i ran frightened through the store; the last time i saw her was when i was standing by the toy airplanes. i was taking a long time to decide which one i wanted because all had different things i liked about them. there was the delta wing jet…it had a clear triangular shaped canopy (i could not spell canopy much less tell you its attributes) i knew it looked cool. that was enough. there was the sopwith camel with a wing stacked above the other. it was slow and i knew it the jets were better. but then came the bombers with glass fuselage and glass gun blisters in the tail and belly and on top…cool upon cool. i got the glass and the wheels and it was more stuff to touch.


when i looked around she was not there. a great empty feeling clutched my heart. i wanted to cry out but i was afraid to. all of the people seemed friendly but i knew they did not like me. none spoke to me.  with lungs ready to burst i ran through store searching desperately around every aisle. i looked behind things and over things at least as far as my little legs could stretch. i was afraid someone would call the police on me.


i wondered where my momma was.


i wanted to fall to the floor but instead i walked back to the toy soldiers and played with them. the tanks seemed best. turrents that went around and around. wheels where the treads were supposed to be…please don’t think the makers of the toys would ever understand we kids and get that thing right. i suppose it was the toy soldiers that seemed the coolest with there determined looks upon their faces. stances that bristled forward forward. “come on ya babies this is going to make men out of you or send you home in boxes”. “rangers move out”. i could hear the sound of gunfire and cannons. yelling and explosions. i would walk through it all and never get hurt. show toughness and all that other stuff that made legends and heroes. shoot, i was tough. 


i wondered why was she not here.


i never realized how much i missed her until she was no longer there. i wondered if she had forgotten me like the others, had she decided that i was not worth her career and travel and thought let me go now. i pictured myself walking over to the swamp and falling in to vanish or being stolen and forced to work in a circus…wow. with animals and i would be the lion tamer and make the elephants stand up for the people…or walk on the tightrope(scared of heights). but i bet i could be a clown and make sad children laugh and those in wheelchairs forget their problems for a moment. i felt sorry for the children in wheelchairs, they are the true heroes. 


i wondered if she stopped caring about me. 


this was to make even for the men i had made leave her life. she was mine all mine all we had was each other and i won’t share her with any other i won’t i won’t. an elderly couple came upon a little child in tears and asked him what was wrong. he was surprised and shocked by not hearing them approach and stammered that he was lost and did not know how to find his mother. “well” the elderly woman was heard to say. “did you look for her up and down the aisles? we can probably find her if we really try. I sniffled happy not to be responsible for myself anymore. “i looked up and down but, i could not see her. can you help me find her?” 


i trusted her, she had a kind face and her silver and brown hair was pulled back like the people who worked in the store. she had to be alright. the man with her frowned and said something like “the young whipper snapper should not be cavorting around the store by himself anyway he might steal something.” young as i was an insult said is an insult heard, i retorted “mister i have my own money i can buy what i want, i have a quarter, so there.” he calmly replied barely holding back a chuckle “then you can buy the whole store i’d imagine, little mouthy kid.” shush the lady said, “you started all of this by insulting the child, he at least knows when help is around and he was respectful of us both until you started it.” “i’m sorry mam”, i said to dig the needle in deeper, “sir”. he knew i did not mean it to him but he was stuck. i could not let it touch my face but inside i was brimming with joy…get him lady. instead i sniffed, put on my best poor little lost thing face and looked him right in the eye. sniff. sniff. “now you should be ashamed a grown man picking on a little boy”. sniff sniff. “oh, you poor dear” she said embracing me, she smelled like my grandmother. i kinda really liked her. “lets go find your mother.”


i wondered if she was giving me away..


we walked as a group, the elderly lady in front, me in the middle, and the old man behind me. i did not exactly feel protected but i found at least one person who cared. the man accidently stepped on my heel from behind “oww” i cried out,  not loud enough to be heard and classed as a crybaby but loud enough for the nice lady in front to hear. “what is the matter dear” “this man stepped on my foot and i think its bleeding, owwww.” “let me check darling, you little stinker, you are not bleeding” she bent over checking while the man gave me a look that sneered but was silent. i decided right then and there that men were never coming between my mother and me. i mouthed silently; “i hate you” and put my meanest look behind it. now take that you no good snake in the grass.


i wondered if my momma was hurt.


we completed searching up one aisle and down the others i could have told them both that it was a waste of their time but lady was kind to me and seemed determined not to give up and inside i was enjoying the attention. the couple decided to leave this store and check some others in the little mall, as they needed to pursue shopping for their other items in some of the speciality shops that lined the small center.  walking toward the entrance one of the store clerks asked if everything was okay. the man started to say something but, the woman cut him off, “yes we are escorting our young friend to find his mother, should she return we are checking every store in the center. we have business in every one so this is not a bother.” “fine by me, but if he turns out to be a problem we can always call the police. how his mother could forget him is horrible perhaps she fell ill or is in the restroom,” the clerk offered “we can check quickly and send someone to fetch the child if need be.” “thank you kindly, I was thinking of making the tough little bird into a stew” said the man before the kind woman could answer. turning away from the woman, i gave him a look that I reserved for road kill and swamp leeches and stuck my tongue out at him. turning back to the woman I gave her my most endearing look and asked if they were gonna cook me for dinner. “i don’t wanna be a dinner, please cook something else.” “aww, little darling the mean man was joking” she reached down and picking me up hugged so tightly i thought my eyes were going to pop out so I again stuck out my tongue at the man and sneered for added measure, being sure to drop back into frightened and endearing facial expression when she returned me to the floor.


with that done and her giving the man a look so cold i thought the air conditioning was being turned down, we proceeded out the door and into the hot afternoon. “whew, it is hot out here, said my male captor, i should go buy us something special but with present company it will not happen.” “here we are at the dry goods store,” said the woman as she pushed the door open and we filed in. this was a store I had been in before and it always made me sleepy as my mom browsed the miles of multicolored cloth. I liked the sewing machines with their shiny knobs and needles, the cool light shining down on the foot and the whirring noises that all of them made. the store had a small fish tank and I could spend hours looking at the fish that were different shades of silver and gold. inside was a diver in a helmet that spewed out bubbles and I would never tire of looking at it. the lady who worked there was very nice and often made me feel welcome by offering to let me feed the fish a few flakes of food that they greedily gobbled down. oooo, they are are so wonderful.


while the lady shopped i asked the man if he wanted to see them, “sure” and then i wondered if i had made a mistake with the invitation, perhaps he might try to drown me, so i determined that i would not go down easy. let him do anything strange or funny and i was gonna punch his lights out. i led him to the place where the lady kept her desk and there it was, i giggled and looked up at the man and smiled, and to my amazement he smiled back. “neat huh, they are so gentle and seem to look out for each other. they take turns eating and the little diver keeps pumping out air and i guess that is how they live every day.” the man spoke gently for the very first time.

“you do not know this little one but i used to dive while i was in the navy, i wore that outfit and worked deep under water mostly alone but some times with others.” “oooooooooo, my eyes widened and i took the mans hand “really mister, you can tell me about it?” “sure can, that suit is very heavy and we always worked and suited up so we did not have to walk far to do what ever the job was, mostly we found or cut stuff using torches that burned underwater, then there were times when we had to rescue people in ships that moved under the water, submarines they are called.”

i was so excited that i forgot all about feeding the fish and said i was sorry for being mean to the man, he saw the admiration and tears of joy that filled my face. he smiled and rubbed my hair, “that’s okay son, it takes me some time to get used to a person, i guess you just wear a person down so they can not help but like you. i grinned and said “thank you, i think” not sure if he was joking because my hair was in my eyes and i could not see him, blinking, i reached up with my hands and pushed it aside so that i could see him. he dropped his head back and laughed loudly and with such merriment, that his wife rushed to see what the noise about. when she noticed his joy, she smiled in thanks to me, “James, i have not heard you so joyful since before you left for war.” “honey, i think this child is a gift, perhaps he takes some getting used to but once you are around him for awhile you just let your worries and pain go.”


she smiled and beamed at him, the memories seemed to wash over her recalling so many happy days then those of worry, and finally to the joyous reunion that brought James home only to realize to the anguish of them both that James had left an important part of himself behind in the war. looking heavenward she knew that she would never live enough days to thank GOD for what HE had done this day. she seemed to have witnessed a miracle. James pulled her into his arms and kissed her tenderly upon her lips, “darling i’m home. i will never leave you again.”


“hey mister James, Honey i see my mom outside” as i ran to the door, “thank you for everything.” “child wait up said honey as she hurried to the front to see my mom, but i was already outside. “where is he?” she said to the clerk, “where is who?” the clerk responded with a furrowed brow. honey answered, a little disturbed by the clerks lack of attention.


“the little boy we came in here with.” the clerk said he is outside with his mother. “oh, you do not know.” she continued softly sadly, ” they can never find each other you see, she was found dead in the parking lot and he died after being left in the car on that same hot summer day, i guess she was trying to get to him when she fell dead. some people say he still runs through the stores in search of her. when patrons start helping in search of his mom we go along, my goodness that must have happened about seven years ago.”


Honey could only smile as James put his arm around her shoulders. “dear to those that wait all good things shall be delivered to them.” “Honey we shall find that child’s grave and lay flowers upon it as a thank you.” “James that would be so fitting” she smiled and he smiled in return, and with that pledged, they returned to their shopping.