There he stood – overshadowed and overwhelmed by the weight of this temple of commerce, by the almost never-ending acres of toys and gadgets, clothing and bulk-buy toilet paper, lawn mowers and laundry detergents. His hand was enveloped in his mother’s as she slowly dragged him along the aisles. They were here for a special reason. He was here to select a toy. For his birthday.
He walked begrudgingly through the impersonal chainstore – overstaffed and unwelcoming, a brightly lit, eternal hell of shelves that stretched and soared toward those artificial neon suns. A flock of people surrounded him, they would come here, depressed and unhappy with their lives, attempting to somehow lay by and finance themselves out of their morose. They milled, staring at unaffordable luxury items, their yearning for them almost palpable. That unsatisfiable and bitter longing that only the poor can afford.
The people would skulk before 3D televisions and their parasitic attachments, worshipping before these latest Jobsian devices. Filled with an unquenchable self-loathing at both their inability to afford these soon-to-be redundant machines and at those smiling, childless couples who still hold that only power still available to the middle-classes. Purchasing power. The power of the purse.
There, in that towering temple to the Gods of Market Forces, the small boy unearthed something he could afford with his birthday money, and he took to the check-out chick his little box of toy soldiers.
They were poorly made, of course, but this was a fact that he would not discover until he returned home and removed them from their deliberately opaque box. They were poorly made, built as they were in the third-world by a workforce of children slowly starving to death – a tragedy far removed from his own experiences.
He pulled them from their box, and saw the truth of their poor manufacture, saw their seam lines not filed back, saw that their details were poorly cast. Such is the fickle way of the Market Gods.
He saw the soldier who could not stand – he lay, prostate and ridiculous amongst the other veterans.
Just like Daddy in his dress uniform.
He saw the mold-lines as the scars that checker-boarded his Daddy’s face – saw the rounded knob where the right leg should be. Alone and different, the soldier could no longer march proudly with his medals clinking together against his chest. Could no longer fight.
A soldier forever asking, “Where did I get this scar?”
A soldier who can no longer go to war.
Useless. Just like Daddy.
A soldier forever grieving his leg lost somewhere amongst the shattered porticos of some “shit-hole Afghani mud-shack village.”
The broken soldier, the damaged man. The plastic thud and clash of a wheelie bin dragged to the kern. The grating screech of metal teeth as the trash compactor chewed at the ever-growing mountain of disposable goods purchased with ever-shrinking disposable incomes. A meal, never-ending.
His Daddy’s medals and the little tin soldier. Just useless, limping reminders of the man who stank of beer as well as a quiet, raging desperation. His Daddy, who disappeared hobbling into the night. Daddy, his funeral cut short by a hysterical wife and a child who would never understand just where his Daddy had gone. Could never understand why he could never see him again.
Another reminder that needed to be disposed of. For Mummy’s sake.
And at five dollars, he could just buy another box.
This week Chuck over at Terrible Minds challenged us to rewrite a classic story, a fairytale. I struggled for a bit to come up with the idea for this story, until I was reading this story to my daughter…and so now there’s an unfinished retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears sitting on my desktop. A homoerotic retelling (three bears, get it?) I also used the BeKindRewrite prompts: Only the Poor can Afford, Where did I get That Scar? and Funeral cut Short. Thanks for reading, cats and kittens, comments and criticisms are always welcome!