A little background. I spent most of my life not liking kids; including most of the time I was a kid. Kids, in my eyes, were like adults but dumber and more likely to spill shit on the carpet. Kids also, nearly unforgivably, trash the interior of every automobile they touch. Ever see a minivan after six kids have been in it? It’s like a truck stop latrine in Tijuana.
This was never a popular attitude. As a young man I was mystified because folks would orbit a drooling germ vector and emote about how cute it was. I couldn’t see it. “That’s cute? The thing that looks like Yoda was dipped in bleach and beaten with a pipe until he lost his rudimentary backwards talking language functions? You’re kidding? It just barfed. Barfed on you! Have you considered a dog? When dogs barf you can chain them to a tree. I’m just sayin’.”
Then, somehow the universe changed. I was suddenly a dad. Inexplicably children became awesome. Well not all kids. My kids are delightful. Yours should stay the hell off my lawn.
Eventually, and this is proof the universe isn’t playing fair, I came to like all kids. Especially when they weren’t barfing and extra especially when they smile. It helps when I know someone else is going to care for them until they’re adults and if they fail in their parental duties it’ll be their couch (and not mine) that sprouts an unemployed loser. That’s as close as I get to becoming a Hallmark card.
Anyway I was in line to get coffee to go because I just couldn’t face the universe without it. A guy walked in with his son. The son was a cute little bugger. He was bundled in a little hat that was “precious”. His tiny boots were “sweet”. My gruff demeanor faded a bit.
The little cretin fixed his eyes on me with laser beams of soul crushing sweetness. I had a sudden urge to give the kid anything he wanted. A new bicycle. A puppy. My kidney.
“Dammit kid”, I thought, “quit that. I’m trying to enjoy my evil funk and you’re messing it all up.” The kid, because he was telepathic, tossed it right back at me. “I’m pure innocence. You’re going to melt like butter in my gaze!”
I did the stupid little wave strangers use when they want a child to smile. If you put a gun to my head I wouldn’t do that wave for anyone over five. The kid smiled slightly and kept staring at me. (Kids are the only being that’ll look you right in the eye and it’s not a challenge to battle. Infants can see into your soul and you can’t avoid it. Only infants have this superpower. If a grown man looks at me like that I’ll kick his ass. If a dog looks at me like that one of us is about to learn about submission.)
The beam of sweetness continued. The kid had bright, intelligent, inquisitive blue eyes. A tractor beam of childhood innocence against a Curmudgeon? I was doomed.
Suddenly I missed my own children. I wanted to drop everything and immediately seek them out and give them hugs. (Which would embarrass the hell out of them.)
The little kid knew it too. “That’s right you balding loser. This is my coffee shop now. Check out how blue my eyes are. When was the last time a cute girl passing by stopped to pat you on the head? The future belongs to me!”)
Meanwhile the dad was buying coffee and a treat for the kid. He seemed like a nice fellow. He tossed a couple bucks on the counter and then started fidgeting with his pockets. He stammered a bit and started putting some of the food back. The hipster joint where we were standing doesn’t take credit cards and he was a few bucks short.
“I’ll cover it.” I said.
Damnnit! What the hell was that? Charity? From me? To a damn stranger? Just because he’s a few bucks short? This was going to totally ruin my reputation as a Randian hard ass. The guy tried to talk me out of it. I wouldn’t have it. The kid smiled with his big blue eyes of total domination.
I tossed a five down on the counter which covered his kid’s cookie and some other shit. The guy thanked me like I’d just cured cancer and the kid kept looking at me. “I made you do that geezer.” The kid was smiling. I got my coffee refill and made a hasty retreat before I put the little bastard in my will and gave him my truck’s pink slip.
The innocence of youth. More powerful than the grumpiness of age. Who knew?
Epilogue: I didn’t know the guy but some other customers did and they started talking. As I was shuffling into the background I heard that the kid was home from day care because he “had the sniffles”. (Good grief! The little monster was going to give me bubonic plague!) Also the guy was free today because “work was slow”. (Aaack! He was probably a perpetually unemployed paint huffing cretin. For all I know he just used his sister’s kid to score a free donut off me!)
Someone hustled over and asked if the guy was free to paint a kitchen. I had to listen further. It’s rude but if the NSA can spy, so can I.
A job offer was the perfect uncontrolled experiment. Despite what every pork laden politician has said tried to do to us (good and hard) here was a job that didn’t involve subsidies, solar panels, or tax credits. Would the guy go for it? Would he make a lame excuse and run from the opportunity? Would it be shoved up the ladder until Halliburton, hired a union organizer to subcontract it to a guy without a green card named Jose’?
To my delight the guy perked up and was all over it. Excellent! Some folks are glad to work for money. Put that in your pipe and smoke it you damn politicians and your regulated economy!
Someone willing to hire? Someone anxious to work? Be still my beating heart!
Soon a deal had been struck. I didn’t hear the details but I gathered that a spare room and kitchen will be a new color and there will be more money the guy’s pocket. As God intended!
Could there be anything better? A cute kid. A grouchy asshole who buys coffee for a stranger for no reason. And the crowning glory of it all free enterprise! Yahoo! My heart soared all day long. An infusion of good cheer in the dark days of winter.
Now I’m sharing the story with you. No fee required. Smile and be happy dammit!