made it out virtually unscathed.

I went in search of a new tube for my wife’s bike. As I walked past the racks of new bikes, I paused and was looking at all the models and the prices.

There was a young couple with their children there as well, talking to an older gentleman. He was dressed in jeans and a wrinkled button-up shirt. He was showing them the different bikes and when they finally settled on one, he wished them a good day.

Then he came to me and asked “can I help you?” He didn’t have anything that identified him as an employee of the store.

Normally I try and get into Walmart (or any store really) without speaking to anyone. It’s one of the things I love about self-checkout. I shook my head and told him, “no, I’m just here for a bike tube.”

He followed me to the tubes and gave me suggestions on how I could cut the old tube and line the tire with it as added protection. I nodded and said it sounded like a fine idea. When I wandered back to the new bikes, he pointed out which ones were on sale and what the best deals were.

A woman looking for a bike for her husband for Father’s Day asked him for help. She had a sales ad in her hand and was looking for that particular bike. He pointed it out and removed it from the upper rack for her and she went on her way.

I wandered off to get a basketball backboard for my daughter and when I came back, he was gone.

I ended up buying my wife a new bike. As I was wheeling it out of the store the man helping others choose bikes was leaving as well. He had a half gallon of milk and a few items of groceries in his hand.

I considered the fact that the best salesperson I’ve ever met at Walmart didn’t work there. It also struck me that perhaps this was his way of being part of something, of having people to interact with.

I hope he isn’t alone, but perhaps he is.

And perhaps I shouldn’t be in such a hurry and avert my eyes from my neighbors anymore.

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Putting Papa Out to Pasture

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My wife and I had the chance to spend most of the weekend with two of our granddaughters while their Mom and Dad were in the hospital to welcome their new sister into the world.

The oldest of their girls, Paisyn, isn’t quite three-years-old, and she reminds me of her mother so much it hurts. On Saturday she was riding her stick horse all over the house. She would gallop into the living room; rub the side of her stick horse’s head and say, “Whoa, boy, slow down. Settle down.” Then she would gallop away.

Later that morning she walked over to me with her stick horse in her hand. She propped it up beside the couch I was sitting on. She had attached a lead rope to its bridle and she handed it to me. “Hold onto him, Papa,” she said. Then she went to her room to play.

Whenever she came back into the living room, if I wasn’t holding onto the lead rope, she would put it back in my hands and sternly say, “Hold him, Papa.”

In the afternoon she came back to me with the lead rope in her hand. She wrapped it around my left wrist, slipped it into a knot, and pulled. It cinched tight (I asked her parents who taught her to do this, and they said she taught herself).

“Come on horse,” she said, and gave it a tug. So, being an obedient horse, I stood up and let her lead me. She led me into the kitchen, where my glass of ice water was sitting on the counter. She let me have a drink, and I was grateful her parents didn’t keep hay (or a curry comb) in the kitchen. Then she led me back to the couch.

She removed the lead rope and smiled, and I smiled back. “Thanks for putting me in the field for the night,” I said.

She looked at me quizzically, raised her eyebrows, and reattached the lead rope, only tighter this time. The circulation in my hand was being cut off.

“Come on, Papa,” she said.

I let her lead me again. We were heading for the back door. “Where are we going now?” I asked.

“To the field,” she said.

“I don’t really want to go to the field, Paisyn,” I said (it may have been a plea).

So she led me back to the couch and removed the lead rope.

That was a close one. I know there’s hay out there. Maybe even a curry comb.

Go Write a Book

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I am a middle child. Well, actually, my older brother is the middle child, but he is also the oldest of the boys, so I inherited the title and all the benefits that come with it.

Because of that, I spent a great deal of time fading into the background. I became pretty good at it, actually. It’s a talent I still try to use to the best of my ability. I became an “Observer.” Back when I was a little boy I spent a great deal of my time under the couch (I was pretty small), listening to what the rest of the family was saying and doing.

When I became a teenager, because I could no longer fit under the couch, I became bored rather easily. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had an abundance of overactive imagination.

The summer of my 13th year, I must have been driving my Mom crazy with my questions and moaning about being bored, and my Mom yelled at me, “Go write a book.”

So I did.

The first one was longhand in a notebook (I’ve still got it, somewhere). After my parents realized writing was occupying my time, my Dad brought me a Smith Corona typewriter to use, and I spent every minute I had pecking away to get the voices out of my head. He worked in a typewriter repair store at the time, so it wasn’t long before I got an electric one for Christmas. And I pecked away even faster.

I came up with an idea for a story when I was 15 that has occupied my mind for the past 37 years. It started as a simple fantasy, then turned into a horror and much later into a science fiction story. But the story was always pretty much the same, just the time and place changed.

I finally got the first part of it out of my head and into my hands a week ago. I’ve been reading it this week as a reader rather than a writer or editor. It’s not as perfect as I had hoped, but I’m satisfied that at least those voices aren’t screaming in my brain.

Looking back on it, I wonder if my Mom told me, all those years ago, “Go write a book” as reward, or punishment. Either way, thank you Mom.

That is all.