The Washington Times-Herald


August 24, 2013

Shopping at the P&TO


“What does it do?” the young man asked.

“Just what it says,” the proprietor shrugged. “Half way through history class a kid comes to you all fidgety and says he really has to go. He’s a notorious slacker and hall runner so you’re immediately skeptical.”

The proprietor pointed the scanner at the young man’s abdomen and pushed a button. Again the device flashed and beeped. “Just point and click,” the proprietor continued, positioning the display so the young man could see, “and all the data and some nifty graphics appear on the screen. Bladder capacity to the milliliter; length of time since last elimination; the most comprehensive micturition analysis anywhere outside a urologist’s office.”

He studied the screen a second longer then smiled up at the man. “Looks like you’re about ready to pop young fella.”

Which seemed a tad personal but the young man said nothing.

“The results are color-coded,” the proprietor went on. “If the kid’s conning you, the display will flash red. If he really has to go the read-out will be bright yellow.”

The young man continued browsing, passing a number of peculiar displays. One consisted of a bowl of colored lozenges and a nearby sign: “Apathy Be Gone! Now in delicious tropical fruit flavors!”

Another showcased a fancy looking perfume-like spray bottle: “Subdue an unruly child or an entire classroom in seconds with Eau de barbiturate!”

Finally he stopped near a stack of black boxes displaying the skull and crossbones and the words “Last Resort.”

“For the kids?” the young man asked uneasily.

“No, no,” the proprietor said gently. “For you.” He sighed before adding, “Could have used some of that myself one day after the fourth or fifth showing of Mr. Poppers Penguins.”

In a darkened corner of the store the young man came to a bookshelf, brushed away a few cobwebs, blew a layer of dust off the cover of one of the volumes and read the title aloud. “It Starts At Home. A Parent’s Guide to Learning and Discipline.”

“Used to be a big seller,” the proprietor said sadly. “Not so much anymore.”

“A shame,” the young man said.

“Yeah,” the proprietor agreed. “You got that right.”

Blake Chambers’ email address is:

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