Yesterday at the Seattle ferry terminal I grabbed what will be the last good fast food/restaurant food I will have for at least another month – a couple of Tacos from Taco Del Mar. Don’t judge. Living in rural Idaho has given me a new appreciation for … convenience.
The ferry was running late and the terminal was packed. Crowds are not our kind of scene, but we were fortunate to grab a table and chairs just in time. Sitting there, eating my dripping taco, a tiny little head and face appeared to my left, just over the table edge. A little boy was staring at me, or rather, my taco. It was sort of akin to those times you eat at a friend’s house, and their pet starts to beg. Awkward, and uncomfortable.
I swallowed my bite and just stared right back at him. He smirked a little and I smiled back. His father then revealed himself to be the man sitting at the table next to M, along with presumably his mother and an older sibling who were totally disinterested with the whole thing. His father called to him, ordering him to leave us alone and come back to their table. This boy couldn’t have been more than three or four. He wasn’t helpless (obviously) and also wasn’t talking. Whether he could speak at all, I do not know. One thing was certain – he completely ignored his dad, and if I didn’t have ears, I would never have known he was being called just to look at the little brat.
I say “brat.” It’s not that this child was being extremely annoying. He wasn’t grabbing at things that were not his or tossing his animal crackers at anyone. He wasn’t screaming at the top of his lungs or repeating anyone’s words over and over again. He was just being, independent. It was soon after our staring contest that he traipsed over to the table next to me and his father got up and grabbed … not his hand … but his leash.
The little dude was wearing a leash. And not the bungee cord type that expands and contracts, but a bonfire leather, sturdy, on a metal swivel do-hickey – leash. It attached to a body harness he was wearing over his clothes. And his dad pulled him back to their table and spoke to him as the little tyke looked neither hurt, angry, or amused. In fact, he looked elsewhere as his dad spoke and in adult terms, totally blew him off.
The boy attempted to part their company again shortly after his father’s diatribe. His dad gave the leash a tug and he instinctively grabbed the leash out of his dad’s hand. Strangely, dad let him have it, becoming to interested in something they were doing at the table. So, with his leash in hand, the little boy proceeded to traipse around the tables and into the ferry terminal toward the door that lead to Seattle. His father turned once and called to him, then turned around again. It was so surreal.
I lost interest when his father got up and went after him at some point after. I sometimes have to shift gears before what is in my head comes out in real life.
So I thought of a story that my better judgement declined before it hit the page. It was about a child stealer who watches this whole scene, and easily whisks the boy away. Later, when the boy is in a box with air holes in the back of a horse trailer headed for who knows where, the evil kidnapper says, “Bet you wish you’d listened to your pappy, huh!” And the police take the family’s and the witness statements and call CPS.
My beta-reader told me recently I should be very cautious about killing a kid I have in my Malone story. He said it would turn off any parent readers and make people angry. I have to agree. I feel the same way about this story.