Toy Store Musings
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Chemistry"
Originally featured on 02-01-2007
As part of our series "Phases of a Holiday Meal"

Susan yawned and held up a box with a picture of pirates on it. “What about this?” she asked.

John, who had been looking at some animal puppets, turned around to look at her. “It’s too violent. They don’t want anything that depicts violence.”

Susan rolled her eyes and put the box back on the shelf. “So how old is Charlie going to be?”

“Uh, three, no four,” John replied.

Susan picked up a coloring book and flipped through it. “He’s such a cutie.”

“I know. What a shock.”

Susan looked at him. “Why do you say that?”

“I was just a little surprised that he’s such a good looking kid, that’s all.”

Susan smiled. “Why? Your sister is beautiful and Paul’s a nice looking guy.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s just that Karen wasn’t the cutest baby. Didn’t I ever show you a baby picture of hers? She had kind of weird features and she didn’t have hair until she was almost nine.”

Susan giggled. “You’re such a liar.”

“No, I’m serious. Nine years old.” He smiled.

“Shut up,” she said, picking up a plastic dinosaur.

“How about this?” John asked holding up a box with a picture of a microscope on it.

Susan walked toward him. “A chemistry set? I don’t know. Isn’t that a little advanced for Charlie?”

“They say he’s really smart.”

“Yeah, I’m sure all parents say that. Look, it says age seven and up. He’s probably not that smart. Let’s keep looking.”

John took another look at the box and replaced it on the shelf. They started walking up another aisle, this one filled with various wrestling toys.

“What about wrestling stuff?” Susan asked. “Look at this.” A picture on a large box showed a little wrestling ring and two smiling kids each holding a wrestling figure inside of it. “This looks like fun.”

“That does look fun,” John said. He shook his head. “But no violence, remember?”

“But wrestling is just fake violence.”

John pondered this for a moment but then shook his head again. “I don’t think so.”

“Oh, man, I have to try those,” Susan said and quickly walked to the end of the aisle. There she put on two large green hands that were clenched into fists. She punched the hands together and they made a crashing sound. As she came back toward John, he smiled.

“We can’t get him those.”

“These aren’t for Charlie,” Susan said, hitting him in the shoulder. “These are for me.” She punched him a few more times before John grabbed a plastic blue light saber. Susan squealed and ran away from him. John chased her into the next aisle where they nearly ran into a bald man stocking a shelf with puzzles. The man looked at them and frowned. John and Susan smiled sheepishly and walked past him. As soon as they were out of his ear-shot, they started giggling.

“Man,” John said, as they walked past the bike aisle. “Do you remember going into toy stores when you were little, how incredible it was?”

Susan smiled. “Yeah.”

“I think when you’re a kid there are three orgasmic experiences.”

Susan gave him a weird look.

“I’m not talking about those kind of creepy priest-altar boy experiences, just things you do that are amazing and like nothing else.”

Susan nodded and stopped to look at a box of Legos.

“Number one, obviously, is Christmas morning,” John continued with a little laugh. “Karen and I would come downstairs probably an hour before it was even light outside, knock on our parent’s door to see if they were up, inevitably be told to go back to sleep for another two hours, then we’d creep around the tree to see what gifts were for us, it’s an experience like no other.”

Susan grinned. “Yeah. I still love Christmas.”

“Yeah, I like Christmas too, but it’s not the same. Let’s go down here.”

They turned down an aisle that was filled with kid-sized musical instruments.

“Number two is Halloween,” John said, leaning down to look at a box that had a picture of a drum set on it. “I used to plan my costume six months in advance; I mean I lived for that day, I couldn’t wait to get home from school, find a pillow case, and just hit the neighborhood.”

“Oh, my god, look at this!” Susan said, grabbing a beige recorder. “Did you ever play the recorder in school?”

“Do you know who you’re talking to? I was the king of the recorder. Let me see that thing.” He took it from her and held it to his lips. He played a shaky version of “Hot Cross Buns” and then smiled.

“Nice job,” Susan said. “But you do realize that any number of people, including sick children, could’ve put their mouth on that thing?”

John’s smile wavered. “Yes, I knew that,” he said and quickly handed her the recorder. He walked past her and wiped his mouth on his jacket sleeve.

“It’s funny though,” Susan continued, staring at the recorder. “Everyone I’ve ever asked had to play the recorder in school. I wonder why that is. Do they think that every kid, no matter how untalented musically they are, can play this little plastic flute? I mean, even when a recorder is played well, it still sounds terrible! How many elementary school music teachers do you think have gone deaf from years of exposure to the horrible screech of the recorder?!”

John stared at her for a moment. Susan blushed a little and then continued up the aisle. John joined her and put his arm around her shoulders. “You’ve thought a lot about this, haven’t you?”

“Shut up.”

“As I was saying,” John continued. “The third one on the list is going to a toy store. Sure, when you’re a kid going anywhere can be exciting, even just to the grocery store. But the toy store is different; it’s a store made specifically for you—everything is your size, everything is fun, everything you want.”

Susan chuckled. “That’s true. I remember spending what felt like hours just in the Barbie section. I had tons of them and of course they always needed something—new clothes, furniture, pets.” She smiled. “I wonder what happened to all my Barbies.”

“My Grandmother took me and Karen to FAO Schwartz once,” John said. “That store is unbelievable. The doors open and there’s a thousand things going on at once; for a kid it’s almost too much to look at.”

“I’ve never been there,” Susan said, tapping the keys of a little piano. “I heard it’s really big.”

“It’s huge. I’ve never seen so many toys in my life. It’s like a toy museum. I think there are five or six stories, but maybe it just seemed like that.” He picked up a ukulele and started strumming it.

“I remember in one part of the store this guy who worked there was playing with some kind of flying toy that would spin like a helicopter, and a bunch of people gathered around to watch him use this thing. It would go straight up and then come down and he would catch it. So anyway, as we were watching, it went up at kind of a weird angle and came down right at me and I caught it. The guy walked up to me to get the thing and the people gathered around thought that since I caught it, I should get to keep it. I think my Grandmother even said something to the guy. But I didn’t get to.” John looked forlornly into the distance.

“Heartbreaking,” Susan said after a moment. “What about birthdays? Aren’t they an orgasmic kid experience?”

“I guess they could be,” John said. “But I never felt about my birthday like I did about the other three.”

“I loved my birthday. It was the only time when it was just me who got something and I didn’t have to share with my brothers.”

“But did you really look forward to it?” John asked. “Did you look at the calendar and say ‘wow, my birthday’s coming up’?”

“Well, I don’t really remember ever looking at a calendar when I was little, so probably not.”


“Wait, your parents would put on the calendar when you were going to the toy store?” Susan asked.

“They’re very organized people,” John said a little defensively.

Susan rolled her eyes and picked up a box. “What about tinker toys? Do kids still play with them?”

“Well, if they’re selling them they probably do. I don’t know, tinker toys? That seems like kind of a lame gift.”

Susan sighed. “Come on, just pick something. He’s four, he’ll probably like the box it comes in better anyway. Hey, what about this?” She reached out to pinch the hand of a Donald Duck doll. Music started playing and the doll began gyrating in its cardboard box. John shook his head and grabbed the hand, silencing the doll.

“No, no Disney stuff either. They think Disney’s evil.”

“No, I mean what about Disney World?” Susan asked, turning the doll on again. “Going there for a kid has to be like the ultimate orgasm.”

An older woman passed them and gave Susan a strange look. John laughed.

“Yeah, I can see what you mean, but how many kids actually get to go to Disney World or Disney Land? What about the kids in Iowa or Minnesota who have never been there? I don’t think it can count; the other things all kids experience.”

“Not all kids have been to a toy store, John,” Susan said, picking up a little Mickey Mouse-ears hat. She smiled and put the hat on. “John?” She turned around just in time to see him dunking an orange Nerf ball through a small basketball hoop. A mechanical crowd-roar emanated from the hoop.

“Did you see that?” he asked her excitedly.

“Yup, nice shot. I think it might help when you’re two feet taller than the actual basket though.”

“Details. Nice hat.” She grinned, showing John all of her teeth.



As they left the store carrying two large bags and wearing two hats -the Mickey ears for Susan, a Pirate hat for John—a family with a few small children was just approaching. The kids had huge smiles on their faces and were practically running up to the entrance. John looked at Susan and they both smiled.

“It’s really not the same coming to a toy store as an adult,” John said as they walked to the car. “But in one way it’s a whole lot better.”

As they approached the car, he pressed a button on his key ring and the trunk opened.

“What’s that?” Susan asked.

John adjusted his hat and grinned. “You actually have money to buy stuff.”

As they shoved the bags into the trunk, some of the contents, including two big green fists, a wrestling ring, a Barbie doll, and a plastic blue light saber slid out a little.

“We really should have gotten something for Charlie,” Susan said as they pulled out onto the street.

“I’m coming back next week,” John said.

“For Charlie?”

“What? No, to get that basketball hoop.”

John looked over at Susan; she was glaring at him.

“Okay, and to get a gift for Charlie. What do you want to play when we get home?”

“I want a Hulk verses Jedi rematch,” Susan said.

“Are you kidding? Luke Skywalker will kick Hulk’s ass every time!”

“Yeah, we’ll just see about that. Hey, you want to stop for ice cream somewhere?”

John’s eyes widened suddenly and he smiled. “Yes I do, and I think I just found something to add to that list.”

Read More By Tim Josephs

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