Gumballs and a Clown
We had an hour to kill before church, so the boy and I made an unplanned decision to stop by a new restaurant. Several bright-yellow banners outside brazenly proclaimed the establishment’s complete lack of culinary know-how, and generously welcomed all half-awakes to chance their current experimentations. Since overcast skies had yet to fulfill promised threats of soggy weather, we opted to take our risks inside the joint.
A single large room filled with tables, booths, diners and a line of soon-to-becomes first greeted our eyes from a small glassed foyer. Over to our left, a pair of energetic and youthful women stood close to a register, whispering secret giggles to each other. The place appeared to be stylish as well as popular.
An older male held the inner door ajar for a female companion. A fresh toothpick dangled from the gentleman’s lips -- a hopeful sign of at least one satisfied customer. We squeezed past them to battle our way over to the waiting list. I gave one of the hostesses my first name and asked how long would it be. She assured me twenty minutes, so I picked out a small toy from a stack provided for the smaller patrons, and returned with it to the less-crowded entry. Then handing the diversion to David, I directed him back inside to an vacant spot on a near-by bench.
Two minutes later I heard an announcement.
“Harry, table for two.”
My stars, I thought. And then I exclaimed as I stepped inside again,
“How lucky can I get!”
At once, an entire row of menacing eyes turned on me. I shrugged a small apology to the line as the hostess took a step backwards. She looked somewhat confused as she glanced at her clipboard.
“I’m sorry. That’s with a tee,” She said. “Terry.”
I retreated swiftly to my former spot in the foyer; appetite intact. The glowering stares faded away.
A young mother with a small quiet boy in tow stood waiting across from me. But after giving me a once-over, he shot away to my side of the room, heading for a pint-sized pinball machine in the corner. She watched while he began flipping the levers of the machine, and then smiled happily as the tot attempted to climb on top of its glass surface while begging her for another quarter. He took a red gumball from a pocket to explain his needs. She shook her head wisely as the child then hugged the sides and wailed and kicked.
David seemed to be having fun drawing stair stepped-shape cat heads on the small Etch A Sketch in his hands, so I took it away and gave him a spare quarter, having no desire to see any mayhem or anarchy this early in the day. He took the bait. And suddenly he had a new best friend who stood close to cheer him on.
“Get it! No, you missed it!” The littlest boy danced and hopped.
David leaned forward and peered down into the dark gap between the two flippers. The candy had vanished down the hole.
“Look out! You got another one coming!”
Ka-Dow! Ka-Dow! Ka-Dow!
The second gum ball followed the first down into the hole, and as quickly. The smaller boy’s shoulders slumped. Undaunted David leaned to one side and jammed his fist up into an opening on the front, and pawed around inside.
“You will get your hand stuck in there, son. Don’t do that.”
“I got it, I got it!”
The little kid whooped gleefully as David straightened up to grab both flipper buttons again. The same yellow gum ball then zigged and zagged as it rebounded its way across the board. Shoulders of both boys instinctively hunched and jerked with each mad change of direction, which, of course, added more power to the ball.
Flick it, man! (I got it!) Flick it again! (I got it, dude!) Flick…aw, man!
David leaned over and jammed in a fist, his face contorts; his hand wiggles up the hole. Within seconds, he retrieved the lost thing. The tot grinned up at him.
“Sir, your table is ready now.”
I left him there with his little fan for awhile.
Later, seated across from me in our booth, David spies the balloon clown out in the audience. Moments later this singular entertainment decides to stop by our table, and here he flops a large bag-full of his act down in front of the boy.
“What would you like me to make you today, son?”
“Nothing!” David snaps back. “I just want one for myself.”
And with that, he sticks a hand into the bag. The hefty clown rocks back on his big feet. “Whoa, there!”
The first one out gets tossed aside.
“That’s not the one,” And he dips into the bag again, going deeper. The clown frowns at this abnormal behavior. David withdraws a thin and green floppy balloon, and then grimaces before throwing it back. Until this present time, I have never seen any angry clowns.
Tricky growls darkly as he takes hold of the boy’s forearms, gripping and pulling mightily with both hands.
“Oh, no you don’t, kid!”
The boy has his own intense look going, and isn’t about to cooperate with Tricky at all.
Tricky soon wins the battle, but he looses the war. Whatever composure the man had brought along to the job vanishes as he stuffs the flaccid balloon back into his sack. He pants as he declares,
“I have reasons for this!”
The boy glares up at him while the mad clown huffs and puffs, tamping down the top of the heaped balloons. I sit and wait for his rationale to appear. It seems a little quieter in the room than normal.
“It’s my bag, and my ballo0ns, and no hand ever goes inside there except mine.”
The poor man just looked worn. I looked across at David.
“Tell him, ‘Fair enough’, son.”
“Fair enough,” David beamed.
We arrived at church, fed but late.
As soon as the pastor intoned the benison, David cupped a hand and piped up.
Bill's face took on the clown look immediately. It was a most amazing transformation. David slid down in his seat as the man approached. He grabbed the boy’s shoulder and gave a stern warning. I could only turn and ask my child afterwards,
Pastor Bill smiled with satisfaction then.