Getting the Sandwich Home, Part 2
The abandoned brown sandwich bag had oil spots that grew with every passing moment. The egg and the oil and the sauce congealed around the layers of ham, and the toast began to get soggy from the moisture in the air and the tablespoon of butter melted on both sides of the toasted bread.
Zachary’s mom was laying on the couch, drinking water, and counting back the hours from which she had her last dose of ibuprofen. She realized it had been 2 hours, and she started to wonder if it was time to get worried about her son. Was he too young to be sent down to the sandwich shop? 10 seemed reasonable. She thought, not for the first time, and not for the last time, that it might be time to get him a cell phone, just so she could call him in moments like these.
Zachary followed Trevor, the boy from his class, through the wooden door, and into a room that was softly lit with brightly colored bulbs - like a living room at Christmas, when all the lights are off, and just the tree is turned on. And just like Christmas, there were presents everywhere.
"Can you believe this place?" Trevor whispered.
"Is this where you live?" Zachary already felt pangs of jealousy. His eyes were hungry, taking in the dozens of colorful lamps that spun scenes on off-white lantern sides. He saw small mounds of little kid toys that lit up and made sounds, all softly pinging and playing their tinny music. Robot vacuums, strung with Christmas lights, scooted across the floor, running into everything, correcting their path, then scooting along again.
Zachary picked up a small toy guitar that had orange, light-up buttons to push. He pressed one, and a squealing guitar solo played for a few seconds. He looked up and saw 6 or 7 model airplanes with lights on their wings spinning in lazy circles. There was even a Buzz Lightyear, glowing a weak green, attached to one.
"No, I found it," Trevor answered.
Trevor told Zachary the story. He was walking his sister to her kinder-art school on recycling day and saw an older man carrying a small light up keyboard under his arm. The man stopped at an over-turned garbage bag and took out a string of big, colored Christmas bulbs that he put around his neck like a crazy necklace. Trevor followed him.
The man was bald with a white, grungy beard. His hands seemed enormous. They barely fit into the pockets of his dark brown overcoat. And he was wearing two different shoes, one brown, one black.
Trevor followed him here, and when the man dropped off the light strand and the keyboard, he went out again. And now Zachary was here.
"You mean he can come back?" Zachary put down the guitar and prepared to get out, but Trevor pulled him by his shoulder forward.
"Look at all of this stuff! I found my sister’s broken dinosaur robot thing - but it wasn’t broken. He fixed it. Like a crazy Santa Claus or something."
Zachary had mixed feelings about Santa Claus. There were hints that the whole thing wasn’t real, but he was happy to cling to the faint hope that perhaps he was real, and perhaps this was a satellite workshop, just like mall Santas were all hired by Santa Claus.
"If it’s Santa, then we should definitely leave."
"Okay, but I’m taking my sister’s dinosaur." Trevor walked over to a sleepy-eyed green Brontasaurus that was trundling along near a pyramid of lit-up legos, and they started to leave.
Zachary turned around one last time, and took it all in. He knew he’d think about it forever, and want to come back. He tried to make sure he knew exactly where he was, so he could come find this place again.
They walked out and started to walk back in the direction of their neighborhood, when Zachary realized that the sandwich was back at the door of the shop.
"We can’t go back! Crazy Santa is definitely back by now."
"You’re right. I need to get my Mom a sandwich though! And... I forgot her iced coffee!"
Trevor decided they would go to 7-11 and get her a breakfast sandwich and two electric blue gatorades, which were better than coffee anyway. The boys pooled their money together.
When Zachary got home with the egg and sausage sandwich still warm from the heat lamp, and one of the electric blue gatorades half empty, his mom didn’t mind. She gave him a hug and asked what took him so long. His explanation that Mike and Patty’s was closed, and then he helped Trevor with a broken dinosaur, wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Mike and Patty’s was always closed.
Zachary went up to his room, thinking of the wooden door and the lit-up world inside, and wondered, while his mom looked online at prices of cell phones.