As we walk down the mall concourse, I see the gaping maw of a department store entrance ahead. I hug the baby a little closer and tighten my grip on my middle daughter’s hand. Following my teenager and wife, we plunge into the brightly lit space.
Almost immediately the vanguard of our small shopping party is assaulted. Well-dressed women in high-heels and red lipstick perk up from their bored positions in front of glass counters. Tiny bottles of noxious potions are produced, the contents of which are sprayed, dabbed and wafted around my spouse. I go into olfactory overload.
“Ooh! Smell this!” my wife says, shoving a wrist under my nose. I can’t smell anything.
“I can’t smell anything,” I say. She gives me a rolled-eye look as she holds out the other wrist. “Do you like this one better?”
I still can’t smell anything.
“Yes,” I nod, as my life-long companion begins picking through bottles on the counter, smelling the tiny tops of each one.
“Hey Dad! Check it out!” My head swivels to the next counter over. My oldest daughter is happily having dark purple eyeliner painted onto her face as a salesperson raves about how pretty she looks (for only $29.95).
“Looks good!” I smile, giving a thumbs-up as the baby starts to squirm. My four-year-old, hand now released, begins to wander further into the store.
“This one?” my wife is in front of me, wrist out. Before I can nod, my shoulder is jerked from its socket. “Daddy!” my middle daughter squeals, “Shoes!” Her 40 pound body drags my 220 pound frame toward a rack of plastic and faux-leather fashion boots adorned with Dora the Explorer and Minnie Mouse.
I look longingly across the store toward the tool section. All I want is a $1.25 drill bit.
“Shoes,” the little one repeats as she plops down on the floor, peeling off her grubby sneakers and reaching for a pair of sparkly princess flats.
I readjust my hold on the baby. The merchants may have picked off the others, but I still have her.
“Look what I found for Jasmine,” my wife says, thrusting a small purple dress in front of my face. “It’s cute, Dad,” the oldest says, “We should get it.” I turn back to the perfume and makeup counters. I swear my loved ones were there just a second ago. The baby starts clapping and grabbing at the dress. Another one lost.
I hand the baby to my wife. “I’m gonna go look at tools.” I make a break for it, hoping to save myself. Sweating, I make it to the other side of the store. A salesman steps out from an aisle, giving me a look of mixed amusement and sympathy.
“Daughters?” he says.
He smiles. “Come this way, I have a TV with your name on it.”