Into the Mouth of Hell

I am sorry this is so long….it’s like 2,000 words. I wouldn’t even read it but I sort of had to because I wrote it. It’s actually probably full of typos because I am way too lazy to edit that many words……

So, last weekend Bo and I needed to get out of the house (read: if I didn’t take him to do something I was gonna put him in a burlap sack full of rocks and throw him in the Cedar River). The weather was not great; we had gone to park the day before and my toes had nearly fallen off by the time we made it back home because my stupid ass decided to wear chucks in 29 degree weather. Needless to say I wanted to do something where being outside was….optional or not at all. I decided we should go to the Crossroads Mall!!! I always imagine an old timey postcard where the font gets larger as it stretches across the card when I say things that I am really excited about! In an effort to illustrate, literally, what I mean, I made this old timey postcard:

crossroads mall

I put in the Carousels because they have one at Crossroads Mall! They also have a coin-operated elephant ride, cars, speedboat, rocket ship, helicopter, train, bucking bronco, and ferris wheel…and they are all just one quarter…ONE FUCKING QUARTER….TWENTY-FIVE GODDAMN CENTS!!!! I suspect you are beginning to grok my enthusiasm for this place. They also have a Half Price Books, an independently owned toy store, a game store, one of those gigantic chess boards made of floor tiles where the pieces are almost knee-height, and don’t even get me started on the food court (it’s really more of a food piazza or food pavilion but I digress…no really, I do). With all its coin-operated toys and family-friendly stores to browse it is a great place to take a kid for a few hours or a whole day.

As if that were not enough to cement Crossroad’s as a haven for children and their desperate, bedraggled handlers, it also has a WiggleWorks. What is a WiggleWorks you ask? WiggleWorks is somewhere between the 4th and 5th circles of hell, as in it is definitely worse than pushing rocks around with a bunch of cheapskates while Plutus watches you because that’s basically like a day of doing cross-fit (at least I think it is unless I completely misunderstand what cross-fit is, which is most likely the case). But it’s not quite as bad as being forced into mortal combat with people who flunked out of anger management class, while on the surface of the river Styx, watching the sullen gargle below you….I honestly think the sullen are just there to distract you from Fillipo Argenti’s brutal right cross. That being said WiggleWorks is a candy-colored den of self imposed bedlam with sparkly, padded motorized toys, the overwhelming din of toddlers shrieking, and the vague odor of sock-feet and stale goldfish crackers. It’s also kind of awesome and it would probably be even more awesome if it weren’t in Bellevue or at least full of children being raised by people in Bellevue.

A little back story, Bellevue has another mall, a fancy mall where all the fancy people shop, but that mall kind of sucks; there are no toys (save one of those giant, foam boat thingys that can only be found in mall play areas), no cool shops, NO BOOKSTORE, AND (most outrage-inducing) NO FUCKING FOOD COURT/PAVILION/PIAZZA!!!! How dare you even call yourself a mall at that point? It’s like they think they’re too good for a Wetzel’s Pretzels and decided to just put a Palomino and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse right next to the mall…tastefully distant as it is across the street…but you can totally take the skybridge there.

So in the lofty shadow of Bellevue’s other mall, Crossroads was often cast off (by most Eastsiders) as Bel Square’s declassé, white-trash cousin that no one wanted to admit they slept with whenever they came to town. But times change and while Crossroads is still the lesser mall it has developed it’s own atmosphere and charms specific only to it and  plus, all those rich, obnoxious yuppies had kids and have to bring them somewhere, right?

So, Bo and I embarked on a day at the mall, starting first, as we always do, at the bookstore where we leisurely and thoroughly pored over the children’s section, taking things off the shelf, sitting on the floor, reading entire books to one another, getting giddy together over the possibilities of what might make the journey home with us that day. We must have spent about two hours just in the bookstore that day…and for those of you who have 4 and/or 5 year olds at home you understand that a small miracle that has occurred here. We then went walking around, rode the carousel, (which was out of order so the parents just had to push it in circles which was actually pretty cool because you could get it going much faster than it would otherwise allow itself to go and the horses still went up and down), browsed the toy store (FOREVER but it was cool because they had Breyer Horses so I was totally occupied), game store, comic book shop (OH YES! There is a comic book shop…did I forget to mention that), rode the Tusko Jr. the elephant, and ambled through the food pavilion talking about what we might want to eat. All the while I would occasionally toss a furtive glance in the direction of WiggleWorks to see if the enormous line had died down.

We (read: I) had completely lost track of time. All I knew was that I was hungry when I suddenly saw that there was no line at WiggleWorks and dragged Bo down there with me to be put on the list. As soon as he peered into the huge storefront windows and saw all the sock-footed little people darting around the sparkly, mechanicals he was mesmerized. I was then informed by the woman at the desk who was the guardian all this chaos that there was no longer a wait-list, but they would be closing at 6 pm because it was a holiday (New Year’s Day). I quickly asked her the time. We had one hour and 22 minutes to take full advantage of our WiggleWorks entry fee and we were going to do it, empty stomachs be damned!!!

Bo shed his boots and ran headlong into the padded play area. Now, when I say things are sparkly, I am not kidding. Everything in WiggleWorks is covered with padding which is then covered in high-shine, glitter vinyl in one of four colors; white, lime-green, hot-pink, and sky-blue. It sort of looks like a My Little Pony barfed all over the rubber room of an insane asylum. There is an elevated bouncy house with an inflatable slide and this one netted area called the Balloon Room where huge balloons crash about in a constant whirlwind created by a fan in the bouncy floor. It’s basically magic and, when full of braying children, a little like Thunderdome. This was, of course, Bo’s favorite part and he spent the majority of his time in the balloon room despite repeated misfortunes.

At one point Bo and a girl, slightly older than he, were warring over the purple balloon. Bo had the balloon and the little girl wanted it. Bo handed it over and she began to taunt him with it. He grabbed it back in a good-natured effort to create some kind of game wherein they could both enjoy the balloon. She was having none of it…and decided her best course of action was to bite him, HARD, on his arm. I had looked down and missed the offense but the guy next to me said “Holy shit, that little girl just bit your son!” At that moment I saw Bo’s face fall and the tears began to stream down his hot, red cheeks, as he exited the balloon room in a hail of sobs. He came to me, holding his injured arm and could barely make out the words between heaving sobs, “She, she bit me!!!” He was equal parts hurt physically and completely stunned. I told him that some people don’t like to play the same games as him. His wailing subsided and he allowed me to pull up his sleeve and, where I was expecting to see nothing, there was a huge, purple welt in the two half-moon shapes where the little girl’s upper and lower jaws had clamped around my son’s flesh and it was FUCKING BLEEDING! At which point I was like, “OH UH-UH!!!”I tugged Bo over to where I thought the little girl’s mother was standing, pointed at the girl and said, “is that your daughter?” with barely concealed rage. The woman looked up at me confused. I repeated “The little girl in the purple dress with the hearts on it, is that your daughter?” when the woman sitting next to her looked up and said, “That my daughter….” She trailed off in such a way that let you know this was not the first time she had been confronted in this manner and that she knew what was coming next. I thrust Bo’s wounded arm under her nose and spat, “Your little girl  BIT MY SON!” She applied the appropriate expression of horror and remorse. It was then that we realized neither of us had any idea what to do next. She knew she had no control over what her daughter did, for if she had the little monster probably wouldn’t be biting people in the first place. I was so angry but I also understood the shame and humiliation on the face of the woman across from me. As parents, we have all had moments when we are embarrassed and ashamed about the lack of control we have over our child. There was nothing for me to do but suggest that she teach her daughter a more effective way of expressing her displeasure with a situation and stalk off in an indignant huff.

Later on, in the balloon room another child, a little boy, punched Bo, closed-fisted, right in the face….THE FUCK?  Seriously people?!?! I understand that kids roughhouse and can lose their grip sometimes but this shit was just out of fucking control! You can tell, by looking at a child, if they have never been told “no” in their life and as I wheeled around, taking in the gnawing, clamoring rugrats that surrounded me, I could see that look everywhere as their parents hovered over them snapping picture after picture with their iPhones, stopping occasionally to post the photos to Instagram and Facebook, blissfully unaware or at least in denial about the horrible little people their precious babies were becoming, had become or would eventually become. Thankfully WiggleWorks was getting ready to close by then. We had survived our hour and 22 minutes among the miserly and wrathful with most of our person and a little of our dignity intact.

The mall was closing and we did not get to avail ourselves of the wonders of the food pavilion, a fact for which I have still not forgiven Bo. We stumbled, bleary-eyed, dehydrated and starved to the nearest door after exiting the mall. Thankfully it was a Tutta Bella, where we shared a cheese pizza in silence and mommy got to order a Negroni because, GODDAMN, I needed a motherfucking cocktail after that shit!

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2 thoughts on “Into the Mouth of Hell

  1. Abandon all hope, ye who enter there. Although technically I’d put these people among the faithless, eternally chasing a banner of upper-middle-class happiness that they will never reach, whilst hornets raise weeping sores all over their bodies.

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