The Untamed Wilderness of Wal-Mart
As a ten-year-old boy, I was intensely interested in anything wild. If something wasn’t wild, I had to make it so. Consider, for example, the first, last, and only time my mother took me to Wal-Mart. I really didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home and protect the house from my archenemies, an odd pair consisting of one fat bear and one skinny cougar. But, alas, Mom didn’t believe that there really was a pair of evil beasts lurking in the rosebushes in our urban backyard, and dragged me away from my noble duties.
On the way to the store, I realized that Wal-Mart wasn’t that much different from Africa, at least to a hyperactive imagination. There were good beasts (the employees), bad beasts (the lady who cuts in line in front of you), wild beasts (the boys who were forced to shop with their mothers), and evil beasts (the employee who tells you not to touch anything.) There were the great forests of shirts and pants, and the vast plains of the food section. There were mountains here and there, and sometimes even a lake. And then there was the desert, a barren wasteland, the section from which no female has ever returned unharmed without being rescued. The women’s clothing section.
It was a good thing I wore my safari outfit. This was going to be a real adventure. I checked my pockets to make sure I had everything. Compass…check. Water bottle…check. Hunting knife…check. Matches…check. Survival food, enough to cross the women’s clothing section…check.
When we arrived at Wild-Mart, I looked around before exiting the car. I didn’t want to surprise a rhino and end up with a hole punched through my body.
Using all available cover, I made my way to the entrance. Mom was getting impatient, so I made a frantic dash for the last hundred feet, nearly getting trampled by a herd of Chevy Impalas.
Mom gave me a strange look as we entered the wilderness. “What’s gotten into you?” she asked.
“Nothin’,” I replied, eying an evil beast as it went by.
“Well, try to act normal for once.”
I rolled my eyes, with my eyelids shut and my face turned away, of course. Every time I tried to act normal she told me to act normal. I simply couldn’t figure out what normal was. An elusive concept, for sure.
The first stop was the food section. I spotted a sample tray and snuck up on it. I gathered myself for the spring, and then attacked all those little sandwiches. They squealed and darted about, trying to evade my deadly two-inch blade.
“Matthew!” Mom said. “What are you doing to the ham sandwiches?”
“I’m hunting,” I replied through a mouthful of freshly slaughtered sandwich.
“Well…don’t…uh…don’t cause a ruckus.”
Ha! I wasn’t that stupid. A ruckus would attract lions, and you don’t want to fight off lions with only a two-inch hunting knife.
Speaking of having only a knife, I had to get a gun. Only a gun can offer the ultimate protection against the bad, the wild, and the evil. So I was relieved when our next stop was the toy section.
While Mom was busy trying to figure out which Lego set to buy for my brother, I slipped away and grabbed a .45 caliber cap pistol.
“Hey kid!” someone called out.
I spun around, gun at the ready. It was an evil beast.
“Don’t touch the toys,” the evil beast said.
“This ain’t no toy. It’s a Colt .45. Now buzz off ‘fore I blow yer brains out!”
Perhaps because I had removed the annoying orange thing from the end of the pistol, the evil beast sprinted away, a horrified expression on his face. I grinned and holstered the gun.
I returned to the Lego section, but Mom wasn’t there. She had been replaced with an employee who resembled a hippopotamus. I quickly ducked out of sight and made sure my gun was loaded. Hippos can be dangerous.
After a short discussion with myself, I decided against shooting the hippo. Instead, I escaped by another route.
Luckily for Mom, I knew where she was headed next. Sure enough, there she was in the desert, surrounded by cactuses.
“Mom!” I called.
Mom let out a loud sigh. I guess she had been hoping I’d get stuck in the toy section.
I pulled up next to Mom, breathing heavily. “I’ve got some water,” I said, handing her my water bottle.
“I’m not thirsty,” she replied.
“Okay, but you’ll get thirsty before long. Come on, let’s get out of this desert.”
“What are you talking about?”
I decided it was hopeless. “Oh, never mind.”
At that moment a hysterical voice blasted through the store. “Attention customers! There is a young boy running loose with a Colt .45 pistol. The police are on their way. Please stay calm!”
“Hmm,” I said. “He doesn’t sound very calm himself.”
“Do you know anything about that?” Mom asked with suspicion in her voice.
“Good, because if you did…”
I shuddered and stashed my pistol in a nearby cactus before Mom saw it.
A few days later Mom was finally done in the desert. I got out my compass and led the way to the nearest oasis.
“Why did you drag me all the way across the store?” Mom asked. “What is so important?”
“I’ve got to use the bathroom.”
“Oh, all right. You can go on your own. I’ll be in the gardening section.”
While I was in the bathroom, I heard that same voice blasting through the store again. It said, “The boy with a pistol was a false alarm. The pistol was really a cap gun with the annoying orange thing removed from the end. Sorry for the alarm.”
From the way that guy said his lines, I could tell I wouldn’t want to cross paths with him again. Things had just gotten exciting. I would have to be careful.
I met Mom in the gardening section, after a dangerous trek across the wilderness. Along the way I managed to catch some little donuts, which I devoured in a very short time.
When we were done in the gardening section, we had to cross the biggest plain and go through a narrow canyon before we could go home. I watched for the evil beast, but luckily he didn’t show up. I turned around with a sigh of relief. Then I let out a small shriek and hid behind Mom. The cashier was the evil beast! He glared at me with the most horrible scowl.
“What is going on?” Mom asked.
“Your boy there threatened me with a cap pistol,” the evil cashier said.
“Matthew! You said you didn’t know anything about it!”
“What do you have to say to the cashier?”
“I want you to apologize, right now!”
“Uh…I’m sorry for threatening the evil beast with a Colt .45.”
Back in the car, Mom went on and on about all the awful punishments I could choose from. I stared out the window as it began to rain.
“Oh no!” I exclaimed.
Mom ceased her tirade and took a deep breath. “What is it this time?”
“It’s raining! The bear and the cougar in the backyard are going to get all wet! I’ll have to run them through the dryer, and then they’ll shrink!”
“You mean you left your stuffed animals in the backyard?” Mom asked.
She shook her head and sighed. “What am I going to do with you?”
“From what you’ve been saying, something pretty awful.”