Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dancing in Elevators

The other night around midnight, just after an outrageously funny game of Lego Star Wars, Tori announced that she was ready for an adventure.  I'm usually game for most things, but opportunities for adventure are fairly limited in a small town on a rainy weeknight in December.

We kicked some options around and decided it might be fun to take some plastic animals out and leave them in odd places around the neighborhood.  If you can't see why that seemed like a good idea, you're clearly a healthy, well-balanced person but you should probably stop reading now.

Of course, Tori is my youngest child and she's sixteen, so we didn't have any plastic animals at the ready.  That wasn't a problem, though.  In a small, midwestern town the ONE thing that's open after midnight is Wal-Mart.  I try not to shop there, but I figured that a few bucks in plastic animals wasn't going to make or break the economy.

When we went into the store we were laughing about not "arousing suspicion" with our animal purchases and such, so we were both a bit taken aback when (possibly for the first time in all my years of shopping) the cashier commented on the oddity of our purchasing a bunch of plastic animals at 12:30 a.m.  As if that weren't enough, she went on to tell me that her kids still played with those animals, "And, for some reason, they think it's hilarious to go around and leave them in people's..."

I swear, she paused.  And during that pause I thought, "Wait, kids do this?  This is not a unique idea?  We're JUST LIKE THE CASHIER'S TEN-YEAR-OLD SON?"

Then she finished her sentence. "...beds and stuff."

She laughed.  I laughed, too.  "We're not going to do that," I said.

We walked quickly out of the store with our bag of plastic animals, trying not to laugh.

Though we were planning to distribute most of the animals in our neighborhood, we'd chosen a special one for a childhood friend of my daughter's.  She lives in a quiet neighborhood but on a main street, so as we drove toward her house I said to Tori, "Probably the police are going to come to find out why we're prowling around Megan's neighborhood at this time of night."

She said, "Probably" and laughed and then we turned onto Megan's street and...the police were there.

I'm not going to give away all of the species and locations, but I will tell you that one of the animals we delivered was a plastic dinosaur.  We left the dinosaur on the frame of a work truck, just over the driver's side door. We don't know the owner of the truck or anything about the residents of the house.

Or we didn't, anyway.

We finished the strategic placement of lions and giraffes and such in the late-night rain and headed home, amused with ourselves and not expecting ever to know what happened next.

The next evening, I took the dog for a walk as usual.  On my way down the block, I noticed that the truck had been moved from the driveway to the street and there were two men talking in the driveway.  I was absurdly self-conscious, walking by the house, as if they might look across the street and say, "That woman there, with the Yorkie!  The one we've never seen before!  Probably SHE put the dinosaur on the truck."

Or, of course, it was possible that the dinosaur had been stolen before he'd come out in the morning, or that he'd driven off without noticing it and it had fallen somewhere.  I forced myself to walk at a normal pace, right on past, without looking toward the house.  By the time we passed the house again on the way home, it was getting dark.  A young man was walking toward us on the street and the dog barked at him and the barking caught the attention of the men in the driveway, who looked up and saw the young man and greeted him.  I was delighted, because this directed their attention away from me and the imaginary, "Hey, me and my kid left a plastic dinosaur on your truck last night" sign over my head.

I kept walking west.  The young man kept walking east.  And just as he was about to pass out of range of the house, one of the men in the driveway called out to him, "Hey...you leave that dinosaur on my truck?"

It is, it turns out, possible to actually choke on laughter bitten back too hard.  While I was coughing, the man on the sidewalk said, "What? Nah.  It was probably Fred."


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