The little men by om, p.2
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       The Little Men, by OM, p.2
 

           matthew lewis
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  Part 2

  Shopping

  Even from a distance, Martha could tell the store was a mob scene. The parking lot was like looking at a anthill, congestion without discernible order, swarms of tiny metallic beasts roaming as far as the eye could see. Each darting to and fro, trying for a piece of territory some slower beast had yet to recognize, horns mingling with the sound of radios dueling in the distance, cars moving through tiny gaps like stray animals sizing one another up.

  Martha sat at a stoplight waiting to enter, classical music playing in the car, bass beginning to drown it out from somewhere outside. The color green seemed to invoke weaving and whirling as the light turned, the screeching of tires like Christmas Mozart, everyone trying to be the first at the trough.

  Don't they see I have a child, she asked herself, wondering about their driving as she scanned the first two rows of parking spaces. Then again, it seemed like they all had kids themselves.

  It was amazing to see what passed for good parenting these days.

  Martha found a empty space beside an archaic Yugo, its rusty yellow exterior encroaching several inches beyond the line. She stepped from the car, taking Robert by the hand, ushering him toward the entrance, twenty-five minutes wasted driving in circles just to get this far.

  She took her time crossing the congested parking lot, thinking only of their footing and safety, Robert tugging wildly at her hand, pulling and straining so he could get through those sliding glass doors, desperate to claim his prize.

  Two gargantuan sliding doors greeted them with a mechanical whoosh, followed immediately by compacted crowds and nauseatingly dry heating. Machines advertising soft drinks and bottled water stood beside billboards for animals being sold by their owners and lists of missing children, electrical buggies discarded everywhere, awaiting the handicapped or elderly.

  A bench stood inside this layer of Wal-Mart, marking a halfway point in a lobby tucked between doors, an old man gumming at hard candy atop it, a small child recklessly crawling along the edges. Martha tried not to notice, not to look, but they were moving at a snail's pace, not yet inside the store.

  "Come on , mom!"

  "I'm coming, I'm coming."

  An elderly man seated atop a stool mechanically dispensed a greeting, handing her a salespaper as she walked through a secondary set of doors.

  "Welcome to Wal-Mart."

  Martha nodded, thanking him as she reached for a buggy, the oceans of people leaving only a scattering of them in sight.

  To her left, against the wall, was an isle leading to the vision center and the bargain bins, swarms of people congesting the narrow confines like jackals feeding on two for ones and twenty-five percent off items.

  To the right were the checkouts, possibly twenty or more, every one of them seemingly hosting a line that sprawled the length of the isles.

  "Come on!"

  Robert pushed through it all, auto-pilot engaged, flying past the pharmacy and the sickness it mingled with groceries, cutting through isles filled with clothing and pet toys, beyond the IPODs and digital cameras, away from the DVDs and CDs and videogames until they came to it.

  The row he wanted.

  Dozens of dull-eyed parents were already there with their children, unwittingly mingling with all walks of life as they picked the shelves clean. Entire areas were already vanished, displays depleted, Martha thinking they were too late, that everything was gone. Robert seemed more optimistic, picking through row after row, until he hit paydirt.

  Little Men, by OM.

  Martha normally did her research but had seen very little on OM and its products. They were relatively new to the game, taking the market by storm with their initial showing, their success catching everyone off-guard as thousands of units sold overnight. They were all people were talking about, stores trying to obtain new shipments to keep them on their shelves, and Martha understood that finding these here was likened to a minor miracle.

  Either they would get Little Men today or Robert would end up waiting until after the holidays and that would break his heart for sure.

  So what if she had to cut a few corners, getting him his present she knew very little about. If there was a problem she would have heard about it by now.

  "O mom, look!"

  Robert picked up a rectangular box depicting figures that looked a lot like most boy's toys, excitedly handing it to her as he continued to scan.

  The scene on the front was animated, showcasing little men in outfits dressed like postal workers and business men, all doing their dailies while hanging out with generically-portrayed children enjoying their new best friends. One was throwing the owner a football and another was playing catch, the photographs reminding Martha of Sea Monkeys in a way, only at much steeper prices.

  "Everything you need included, except batteries," she read, assuming anything needed would be inside the main box. "Includes one Little Men man, four clothing items, food, restraints.."

  Food? Restraints? Was there a living component to this?

  That might explain the portrait portraying a group of kids and their Little Men sitting at a rural picnic table, two Little Men feeding what looked like livestock as the kids devoured something off paper plates.

  How would something lived boxed and shelved?

  She flipped the package around, feeling a bit confused, trying to find something that explained this in more detail.

  The bold print only said things like "We love our Little Men," but the fine print listed handling instructions and a few warnings, not to mention items on caring for your Little Men. "Warning, do not handle your Little Men without wearing the Little Men and Friends Padded Gloves, and only feed Little Men with the enclosed Little Men meals."

  "Robby, hunny, I'm not sure about this. It says you have to feed something in here, and I'm not sure wh..."

  Martha was speaking but her son could not hear her, dumbstruck by the Little Men and all the accessories you could buy.

  A Reinforced Playing and Viewing Area with Little Men Inside, and a Deluxe edition complete with landscaping. A Working Out Station with Little Men friendly work-out wheels, a Home and Away Playset for taking your Little Men to see friends and loved ones, A Grooming Station to make certain your Little Men stay clean and groomed, The Park Scene and Kiosk Villa so you could take your Little Men shopping, and clothes. Lots and lots of clothes.

  "If you put it all together it makes the town of OM!"

  Martha felt that surge of initial maternal reservation, her first instincts normally good ones, but she could not help but notice how much this meant to Robert. It was not like he was doing anything wrong, wanting a loaded firearm or asking for throwing knives.

  He was fixated on the same thing all those parents were picking up by the buggy full, and Martha mentally chided herself for being so selfish, the happiness of her son up-for-grabs.

  Robert was such a great kid, seldom complaining about her long hours, shuttling back and forth to his father's house without so much as a whimper despite the fact that he had to be bored there. If he could do that for her, what was a few little items requiring sustenance?

  Martha decided to put all her reservations aside and let him pick out the deluxe edition because it came with two Little Men, plus an accessory pack that said "Recommended for your Little Men" on the front and one of each of the other settings, a carrying case thrown in for good measure and some attire to boot.

  Martha was stunned by all the detailing, with every clothing brand under the rainbow represented on that shelf, and she waited until Robert finally decided on a business suit and a tiny set of mailman attire, a pair of Nikes and a pair of loafers, and a Hawaiian shirt to even things out.

  There was also another care package the company recommended, plus 6 D batteries for the Playing and Viewing Area.

  This is going to cost me a bundle. Four figures and change.

  Martha pushed the buggy slowly, dodging the throngs of people staring at her carg
o longingly, finally finding a line that seemed to crawl slowly toward the front. Three people from her destination and there was a problem with a price, the person telling the cashier that her machine was ringing it up wrong, a manager paged, and waiting. Almost sixty minutes spent waiting drained Martha of any will as she finally made it to the front.

  While she was checking out, watching the LCD monitor as the price began skyrocketing, Martha hardly noticed the cashier, Dottie, or the fact that she was speaking to her.

  "O, Little Men!"

  Martha nodded.

  "My son has three of them, loves the heck out of them."

  Martha nodded again.

  "Good thing you got the deluxe edition. I kept hearing people complaining about the standard set, about how the glass isn't strong enough and how the chain sometimes snaps. The gnawing, you know?"

  Dottie made a bunny face and laughed as Martha nodded.

  "Wouldn't want them getting to the kids while they slept or anything."

  Martha trekked through the conversation on autopilot and only noticed the last comment when she was in the car, packages in the trunk, well on her way home.

  Wouldn't want them getting to the kids while they slept.

  Surely the woman was talking to someone else, or maybe she heard it wrong.

 
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