"I think you should buy one," he said grinning at me. I had in my hand a tin kaleidoscope that nostalgia had made me pick up and a childish urge had me peer into. I looked up, caught, at a freckle faced boy of about 8. I smiled back, all the encouragement he needed, "See it says 'For Kids of All Ages' right on the box." I agreed that it did say that and I was feeling like a kid.
"Then you should buy one," he said.
"Do you work here?" I asked, joking.
"Kind of, it's my mom's store," and he pointed to a woman counting out change at the till, she looked over and gave him that 'don't bother the customers' look that she'd probably given a thousand times before. Didn't deter him one bit. He started picking up the different ones and talked about the colours and which was his favourite. The one he would buy if he was shopping.
Mom started over and I waved at her indicating that it was ok.
"How long you been in the wheelchair?" he asked, one eye closed and the other peering through the tin tube.
"A couple of years," I answered directly.
"Being in the chair, no I don't mind. I'm glad of it, without it I'd not be out shopping," I said.
"For Kaleidoscopes," he added.
I picked two and asked him to put them in the bag on the back of my wheelchair, which he did with glee. I picked up a third, they had six or seven different ones, and looked through it. These would make wonderful stocking stuffers for Christmas, I thought.
"I might have to be in a wheelchair for awhile," he says, cutting into my thoughts about Christmas and who would like one of these.
"Really," I asked, adding then because I thought he needed it, "Cool."
He looked at me startled.
I continued, "You scared about using one?"
"A little, aren't you going to ask me what's wrong with me?"
"No, there's nothing wrong with you. Walking, rolling, you're a great salesman."
"Oh," he said and I immediately thought I'd mishandled it.
"Do you want me to ask?"
"No," he was hesitant.
"I have to have an operation on my hips," he blurted out, "I'm not going to walk for a while. Maybe not ever."
"I'm not going to walk again, that's OK with me, I still get around." I handed him a third and indicated that I needed it to go in the bag too.
"Three," he said excitedly, "you must be rich."
"No," I said, "I just like kaleidoscopes."
"So do I," he said, his grin was back.
"Michael, can you come over here for a minute?" He turned at his mother's call and loped off. I could see the strain on his legs as he moved.
I went on shopping and picked up a few more things. When I went to pay, Michael was no where to be seen. I smiled at his mom, "Great kid."
"I hope you don't mind us talking like that," I said.
"No," she said her eyes teeming with tears, "it was good for him."
"Well, he's a good kid."
"With bad hips," she added.
"Don't you think that that's better than the other way around?"
She stopped. Stared at me.
She counted change.