16 April 2006

Good Friday Meets the Twilight Zone (part 2)

(Part 1)

It was rush hour when we left the museum, so Dad suggested heading over to a nearby mall with a bunch of restaurants for dinner.

"Sounds good," I said. "I was kinda thinking about hitting the Apple Store while we're over here anyway."

"Oh. That's at the Sunnydale mall, not the Smallville one, but we can do that. I think they might even have a Dell store."

When we got to Sunnydale, it was still raining. I didn't feel like carrying my raincoat around the mall, so I suggested we drive around to the part of the parking lot with two levels and try parking underneath. Dad was game, so we started making the big loop. The lot undulated up to the second floor and then back to the first, so I was sure it had to be coming up.

When Dad started expressing doubt, I said, "It's right by Target. We always end up parking on the upper level, the one that rumbles."

"That's at Townsville," Dad said, naming a mall east of home. We had traveled west today.

I sighed, "Oh man. I'm getting them all mixed up."

We parked by Dick's Sporting Goods because we could get a space near the door, and we knew we weren't that far from the restaurants I'd seen down the hill and around the corner.

As we emerged from the sports store into the mall, I pointed and said, "Look, there's the Easter Bunny!" A brown rabbit with big ears wearing overalls turned the corner and slipped from view.

"Now that's what you need your camera for," I told Dad.

"Not me," he said.

"Well, maybe not, but if I had a camera phone, I'd totally follow him to get a picture."

"How do you suppose we get downstairs?"

"Right there," I said, pointing out some stairs nearby. As we walked down, we saw a huge inflatable Easter egg with a couple of 3 feet tall white rabbits holding paint brushes posed as if they were decorating the egg. In front of the egg was a garden setting with a sort of bench/throne for the Easter Bunny so that parents could commemorate their child's E.B. encounter with photos.

After walking what seemed too far, I encouraged Dad to go a bit further to check out the next side hall. Hooters, Bugaboo Creek, and Ruby Tuesdays were all there. The hallway felt very familiar to me, and when we walked into Ruby Tuesdays, the restrooms were exactly where I expected them to be. During dinner I realized, I remembered the layout not from the restaurant we were in, but one at the Townsville mall a few hours away.

As Dad and I discussed the various malls, I lost track of which one we were in. The interior similarities were disorienting.

***
After playing with several iPods and stereo docks, Dad went off to find a restroom in Macy's before the drive home. The Easter Bunny was back from break, and I watched the photo sessions from the floor above with amusement and interest. The kids were getting some quality time with the bunny because there was only one person shooting the photos, packaging the prints and running the register. Blue eye shadow on the mask made me wonder if the Easter Bunny was female. I looked behind me for Dad but didn't see him, so I zoned out, looking around at the stores.

A family walked up to the rail next to me and two little kids started shouting, "Hey, Easter Bunny!" over and over.

When I looked down, the bunny was, in fact, looking up and waving at us. The kids were waving furiously, and it felt like it would be impolite not to reciprocate, so I smiled and waved to the bunny, feeling a bit goofy. The family moved on, but then I felt really conspicuous standing by the railing alone. You can't really be a hidden observer if the bunny can see you.

I walked over to a kiosk selling sunglasses and started scanning the lenses. A blonde woman in her early forties, with the handles of a few shopping bags threaded over her left arm, approached me with the look people have when they think I work somewhere, and they're about to ask me a question. "Are you the 2.3 million dollar fugitive?" she asked.

My stock answer, 'No, I don't work here,' didn't make the sense it had the moment before, so I ran her question through my mind again to process it and came up with, "No."

"Oh well. I know it's after hours, but I figured it was worth a shot," she explained, commenting, "You fit the description."

"Oh, ok," I said, assuming it must be a contest. I vaguely wondered how I fit the description, but I didn't ask because the exchange had the same surreal character that had been recurring in moments throughout the day.

***
Back at home, I was asleep in bed. I was dreaming the loudest thunderstorm I'd ever heard when there was a violent, prolonged CRACK! that scared the bejeezus out of me as I opened my eyes. The storm was actually happening, and it was the loudest I'd ever heard. A red 5:00 stared at me from across the room. Lightning flashed through my blinds in quick pairs. In the next six minutes there were at least 20 flashes accompanied by a steady rumble.

Just a few days earlier I'd been thinking that thunderstorms were my favorite sound. I'll have to qualify that in future.

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