by J.A. Zollicoffer
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” the older woman said to the child who was gazing longingly at the item in the window.
The seven year-old brunette looked up at the stranger with wide blue eyes. “Really?”
“Sure. It’s a definite possibility. Hey, you know that thing doesn’t shoot real bullets don’t you?”
“It doesn’t?” the girl questioned as she looked over her shoulder to make sure her mother was still near, talking to a friend.
“Nope. But you would still need to be careful with it.” She pointed out a few other items. “Shouldn’t you be more interested in the Big Wheel, or the Radio Flyer, or even the Sit ‘N Spin? I’m sure Santa would be happy to bring you one of those ‘oldie but goodies’.”
“No way. That…” she said pointing to her prize. “looks like more fun.”
“To each his own,” the stranger mumbled.
Youthful blue eyes looked the woman up and down. Then asked an honest question. “Did you ever have one? You know…before you got old?”
In an instant the innocent question had offended the stranger, but for only an instant, then she thought about how ancient a fifty-two year old woman must look to a child as young as the one in front of her. Without thought, before giving an answer, an unconscious hand ran a path through lightly salted hair, to settle it in place, and an understanding smile was firmly planted on the woman’s face.
“No, I never had one, but back when they were popular I had a friend that owned one, but I was never allowed to play with it.”
“I would let my friend play with it.”
“You have a friend, kid?”
The dark head rapidly bobbed up and down. “Yep. Her name is Becky, and we are gonna be best friends for life. She has the shiniest blonde hair, and the prettiest green eyes ever. I would definitely let her play with it.”
“Sounds like true love to me,” was the sarcastic reply.”
“Huh?” the child asked, confused.
“Never mind. Hey, why would a little kid like you want something like that?” she asked as they both continued to stare into the display window of the ‘Reto-Days’ consignment shop.
Narrow shoulders shrugged. “I saw it on television once, it was on a show from a long time ago. I thought it looked really cool. Kinda fun,” she said, looking up at the red-haired lady.
This made the stranger laugh. “Fun, yes, but in the wrong hands it can be quite dangerous.”
The child thought about it for a second. She understood the word ‘dangerous’ and knew that certain precautions always needed to be taken when dealing with something dangerous. She had heard her daddy tell her big brother about safety when he got his new bicycle. “I would follow the rules,” the little girl responded, never taking her eyes off of the treasure in the window.
The stranger was even more curious now. There was more to this kid than met the eye. “What would you do with something like that?”
“I dunno. Catch squirrels. Scare away the bullies.”
The lady took another look at the item. “Yeah, you could probably take out a few bullies with that. Even a squirrel or two.”
This made the dark-haired girl smile wide. “Great!” she exclaimed.”
The child seemed so enthusiastic. “Does your mom know that you want one of those?” she asks pointing toward the window.
The child looked in her mother’s direction again. “Uh-huh. I told her I was gonna ask Santa for it.”
“What did she say about that?” was asked as the lady followed the girls line of sight, pleased that the child wasn’t alone.
“She told me I was too young for one, and I should ask Santa for something else.”
Again, the woman pointed to the other items in the window to remind the girl that there were other choices, but the girl ignored the gesture, and continued.
“She said that even when I’m older she would pref…pref…” The stranger waited patiently while the child struggled with the word. “Prefer that I didn’t have one.”
“She’s right you know. Not everyone can handle one of those.”
The girl wasn’t buying it. “I could handle it.”
Hearing the determination in the child’s voice, the stranger decided any further attempts to discourage the girl’s choice would fall on deaf ears. It was obvious the child’s mind was made up, and honestly, this kid looked like she could manage anything that came her way. She was reminded of something her mother used to always say, ‘Without interference They will soar with wings like eagles,’ and from what she could tell, this dark-haired child would probably make a fine example of the quote.
She reached out and ruffled the thick, glossy locks. “I think you should do it. You should ask Santa for one.”
“Really?” big blue eyes asked.
“Sure,” then a devilish grin pulled at her mouth. “And if he brings it you should ask your mom to show you how to use it.”
“I don’t know about that,” the girl mumbled as she chewed on her lip. Then another possibility came to mind, and the new idea brightened the young face. “Maybe I could ask my daddy.”
The red-haired stranger nearly swallowed her tongue. Then she thought about who would have more hands-on experience with the item.
“You know, kid, maybe you should.”
That garnered a huge smile from the child. “Yes,” she said, pumping her small fist in a show of victory.
“By the way, kid, what do you think that is?”
The little girl looked at the stranger like it was the silliest question in the world. “Why, a super-duper, double-shooter slingshot, of course.”
The redhead felt her lips twitch as a smile tried to make an appearance in the chilled December air. Kids see the world in such a different way, she thought. But before the stranger could correct the child, a voice was heard, calling out to the little girl.
“Sammy, it’s time to leave.”
The little girl looked up and waved to her mother, then turned to the stranger. “I gotta go.”
As the little girl ran off to meet her mother the stranger broke out in laughter at the child’s innocent interpretation of what some called, the bullet-bra, others called, the Madonna-bra, but most referred to the iconic item as a cone-bra.
Was I ever that young? she asked herself. Probably not, was the quick answer. But she had to admit that the time she had spent with the child had left her feeling a little nostalgic for her own youth, and that caused a wave of endearing emotions to well up inside of her and overflow in the little girl’s direction.
“Merry Christmas!” she yelled to the small retreating back, and then offered a final salute.
“Here’s looking at you, kid!”