“Finally! I have time to myself!” I thought, as I headed over to Barnes and Nobel. It had been a busy week, running into the city to register for college classes, scrambling up to Bethlehem to get some much needed time in with my girlfriend, and hustling back and forth to work for every hour in between. But, today, for once, I woke up, checked my schedule, and realized that I had the whole afternoon to myself.
I figured that I’d use this time to finally start writing again. I got dropped off at the bookstore; found the biggest, softest, comfiest looking chair I could find; and collapsed into it, exhaling a soft sigh of relief as I did. I gave my surroundings a quick once-over: not a soul in sight, just un-perused bookshelves staring back at me and imploring me to write.
I fiddled around with a poem I’d conjured up yesterday, then, when I improved it as much as I thought I could, turned the page in my notebook and sat brooding for a minute in the precious silence of the store, trying desperately to formulate some brand new lines.
After a little soul-searching, some thoughts started trickling in – a word here, a word there, even some images: general ideas I could use to structure my story around. But I still wasn’t quite there, I needed just one more moment of silent concentration to make all these words and feelings fall neatly into one, perfect, opening line.
I was on the cusp, right on the cusp, just one more moment of contemplation, when, out of nowhere, this shrill, whining,
screeched through the bookstore.
I practically jumped out of my chair. All those carefully ordered words, were, in one quick moment, scattered to the far corners of my brain.
My eyes darted up, brow crinkled with rage, scanning my surroundings for this yet-unseen assailant.
In an instant, my eyes met with the enemy- short, frizzy hair, big brown eyes, and puckered toddler’s lips, she stared back at me.
Our eyes locked for a moment in adversarial understanding.
I took a deep breath, told myself to “be the better person,” and turned away.
“Just a one time thing,” I said to myself, “She wasn’t crying, she was just trying to get her mom’s attention. She’s gonna shut up now.”
I waited a moment for my heartbeat to slow down its pounding tempo.
Finally, calm again, I began to scrounge around my mind, searching for those words that the little Nazi had snatched from me. I began to find tidbits, here and there, of that near perfect line I’d almost formed. Excited, I started gathering everything back to gather, words fell into place, I grabbed my pen, thrust my hand towards the page- a poem was about to be born when-
The shrill squeal of a squeaky toy shot through the room.
“Ahhhhhhh.” I screamed inside my head, “I’m gonna end up working in the fast food industry for the rest of my life because this little b*tch won’t let me write my masterpiece!”
At this point, I knew she was evil. I glared at her, that little charlatan, feigning an innocent, adorable expression to veil the heartless sadism simmering just beneath the surface. She was clearly out to get me- she was wearing shoes with squeaky toys built in for god sake! Every step she took slapped me in the face! This wasn’t even reasonable or fair! This would never happen in a good world! What kind of species even considers putting loud, squeaky-toy shoes on toddler’s feet? What good could possibly come from that?!
But there they were, and there she was- staring back at me, malevolent smile smeared on her face.
Our eyes met for a moment longer, her little smile twisted into a smirk, as she took one loud, deliberate step.
Then her little smirk burst into a giggle.
I wanted to hate her so bad, I wanted to fly into a tirade about the inconsideration of mothers bringing loud little kids into environments that were obviously intended to be quite. I wanted to be angry, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t help but love this little kid! She knew exactly what she was up too, and not only did she not care, she enjoyed it! She took one more loud, squeaky stomp, mischievously giggling to herself as she did, our eyes still locked together, and I, helpless and defeated, started laughing along.
She took some more big baby steps, sending little squealing sounds rattling all over the room, and laughing herself into a tizzy as she did. Then, distracted by something in another isle, she squeaked out of my sight.
I sat there, bewildered, for a moment longer, big grin still plastered on my face, then I looked down at my lap. I was almost surprised to see a notebook, a pen, and a blank page staring back at me.
I had completely forgotten about the poem!
My heart got all soft for a moment as an image flashed into my head that I’d never had before:
In it, I was stepping nimbly around half finished LEGO castles, slipping on skateboards, and grabbing an aching old back as I knelt down to sop up some sloppy juice stain spilled on the floor in a flurry of tag, or hide and go seek.
In this image, I realized, there wouldn’t be much time for poems. Squeaky shoes would be the least of my distractions. Hell, maybe I’d never finish my master piece, maybe I’d die without any Wikipedia article attached to my name. But, I realized, with or without squeaky shoes, there’d be a lot of giggles. And, although giggles may never get printed or published, they really aren’t such a bad legacy to leave.