This is a guest post by Big Man, who blogs at Raving Black Lunatic, where this piece originally appeared.
She came from nowhere.
One moment there was empty space next to my left arm, and suddenly a medium-sized white girl appeared. She stood out in the ocean of chocolate surrounding me, not just because of her color, but because of how brazenly she approached me and how close she stood to me. Very strange behavior for a little white girl.
"Can I have a token," she asked.
I paused, quite uncomfortable and more than a little angry. Why was this child panhandling? Her query cut through the shrieks of delight and despair in the crowded room. It momentarily distracted me from the cloying aroma of fake cheese mixed ever so subtly with dirty diaper. She wanted a token, and she wasn't afraid to ask.
"I'm sorry, I only have tokens for him," I replied, with a nod towards my young son, perched atop a giant porcelain horse flapping the faux-leather reins and kicking the spotted horse's sides with his miniature brown cowboy boots.
My reply was classic passive-aggressive behavior, a tactic I picked up after years of encounters with professional panhandlers. I perfected it on the streets of Washington, D.C. as I dodged the throng of bums that gathered in front of the McDonald's near my dormitory. The secret is to give them answers they don't expect, to never appear angry or rude, and to keep moving.
But the little girl was slick. She wasn't distracted by my ploy.
"So you don't have anymore tokens," she said, taking another step towards the horse than my son was still enjoying.
"Well maybe I can just climb on behind him, I can fit," she said, as she touched the hard saddle and began to mount.
"No sweetheart, I don't think you can do that. He's riding it, and only one person is allowed," I replied, slowly feeling my anger, and a little bit of fear, blossom.
"Well, I can show him how to do it then, he has to press this, and grab these," the girl said grasping the reins my son held, and reaching across him to press a button designed to make the best leap.
Now, I'm truly disturbed. The girl's initial panhandling was a breach of etiquette, but now she's crossed over into another realm entirely. Yet, I'm a little unsure how to handle this situation.
Clearly she's encroaching on my territory and my son's fun, but how do I handle a young white child? We may have a black president, but this is still the South and a little white girl being disciplined by a big, black man could cause some difficulties...
Where are this child's parents? How could they allow her to become a token slave without stepping in? Dammit, things were already bad, now I have to deal with this crap?
I turn behind me looking for assistance, my face a mask of shock at the girl's brazen attitude. I see a black woman, short, heavyset, her hair caught up in that hard style that was popular when I was high school. She too is shocked at the girl, and we exchange looks that say everything that needs to be said about home training, but neither of us move towards the girl. Did I mention the little white girl had already pushed aside this woman's daughter who was waiting patiently for my son to finish his ride so that she could have her turn?
Another woman takes charge, her manner gruff, her words harsh.
"Hey you, little girl," the woman says, as she grabs the child's arm in a way I would have never been comfortable attempting. "You get down from there and get behind us. Behind us."
The woman is adamant that the little white girl move, I'm amused at her anger. She says in an aside to me and the other woman "What's wrong with her, like she can't see us."
My son's ride is over. He wants to go again, but I'm worried about these other parents waiting and the little white girl who begged me for a token. I take him down, he's disappointed, but obedient. I walk him away, asking him if he's ready to leave. A short tantrum issues, but I squelch it by reminding him that he can easily catch a whipping here, no matter what Chuck E. Cheese tells him about being happy. He relents, we prepare to leave, gathering up his cowboy hat and coat.
I look around as we head to the door. Children are screaming, parents are crammed in small booths hovering over sad pizza pies. A line stretches outside the front door as people wait to enter this whirling, beeping, sweaty, cheesy circle of Hell. I know for certain what I always suspected.
The Devil is a Rat.