Monica, an African-American mother dealing with difficult times, is determined to throw a birthday party for her son at a local Mouse Land. When guests start canceling and the store managers begin demanding payment in full, Monica finds herself caught up in a case of racial bias. Can the situation be defused before the happy occasion becomes a nightmare? A short story from our Diversity line.
The sun shines brightly on a crowded Mouse Land parking lot Saturday afternoon. Vexed, Monica stands behind her old, beat-down black car. She carefully moves an open suitcase full of clothes to the side. Reaching way in the back, she pulls a red and green birthday gift bag from the trunk. The doting mother waits for her son Sammy to appear from the side of the car. Sammy wears a cone birthday hat with the number five displayed on top of it. He walks slowly with a disappointed look on his face.
“Mommy, are we camping out in the car again tonight?”
Monica tries to organize the trunk. “Umm…I don’t know. Aunt Lue says we can come visit her.” She gives up, knowing nothing will be organized as long as they live out of the car. Attempting to find joy in the situation, she looks at Sammy and sees he looks discontented. “What’s wrong birthday boy? This is where you wanted your party.”
“Mommy, was that Devon’s mom who called you?”
“Yes honey. Can you come help me with these bags?” She smiles as he watches her. Sammy, not satisfied, begins to pout. Slowly he drags himself closer to his mother. She holds the green gift bag out. He hesitates and then reaches for it. Monica quickly pulls the bag back. “No peeking inside.”
Sammy gives a slight smile. She hands him the bag and his smile quickly evaporates.
“Is he still coming?” He whines, as if the wrong answer would break his heart. He looks up to his mother with building anticipation.
His mother realizes he has become upset. “I know he’s your best friend…”
He cuts her off, “Mommy, that’s not it. He’s the second person to call.” She slams the trunk and places her bag on the ground. She bends down. “Baby, everything will be okay.” She rubs his shoulder as she talks to him. “A lot of your friends RSVPed a few weeks ago, so I know they will show up.”
A girl yells from across the parking lot, “Hey Sammy!”
They both look at the girl carrying a gift bag. Sammy waves. His mother smiles, “See more will come. You ready to go inside?”
Sammy jumps in the air with excitement, “Yeah!”
They begin walking towards the entrance of Mouse Land, the local game zone. A homeless man with a shopping cart pushes it near Monica and Sammy. His clothes are tattered and sloppily hanging off of him. He slows his cart and wipes his hands on his clothes. He then rubs his long beard and straightens his Chicago Bears hat. He moves closer to them and holds out his hand attempting to collect money, “Can you spare change?”
Monica fearfully grabs Sammy and pulls him behind her. She sidesteps the homeless man making sure she doesn’t make eye contact. She quickly rushes by the cart, “No. Sorry, I don’t have it.” She pulls Sammy along.
Sammy doing his best to keep up with his mother’s pace tries to slow her down. “Mommy, I brought change with me…can I give him my money?”
Monica slows to a stop and looks at Sammy. He begins to dig into his pocket. He pulls coins from his pocket and shows Monica. “Okay…but hurry up. We don’t have much time.”
Monica holds her hand out and he drops the few coins he has into his mother’s hand. Monica walks over to the homeless man who patiently watched their conversation. “Try not to spend this up in the liquor store.” The homeless man holds his hand out. Monica daintily drops the coins into his dingy hand ensuring she doesn’t touch him.
“Thanks.” He looks at his palm, and then looks over to Sammy. “Looks like I have enough to eat now. Happy birthday kid!” He shoves his hand into his pocket releasing the change. He turns and begins pushing his cart away.
Monica stands for a moment staring at the man as he walks away.