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‘A Gloomy Gusser’
A Day at the Overrun Mall with MumMum and Emma
“Come on, Emm, get that slime put away so that Jim can take us to the mall. It’s a gloomy gusser out and if we don’t do anything you’ll end up being a grumpy grumperson tonight.”
So said Megan as I put on my boots bad Emma sang out, “The mall, the mall the mall. Rides at the mall!” dancing spite-like across the living room, doing a backflip on the hassock which serves as her stage for “jumpy” games, like diving at me and chirping, “Surprise, catch!”
The mall was about 20% as occupied with customers as it had been when I moved to Baltimore County in 1981.
The mall had a cop car out front and signs all over concerning the fact that lone youth would not be tolerated after dark.
The people manning the booths in the midway were mostly short dark women with hajib’s covering their hair and neck but not their face.
The foot traffic was fully realized diversity, the languages English, ebonic, Spanish, Arabic and something I could not identify spoken by black-haired and dark-skinned people with deep brown eyes. Mulatto gangsters prowled leeringly, homing in on small Asian women with salivating lust that made Megan cringe as they literally leaned over her to look at a little Asian girl wiggle by. As they passed us she looked up at me and snarled, “Ooo, they are so predatory the way they look at that girl. I can’t stand them anymore. They can’t keep their hands to themselves.”
Locating the four car rides in the midway, I gave Megan enough quarters for a ride for Emma on each and then located the sound of more electronic kids noise, the ZPlanet zone, a place with slow carnival rides, bouncy houses, bumper cars and a vacuum ball tub and rubber slide.
For 30 dollars I bought Emma an hour on all but the token rides and 14 tokens for the individual rides. The young American woman working the shift had a sisterly manner and motherly figure and was very sweet to Emma among the following cast of attending characters, which I realized was the casting call for her future, the roll call of those she would travel into adulthood alongside:
-The swarthy clan, headed by a father or grandfather who spoke something other than English, Arabic and Spanish, who sat smiling at his daughter and 3 boys, ranging from ages 7-12. The boys had the manner of thugs and dressed like drug dealers from a C-movie shot under budget just east of London. The boys would look at Emma, their patriarch would yell at them, then they would look at me, the eldest questioningly, the youngest with fear and the middle boy as if he wished to stab me. The man was about my age avoided eye-contact with me and seemed frustrated that his boys did not enjoy the slightly under-age activities he had designated for them with more vigor.
-A handsome Dominican couple in their early 20s with a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old boy, who seemed incapable of English when Megan spoke to them, wore the latest American elite fashions, including Tommy Hilfiger and other labels I cannot recall. They were engaged with their children and demonstrated standard suburban American levels of civility.
These folks all stayed for about 1.5 hours and we stayed later as the business was so slow the attendant did not mind us staying over our 1-hour ticket time.
An Asian girl, demure, pretty and helpful, took over as attendant as the other two families left.
Enter the third family: two lesbians in their early 30s, Caucasian Vaginal Authority Vectors, henceforth CVAVs, entered with their adopted Asian son, a strong, square-headed boy Emma’s age, about 2 tones lighter on the pale scale. He really wanted to play and play rough with thrown balls and running and jumping, for which his two parents, who seemed incapable of deciding who was Daddy and who was Mommy, discouraging his exploration of the physical world until Emma included him in hers and he looked up at me and smiled and his two mothers went about discussing their frivolous work relationships.
In that little get together I saw her future coworker, future employees and future predators. Who I did not see was a future mate.
As wan as prospects look for the paleface man of the post-American future, the view from his opposite’s vantage is easily as troublesome to consider for those who love her and who will not be there.
For now, though, an American man can still cast a beneficent shadow in her reborn land. The two Mexicans serving Italian food under a Greek label were very courteous, and when I did not realize that my new 20-dollar-bills were sticking together, the elder man pried them apart and said, “Here you go, Boss,” smiling and wishing us a good day.
Then, as we walked outside, three hours after our entry, at 4:24 PM, under dripping grey skies, and Emma whined that she wanted to hold MumMum’s hand rather than mine, two prowling ebon warriors in their mid-20s, one with a cast on his right hand, began to converge on Megan from behind [this seemed like either coincidence or a possible purse-snatching developing] as she separated from us to smoke a cigarette and she stopped, waved Emma’s hand away and growled, “Jim,” and they stopped and looked at me as I slid my hand onto the knife in my side pocket. They looked at each other, backed away, stepped around, and went back into the mall, I suppose either to acquire another mark or wait inside until it stopped raining. I did not get the menacing vibe from them that Megan did. Were they headed to the bus stop and decided that the rain was too much as I suspected, or were they prowling as Megan thought?
As they faded back into the mall, Megan said to Emma, “There are bad people out here, Emma. You have to stay next to a man.”
What man?
The generation of future men sympathetic to Emma seems to be doubtful. I can tell you one thing, the middle son from the play zone, in his big downy coat, surly glares and enemy eyes, I don’t want to run into him in five years, let alone when he’s as old as those two overgrown hoodrats who seemed afraid of the afternoon rain.
The day itself was a success.
But for the prospects of an American girl in this dawning age?
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