There I was, standing dutifully at the front counter of an adult store. Porn. Lube. Pictures of ass cheeks dotting the horizon. When in strolls a young mother pushing a stroller. In it sitting a bright-eyed toddler.
I act swiftly.
“Hi! Heyyy! Sorry to break the news to you, but children aren’t allowed in the store.”
She raises her drawn-on eyebrows in defiance. “Oh hell no. I’ve brought him in here before. They let me.”
“Yeah, I hear ya. Sometimes we let newborns in if they’re asleep. Babies grow, though, and now he’s able to look around. So… yeah.”
She frowns, shifting her weight several times, stomping the granite floor. Her child takes this opportunity to soak in the atmosphere.
“Well what am I supposed to do? Huh? What do you want me to do?”
I squint my eyes. Is she joking?
“If you know what you want, I can bring it outside to you and take your payment.”
She is indignant. “Psshh, shit, I don’t know what I want! Here, can’t you just watch him?”
She offers me her child. Me. The stranger working at Ye Olde Porn Shoppe. In reality, we’re nice people, but this hooker-mom doesn’t know that.
“Umm, hmm. No, can’t really do that. He’s gotta go outside. You know, away from the… everything.” I try not to show my judgmental face. The one that says, “get off the crack, lady, and raise your kid.”
“Well, shit. What do you want me to do!? Just watch him. I’ll be just a minute.”
The red decor is dotted with thousands of items and she doesn’t know what she wants. Her optimism is tempting, but I decline.
“I really can’t do that. He’s gotta go outside.” I give her my decisive face.
She turns the stroller around, cursing me loudly. I half expect her to leave the kid in the parking lot. As she pushes him out into the night, her tyke turns back to gaze into the red, bright yonder. Not yet, little Billy. Not yet.