by Matt Kendrick
Ten years from now, in a conversation about prejudice, you will remind me of this — the way you scamper away from me. Eager. Stopped short in front of non-compliant doors because the motion sensor doesn’t recognise your toddler’s form. Inside, your muscles halt of their own accord. Disbelief at the rows upon rows of neatly stacked shelves which, from your perspective, are a metropolis of vinyl-floor streets; quasi-buildings in Day-Glo cardboard; polyethylene windows into homes for puppets and dolls. You are not a simile — you are quite literally a toddler in a toy store. You wander around with wonder in your eyes. Bug eyes that drink it all in like a ravenous mosquito. When gazing towards the upper levels, your whole head tilts back, mouth in a silent O. You point at things — an interactive robot, a pair of walkie-talkies, a remote controlled car, a dinosaur that poops orange foam spheres — and I grab them down for you. On closer inspection, you shake your head. Fussy, pernickety, particular. You share an ability with your mother to spin out a shopping trip into an eternity. She tends to pick out dresses and say how nice they would look on neighbours or friends. In the same vein, you burble little inanities about how each toy would suit someone else from your nursery. The robot for Robbie Reeves because he has a fascination with plug sockets and light bulbs. The dinosaur for Mark Matheson because he is cheeky, scatological. A toy gun is the sort of thing that Bertie Simons would choose because his choices are always the violent ones. As you prevaricate, I am impatient to be done. There is an unfinished piece of work sitting open on my laptop. There is a football game to watch later with the lads down the pub. You are too absorbed to sense my restlessness, though, and continue at your sloth-like pace until, finally, you decide on a bubble-gum pink teddy bear. And now, it is me who vacillates. I am uncomfortable with the implications of your choice. I suggest an Action Man figurine in its place. Or how about a monster truck? But your resolve is absolute. You shake your head and, desperate, I note that there is another version of your chosen teddy in midnight blue. You are confused when I take it off the shelf. “But it’s the same,” you say. I try to explain about colours for boys and colours for girls. Your arms are folded. “But it’s the same,” you say. And you are right, of course. My preference for blue is nothing more than prejudice hard-wired inside my brain.
Matt Kendrick is a writer and illustrator based in the East Midlands, UK. His stories have been published by Fictive Dream, Lucent Dreaming, Storgy and Collective Unrest. Further information about his work can be found on his website: mattkendrick.co.uk. He is on Twitter @MkenWrites.