They are trying to kill me. I have had this thought many times in the last couple weeks. Because why would someone do the things that they do, unless they were trying to drive another person crazy or somehow off them. But you see, that’s just what children do to their mothers.
I was standing in the checkout line when it again became apparent that they were trying to bring about my untimely demise. The boy was standing by my side seemingly innocent for the time being, but the tot clearly was trying to choke me.
It had begun so innocently with something along the lines of “Carry me, mama!” Once I took that bait she began to squirm and writhe around while clinging to my upper body as though she were making an imitation of a boa constrictor having an afternoon snack of rodent. I think I even squeaked.
Standing between me and the cashier was one man. He was a burly fellow, which was in strict opposition to the teen-aged cashier who clearly thought a unicorn was his spirit animal. He was the sort of fellow that would ask for sprinkles on top of his ice cream at age seventeen. He was a happy-go-lucky sort of fellow—just the sort that causes trouble among the silent masses.
The silent masses go about their business by minding their own business. They don’t interact for good reason. It is the way of the world. If you pushed every stranger in a checkout line for more information than “Did you find everything you were looking for today?” then surely you are asking for trouble.
“Cute kids,” the cashier said smilingly to the burly man. Burly Man lifted his brow, and I unconsciously took a step back. Suddenly it seemed that in some alternate version of reality Burly Man’s seed had been sown in my soil, and I had borne forth the fruit of his loins—not once, but twice. The fleshy details required for this action were flashing through my mind as I looked at his largely unkempt body and unfriendly nature. I felt my eye twitch.
“Those aren’t my kids,” Burly Man said defensively, as though he stood before a court of law. “I don’t have no woman. All a woman wants is my paycheck. Ain’t no woman want me anyway,” he said in one of his more surely tones. It would be difficult to say with certainly, because I suspect most of his tones were surly. Then it was as though that cashier’s invisible unicorn spirit animal, complete with rainbow colored hair, was whispering in his ear.
“But I like you,” he blurted out. “I like everyone.”
Burly Man looked at him suspiciously. He looked a bit like a bull to me then, and I could just see the tendrils of hot breath seeping from his snout as he pawed the ground. He didn’t charge into the jolly expression on the cashier’s face though. Instead he started using his thick fingers to pick through the coins in his hand.
It was at this moment that another man pushed a very full cart up behind me. He was an odd looking fellow, with a face very red and missing most of the hair on his head. The skin was peeling all over his face, which looked more like a disease than a sunburn, but I’m no doctor. Clearly being intrigued by how the tot-boa constrictor was going to eat me once she had finished strangling me, he gestured to both of the children.
“How old are they? Two and five?” There was an overly eager vibe off the guy, like he really had a bit to get off his chest. I inadvertently took a step backward, but then realized I was edging toward Burly Man. I wasn’t going to pick teams—that was for certain—so I held my ground.
“Three and six,” I answered with a polite smile and immediately looked away.
“I’ve got one that’s two and one that’s five at home.” And then he started shaking his head like he was having a very troubling flashback as he looked on at my children. “Difficult age, isn’t it?” A glazed-over look in his eyes came at the same time as the words. “And I’ve got a nine-month-old at home too.”
Suddenly it was as though that rainbow unicorn was whispering in my ear.
“But the good thing is that they grow fast, and before you know it they will be much older.” I was, oddly, cheerful. He gave me a dead stare.
“My wife is expecting again.” The words came out like a ton of bricks, and like he too could see a boa constrictor coming for him. Fear was in poor Peely-Face’s eyes.
“That’s very exciting,” the unicorn made me stutter out, but it came without enthusiasm. He made no response, as he seemed to be staring into hypnotic reptilian eyes stalking him.
Burly Man picked up his bag of groceries and snorted like a bull as the cashier said, “Have a nice day!” I pried one of the tot’s overzealous hands from around my throat and stepped forward. I had a new perspective in my mind.
I wasn’t an angry Burly Man, and I wasn’t a tormented Peely Man with four kids either. I was just a mouse and two boa constrictors ready to face a rainbow unicorn cashier. I was right smack in the middle of those two extreme ends of the spectrum, and that was a beautiful thing.
Or at least until the boa constrictor figures out how to eat me.