June 11, 2014

Christopher Allen

Samuel is Mango

It’s the boy’s dexterity that moves me. He picks up the slices of mango—mango is so slippery—with such care. Other choices are perfectly aligned on his highchair tray—oat rings, carrots and grapes in paper ice-cream cups—but he’s interested only in the mango. He waves his hands as if he’s conducting his food-court audience, and the plump yellow baton lands in his tiny, pink mouth every time.

“Hey! Why are you staring at my baby?”

I turn and study the boy’s mother. She’s pregnant again. Big, breathless and stern. I don’t feel like explaining myself—if I were a teenage girl or a grandmother, I wouldn’t have to—so I turn back to the boy and his enviable dexterity. I’d never get one piece of that gooey mango to my mouth. He’s a little marvel. When I was a baby, we didn’t know about tropical fruit. I got corn mush and pumpkin purée if I was lucky. We ate with wooden spoons then.


Have you ever had a chilling experience of divine intervention? Decades ago, I stopped to have lunch at an outdoor restaurant in the center of a city—Venice, I think it was—when an elderly couple approached my table. “Are these seats free?” they asked but sat down without waiting for a reply. They ordered coffee and chatted about the weather, and then, so blank and stark, the woman turned to me and said, “Having children is life’s greatest gift.” And we’d been talking about the inevitability of rain.

“Stop staring at my kid. Can you hear me? I said . . .”

His hair is mussed in the back. I wonder why the mother doesn’t smooth it down. It’s that static-electricity Mohawk that children with fine blonde hair get. I wish I could correct this. I wish I could walk over to the child and put his hair aright, but just now a young man sits down by the boy. He doesn’t do anything about the hair; he’s too caught up in his wife’s worry.

“That perv keeps staring at Justin.”

Ah, Justin. It’s a poor choice. So many children are named Justin these days. It doesn’t suit him. He’s obviously gifted. Selective like a Samuel. He’ll be a gourmet; he already is. I want to warn him, to tell him how lonely the discriminating are, but I know I’m not allowed. Do parents know how they burden their children with labels? Justin should have been able to choose his own name. Justin is like oat rings and carrots. Samuel is mango.

“Get security.”

The man jumps up and starts rubber-necking for Pete and Bill, the security guys who patrol the food court. Bill’s celebrating his fortieth wedding anniversary on Aruba, but Pete’s on duty. He’s already told two mothers today how harmless—and sad—I am. “He’s on his break,” I say, but not loud enough for anyone to hear, except the phantoms—the makers—of my own choices.


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire, Conversations with S. Teri O'Type. His fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous places both online and in print, including Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology and Prime Number Magazine. He has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. Allen is the managing editor of Metazen and the curator of the travel blog, I Must Be Off.

No comments: