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I recently attended a circus wedding. I’m referring to a circus-themed wedding, not a wedding “under the big top,” though there were a great deal of fanciful shenanigans and enough clowning around that one might have difficulty differentiating the two.
Near the tented entrance stood a table replete with circus-oriented curiosities presented as tokens for the enjoyment of the guests. One could enthusiastically snatch up an adhesive Dudley Do-Right mustache or enjoy a taste of pure spun, sugar candy. Or, perhaps the more pragmatic guest (with December being right ’round the corner) might choose one of the red foam noses, making it doubly useful for Christmastime. But for me, it seemed a risky temptation of fate to choose the mustache as I had recently seen tiny hairs sprouting from my upper lip where there’d once been none. And, although easily tempted by candy, I admit to being somewhat of a cotton candy snob by believing that consuming it from a pre-packaged bucket robbed it of all the delights of its intended fluffy purpose and sticky intentions. My lack of pragmatism (but to my credit, my knowledge of that lack) eschewed me from the red foam nose as I would never be able to locate it in its time of need. Surely it would reappear one day from behind a dresser or from under a pile of books during a cleaning spree, probably around Easter, thereby making it a moot point at the end of my nose.
I was about to exercise my freedom not to choose, which is out of character for me as I love a freebie, when I noticed something magically appear on the third of the three-ringed centerpiece. Life-like, tiny human hands, each perched atop a straw, were placed in a vase to impersonate a diminutive bouquet of beige daffodils. There was a diabolical loveliness about them, and I was instantly amused. Without thought or hesitation I shook one free from its previous arrangement and chose the finger puppet of a tiny human hand to accompany me throughout the evening.
The tiny hand and I did not part company anytime soon. In the weeks that followed, I would often pull down my shirt sleeve and place the tiny hand onto my finger to allow the doll-sized, life-like version do my bidding. I shared tiny, nickel-sized, high-fives with the energetic grocery boys who loaded my trunk. To alleviate the monotony of bored waiters and waitresses, I tapped it against my cheek at restaurants as if trying to make a difficult menu decision. I sat in my car at stoplights and stroked my chin with the tiny hand, offering fellow drivers the sight of someone pondering the universe, and gave them an amusing story to share at the dinner table or between office cubicles. All of these tiny acts seemed to bring humor in some tiny way. And to think that I had a hand in that.
I grew quite fond of the Lilliputian extremity and its fleshy rubber digits, each the size of a matchstick-so fond, in fact, that I carried it with me in my purse, like a small phalangeal talisman. Then one day, I saw the opportunity to use my tiny hand to forge a bond with my teenage son. He and I were in the car together running errands, albeit somewhat begrudgingly on his part, and I could tell by the impatient fidgeting and ebbing conversation that he was becoming winded with fatigue by the process. Young people today have no stamina against the waves of boredom that beat incessantly against the shores of everyday life, so I took swift action and made a hasty decision, the same way I make so many-robust with good intentions and complete lack of forethought. I spared not even a moment to consider how this action would be perceived. I was going rogue.
I pulled into the drive-through lane of his favorite fast food haunt, and he sat upright with the exited expression of a dog who hears Kibbles falling into a bowl. We placed our order, and I opened my purse to retrieve my credit card. There sat the tiny hand, waving to me with a friendly-hello. Even tiny gestures deserve recognition.
I pulled down my sleeve, placed the miniature fleshy hand, finger-puppet style, onto my index finger, and wedged my credit card between its rubbery phalanges. My son stared at me and, with the teenaged economy of words said merely, “uh-uh, no way.” I interpreted this to mean-do it! I know teenaged-boy language. With the whoosh of the opening of the car window, I extended my arm towards the unsuspecting employee who was simultaneously reaching through his window to obtain my payment. He flinched and reflectively withdrew, but after a brief pause, he saw the humor of my tiny hand, now peeking from the end of my covered fist, and proceeded to extract my credit card from its minuscule grip.
His ensuing laughter grew exponentially until becoming what one in this milieu could only define as being “biggie sized,” and the mortification mixed with fascination emanating from my son was as satisfying as applause to a comedian. Comedy does not need to be a market produced and consumed solely by the young; we elderly can be wickedly whimsical.
The employee, still captivated by the tomfoolery, returned my card, being ever so careful as he wedged it between the tiny hand’s flexible fingers. As he delivered our fried fare, he announced that the laughter was worth more than the food, and it would therefore be, “On me”- which I mistook to mean the joke, not the food. I departed with a tiny wave, a miniature salute, and a polite “Thank You.”
As I pulled away, my son looked at the receipt and announced, “Damn, Dang… it was free, seriously!” to indicate that our meal had, indeed, been issued complimentary. I was surprised, flattered, and touched that my capricious act had brought about such gut-filling happiness-twice, as I watched my teenager down a dozen chicken nuggety things, empty a carton of fries and flush the entire wad down with a liter of soda. So, who says you can’t feed a family on laughter. Talk about a happy meal.
Moments later in an office supply store, in search of the perfect fine tip marker, the previous act of kindness and generosity on behalf of the fast food employee was still permeating the air, like the aura of perfume. I couldn’t shake this happy mist in my midst, nor did I try; I wallowed in it. It would not, however, be fully experienced (even after obtaining the perfect fine tip marker) until it was fully acknowledged. This act of kindness required retaliation of the cleverest kind.
Fat and happy, my teenager wanted to return home at this high point in the day, but I pushed him to his limits by saying, “But wait, there’s more” and he slumps back down in the seat. “We need gas… fuel, petrol” to which there is no response. I pulled into the station and park, not near the pump, but near the door. He made no movement to release the seatbelt, indicating his intention to wait in the car. Once again, I used my maternal lubricant to pry him free of his own stubbornness. “I’ll by you an ice cream, you big baby.” He gets out of the car and, as he’s been taught to do, holds the door as we enter the store together.
While the friendly, young cashier rang up the ice cream, I asked her for the one single, solitary item I came in for. “Which type of lottery ticket would you like?” was all she said, before a barrage of questions and recommendations came shooting forth from the helpful crowd of strangers in the store. I was naively unaware that this request would come with options or spark such assistance. “I want a random one for the next multi-million-dollar thingy.” And then I added, “Wait. I need two.” I turned to the ice cream eater and said, “One will be for us.”
Returning to the Fast Food establishment and tearing past the squawk box, I pulled up to the window. The same employee was still there. He pushed open his window, looking confused, as I had placed no order. This time he saw a lottery ticket folded charmingly in the tiny hand and securely wedged between the fleshy digits. “This is for you,” I said. He took the ticket and looked at it with a mix of surprise and confusion. I continued, “It’s the Lucky for Life ticket. Drawing is tonight at eleven. What you did before was very generous and now I’m paying it forward, and well, backwards, too, I suppose. I hope you win a bazillion dollars and when you do, I hope you do a lot of nice stuff for a lot of people. Have a great day.” I peeled off, leaving the plastic nametag on his shirt still unread.
The silence in the car lasted through three stoplights before my teenager spoke, “If we win, I get half, right?” he asked, between licks.
I slap the tiny hand to my wrinkled forehead, “Eureka!” I said to my son, who was busy shoving the ice cream down his pie hole. “Even better than that,” I said, “I’ll double your investment, which is… oh wait… you failed to invest, so-nada. You’ll get, nada.” I burst open with laughter, and although he tried ever so hard to look unamused, I saw the invisible smile on his face.
He shook his head and mumbled through the mash in his mouth, “That was cool, Mom. I wish I’d have gotten it on Snapchat.”
The following day, the newspaper headline read FAST FOOD WORKER WINS LOTTERY. The story that followed: Anonymous, small-handed, old woman donates lottery ticket to fast food worker who wins THE BIGGIE. Mr. Lucas Petitemain, in honor of his wounded warrior brother, plans to establish a foundation to provide bionic limbs to those in need.
Well, at least it’s lovely to think about… that, which might have been.Write by phanmemgoc