Monday, December 13, 2010

A Secret Worth Keeping - Part II - Short Story

    Sophie tried to avoid malls and amusement parks knowing that her powers would be taxed, but occasionally she would go, understanding that she could, in one day, set any number of families on a new course.   There was, however, a ripple phenomenon if she corrected too many families in a day.  The newspaper had once reported that a large number of parents had shown up at the hospital emergency room complaining of odd, nonspecific symptoms like general elation, lightheadedness, disproportionate glee and the urge to hug.  Bemused doctors had sent them each home citing a case of spontaneous joy and prescribing a bit of rest and a hot toddy to calm their frivolous tendencies.
    Sophie’s most satisfying moment had occurred a year ago at Christmas – coincidentally at the same toy store she had recently visited.  She had actually witnessed a mother hitting her daughter for daring to ask for a drink of water.  Sophie fixed her with a punishing stare that could have withered a cactus and watched the mother jerk with a quick spasm.  In the next moment, the mother righted herself, looked around to see if she might have tripped over something, and lovingly looked down at her child.  “Oh my dear, let’s get out of this noisy store and head home for some tomato soup and a nice grilled cheese.”  The girl wiped her eyes, looked up at this mother she barely recognized, and meekly smiled.  The girl gave Sophie a quick glance and gulped back the tears that had always been a part of her young life.
    That was then, but now Sophie had to deal with the meddlesome store manager who was a tad too observant.  They met in person the next afternoon.  The store manager began, “Mrs. Ross, please don’t be alarmed by my request to chat with you.   You seem to be a most gracious woman, but over the years my staff and I have seen several, how shall I say… unusual transformations in our store and you always seem to be in close proximity. Those pesky surveillance cameras catch everything, you know. We have witnessed a remarkable       decrease in crying children and a most unusual shortage of angry customers.   Quite frankly we’re a bit confused and curious.  We, of course, have no proof of someone personally impacting this transformation, but we would love to know if you have any insight into this unusual, uh, spate of good will?”
    Sophie fixed her gaze on the young manager and counted silently to ten.  She had no beef with him nor could she dispute his observations.  The only thing she could do was disrupt his reasoning.  “My dear sir, I admire your keen observations and acute awareness of the mood of your shoppers, but I assure you that I am as perplexed as you by this change in their attitude.  I am an old woman who struggles to get around.  I have always been an observer of the human condition, but I have no power over the demons in others.  If you see a change, then perhaps it has been caused by the wonderful environment you have created for your shoppers.  The aisles are glistening, the cinnamon scent most aromatic and the free cookies and punch quite delicious. Why, it’s the very reason you see me here so often.  Did you ever consider that you might have created the perfect setting for happy customers?”   The manager paused in reflection and then smiled broadly at her.  He began contemplating the ways he could spin this information to enhance his next performance review. Charming toy store creates happy shoppers. 
    After he walked Sophie to the door, he shook her hand and couldn’t resist the urge to give her a hug.  As he turned to walk away, Sophie saw a father angrily shaking a youngster who had dropped a cup of punch on the floor.  Sophie glanced one more time at the back of the retreating manager and then quietly and quickly fixed the problem.
    Sophie drove home relieved that her secret was still intact but knew her time for mending the woes of children was waning.  She fretted about the future and the fact that she had no heir apparent to carry on.  Who would watch over the abused and unhappy children of the world?  Was she their sole protector?

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