~ A short, short story ~
It was “Kids Eat Free Night” at the Red Lobster. The parking lot was jammed with cars, the waitresses were in a serving frenzy and the lobby of the restaurant was packed with hungry customers waiting for a table. Larry and Mavis and their four young children, Fenton, Anthony, Louise and Jerome were wiggling out of their skins with hunger.
“When will it be our turn, Daddy?” begged Louise, who was bouncing up and down on Larry’s lap. She arched herself into a backbend. Larry’s hand supported her and she completed the flip and landed on the linoleum. She grinned up at her daddy. “Ta da!” she said.
He glanced at the hostess and said, “The natives are restless.” The waiting area was populated by a bevy of families with whining and fidgety children.
Jerome, who was three, pointed at the counter. “I want to look at the candy,” he said to Mavis.
“Okay,” Mavis said affixing her eye to Jerome's whereabouts while she scanned her other children whose patience was fraying.
The hostess flashed a harried smile at the family. “They’re cleaning your table now.”
Larry said, “Didja hear that, Punkin’? They’re almost ready for us!”
“Yay” said Louise. “I’m starvin’!”
Fenton and Anthony were squeezed into a single chair, alternately elbowing each other. Fenton insisted, “This is my chair.”
“No, it’s my chair,” said Anthony, and shoved Fenton off the seat.
“I was here first!” said Fenton with conviction and rammed his hips against Anthony. The boys crashed into each other every few seconds and their noise level gradually elevated.
Mavis glared at them and whispered, “Do you want to go home?”
“Nope,” said Fenton.
“Nope” repeated Anthony.
“All right then. Behave!” She craned her neck around. “Where’s Jerome?”
Jerome was still looking up at the candy. Satisfied that he was all right she turned her attention back to the two disruptors.
Jerome occupied himself making handprints on the glass case. On the counter was a large bowl of York peppermint patties and a bowl of matchbooks. He pressed his face against the glass and blew raspberries. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other and hummed a little song to himself.
He heard the doors open behind him and he turned to see another family entering the foyer – a mother, a father, and the most beautiful little girl he had ever seen. She was wearing a pink dress and pink shoes with yellow socks. In fact, she herself was pink and yellow. She had yellow hair, pink cheeks, pink lips and blue eyes. She seemed to float there among the people waiting for tables. He grinned at her and looked away. She grinned back and looked away too. Her parents spoke to the hostess and her mother let go of her hand absently for a moment.
Jerome felt his heart pound beneath his blue striped t-shirt. An unexplainable power began to build within him and he walked toward her with his arms extended. She noticed him coming toward her and she felt the same impulse from the universe. Before anyone noticed, the star-crossed three year olds put their arms around each other and kissed each other on the lips. None of the parents had seen it happen but Fenton, Anthony and Louise saw it and their eyes bugged out of their heads with shock. Only seconds had passed since the pink and yellow girl had entered the restaurant with her parents, and only seconds after the kiss, they grasped her two, little pink hands and escorted her away into a dining room, following behind the hostess.
Jerome watched her until she was out of sight. She looked over her shoulder at him as she rounded the corner and then she was gone. He felt oddly disquieted.
In the car on the way home, Fenton and Anthony teased Jerome relentlessly. “You kissed a girl, you kissed a girl,” they sang in a singsong tune. Jerome looked out the window and did not take the bait.
Later that month on Easter Sunday, Jerome picked all the pink and yellow jellybeans out of the bowl and kept them in his pocket and nobody knew why.
Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.