“You think they’d staff up on Saturday afternoons,” I was waiting in line at the local sub shop, and the woman in front of me was not happy with the speed of service. It was a favorite spot in town for weekend lunch. Most of us took the minor wait in stride.
“We haven’t moved an inch in forever,” she continued her complaint to no one in particular, her husband lost in his phone’s screen. Their little boy was eyeing the primary colored gumball machine placed strategically on the wall beside the waiting queue.
“Adam, what are you going to get? You have to pick something Charlie will like. You two are sharing,” she nudged her husband.
“I was thinking a tuna sandwich,” Adam replied, still clicking on his phone.
“No tuna. Too much mayo. Low fat, remember. You’ll have the turkey with mustard. And no chips.” Adam nodded mindlessly.
Charlie unzipped his hoodie and started slipping out his arm. “Adam, keep his sweatshirt on. He had sniffles this morning. You know Deb came over yesterday. She had the flu like ten days ago. Now he’s got the sniffles. Charlie! Keep that zipped up. You’ve got a cold.” Adam bent down and zipped up the sweatshirt, patting Charlie on the curls.
Adam’s phone buzzed, and she grabbed his hand to look at the caller id. “Your sister? Don’t answer that. We’re not going to her house for dinner. You call her later and explain that. Her place is a disaster. Do you know she doesn’t even rinse the dishes before she puts them in the washer?” Adam nodded wearily. He’d obviously heard it before. “They can come to our place or we’ll go out. I’m not eating in that pig sty.”
She looked back at the menu board, “What do you think has less calories? The wheat or the rye?” she asked no one in particular, again.
Charlie tugged on Adam’s pant leg, pointing towards the gumball machine. “Ok, just one,” Adam relented and fished in his pocket for a quarter. Charlie hopped over to the machine and plugged the coin into the slot. The magic rattle of the treasure falling followed. Charlie opened the plastic red flap to retrieve his prize.
“What? You let him get gum?” she looked up at Adam in disbelief. “Christ, he hasn’t even had lunch!” she cried.
“It’s just a gumball. I’ll have him save it for dessert. Come here Buddy. Show me what color you got.” Adam held his hand out for Charlie.
“Do you know how filthy those machines are? You’ll have to go in and wash his hands.” she declared.
Charlie came back, his fist closed around his prize. “Give me your gumball, Bud. We’ll save it for desert.” Adam requested.
Charlie opened his palm to show a large human tooth.
Adam looked startled. His wife caught her breath, “Oh. God! That’s disgusting.”
Before either parent could grab the tooth away, Charlie popped it in his mouth and swallowed.