Encounters in a Bookstore #251: A Day for Crying

It was a day for crying. I’ll be honest: many days at the bookstore are days for crying, but let’s not dwell on that. No, a few Sundays back it was a day for the children to be crying, crying all over the bookstore.

The most intense one was a little girl with brown ringlets for hair, a velvet magenta dress on her body, white stockings to cover her legs, and smart patent black shoes on her feet. She came in crying. Her father came in with her. They disappeared to the basement, where the children’s section is housed.

Perhaps a half hour later the man and little girl appeared before me, ready to purchase several books. He calmly placed them on the counter, requesting a gift receipt. She, meanwhile, tugged on his arm and wailed. She wanted this toy. She wanted that toy. She screamed and moaned, tugged and pulled.

Her father retrieved his wallet from a pocket, and handed me his credit card. “No,” he said to her, and adjusted his shoulders.

His refusal was not a deterrent. She threw the hat she’d been holding on the floor, and stamped her little feet. “But I want it!”

“Do you do gift-wrapping here?” he asked me.

“We have self-service wrapping today—down near the door,” I replied.

“Great,” he responded, “No problem.”

His daughter’s problems were far from over, though. She’d retrieved her hat, only to fling it again to the floor, stomping on it this time. “I neeeeeeed it!” she trilled, and grabbed a nearby stack of books, hurling them at the floor.

“This is what I get for feeding her a piece of chocolate cake an hour ago,” he told me, scooping up his bag and his daughter.

“Well. Good luck!” I wished him.

He wrapped the gifts at the table near the door, and his daughter’s tantrum continued. Other customers in the surrounding area shook their heads and smiled with the relief of not having a screaming child of their own. Finally, the father again picked up his items and daughter. He balanced her over his shoulder and headed out. She screamed and kicked until the glass doors closed behind them, blocking the sound. Likely she continued to scream and kick.

Other children threw fits that day—plenty of them. But none could match the longevity of her sugar-and-caffeine-fueled rage.

Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.