COMMENTARY BY WILLIAM CARTER: ‘Here, hold this, while I buy lottery tickets’
By William Carter, Columnist
I was in Mapco the other day waiting to buy a can of Skoal when the lady in front of me in line at the check-out counter asked me to hold her baby while she cashed in, then bought some more, lottery tickets.
Without giving me – a two-days-unshaven, suffering from Skoal withdrawal, borderline redneck-looking, absolute stranger – time to run away or to even pretend I didn’t hear her, she shoved the baby into my arms and then, absolved for the moment of all parental responsibility, turned back to the counter with a gleam in her eye and a thin sheen of sweat on her forehead and began to spend a whole bunch of what I gratuitously assumed to be either babysitting or diaper money on scratch-offs.
Before anyone gets upset by my knee-jerk judgment of the lady, please consider my predicament. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, what you would consider to be a baby-holding type person and only held my and Love-Weasel’s two used-to-be babies because I’m pretty sure I was under some kind of obligation to and am not ashamed to admit I get along a whole hell of a lot better with both of them now than I ever did 20 and 27 years ago when they selfishly kept demanding I pay attention to them.
I will hold the eldest of my many nieces’ new baby when it is born a few months from now, but long enough only to satisfy protocol and to say all the things a new great uncle is expected to say, like “Yes, this a very nice baby” before handing it back to its rightful owner and then probably not notice it too much for the next few years until it is old enough for me to perform my written-in-stone Uncle Duties: teaching it the pull-my-finger joke and telling it to call me if it ever needs bail money when it goes through its inevitable hoodlum stage.
Thinking about it now, I really shouldn’t have judged the lady about buying lottery tickets, either, because while I am one of those people who are convinced we have a better chance of winning the lottery than we do of, uh, winning the lottery, I can’t help but be grateful to all of those folks who missed car payments and were late paying their utility bills in order to buy scratch-offs, thus funding the Hope Scholarship that has, to date, provided me and Love-Weasel with several thousand dollars so our youngest son can play Xbox all day in his dorm room at college instead of on our sofa in the den at home. So, thank you…thank you so much.
The baby the lady handed me, like all babies, is hideously ugly and unformed – still in its larval stage, I assume – and its face is a blotchy red and white and it smells like old, wet, dog hair-covered cheese. We study each other from an arm’s length away, the baby and I; me with a great amount of alarm and it with an unblinking, well-beyond-it’s-years-and-all-too-wise acceptance of a future beneath the bright fluorescent lights of a convenience store, surrounded by jalapeño-flavored Slim Jims and packets of legal speed and ice-cold, 24 ounce beers while its mama buys way too many gaily-colored, designed-to-entice, state-sponsored scraps of hope and faith for one or two or five dollars apiece.
The baby sighs.
Mama trades two 20s and a 10 from a bank envelope for her stack of scratch-offs then turns away and walks quickly towards the door.
“WHOA!!!” I call out, horrified. “Whoawhoawhoawhoawhoa!!!”
She turns back with an “Oh-silly-me” look on her face and takes her baby from my out-stretched arms and tells me “thank you” and that I’d make a good daddy and I just nod.
The baby looks over her shoulder at me as the door closes, still unblinking.
I wonder if it’ll think to call me when it needs bail money.
William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 11/12/2012