Your name is Dave and you really have to go potty.
Your Bro is looking at vegetables, probably trying to decide which ones look the yuckiest so he can feed them to you with your mac and cheese tonight. You hate vegetables, almost as much as you hate shots and the little yappy dog that lives on the first floor of your apartment building and bites at your ankles when you try to go outside and play.
"What do you think, little man? Broccoli or baby carrots?" He bends down to show them to you, but you just stick your tongue out. He snorts and tosses them both into the cart. "You have to eat 'em, you know. Otherwise you won't grow up all big and strong."
"Like you?" you ask, trotting along as he starts pushing the cart again.
He laughs and looks down at you with a smile. It's your special smile because he only smiles it at you, and you respond with your own special smile just for him. You really love your Bro. You think he's the coolest person in Texas and probably in the whole entire world. He even lets you stay up past your bedtime to eat ice cream and watch movies sometimes.
A little old lady gives you a funny look when you jump up on the front of the cart and bend over backwards so that everything looks like it's upside down, but that's okay. You're used to getting funny looks when you go out with Bro. You think it's because everyone wishes they could be cool like you and your Bro. You hang there for a few minutes until your head starts to feel funny, and then you let go of the cart. The only thing is you forgot to step down first. You let out a shriek as you fall, but Bro catches you by the wrist. It kind of hurts, but at least you didn't hit your head.
"Dave, stop messin' around. You're gonna hurt yourself. Just hold onto the cart like I told you to, okay?"
You nod and give a little sniffle, slipping your fingers through the little metal bars and holding on tight. Bro stops again to look at different pasta shapes-you don't know why he takes so long to look; he always gets the swirly kind because it's your favorite-and you can see the bathrooms from here. It reminds you that you need to go potty. You look between the bathroom sign and your Bro. He looks pretty busy.
You bet you can go and be back before he even notices.
Inching away one baby step at a time, you get around the corner without him realizing and take off at a run toward the bathroom. You try really hard not to, but the closer you get the more you have to go, and you end up holding yourself as you duck around a really slow old guy and into a stall. You make it just in time! Whew. That one was a close one.
You're supposed to wash your hands, but you don't really think they're that dirty and Bro isn't here to make you, so you don't. Walking out of the bathroom, you look over to the aisles of food and think you see Bro's cart where you left it. That means he hasn't noticed you're gone. You smile proudly; you did a good job. As you turn to head back, something catches your eye. Something plastic and green.
It's the brand-new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure super-pack! Oh, man, you've been waiting for this to come out for like a month now. You even put it on your Christmas list, and it's only May! Bro won't mind if you take a look. Probably.
Without another thought you're off, sprinting down the aisle toward the toy section. It's like utopia to your young eyes. Utopia is the right word, right? You think it is. It doesn't even matter what the right word is, though, because you are just so excited right now. There are TMNT things everywhere. Action figures, trucks, hideouts, trading cards, you name it. It's a really good thing you just went potty because otherwise you think you might've peed yourself.
You play with every display and push all of the buttons as high up as you can reach all the way down the aisle, but even Michelangelo and Leonardo can only keep you entertained for so long. You round the corner to the next aisle and are immediately blinded by a wall of pink. Yuck, the Barbie aisle. You don't mind dolls, and neither does your Bro, but you both hate Barbie's ridiculously long legs, pink wardrobe, and ugly boyfriend Ken. You stick your finger in your mouth and make a gagging noise before moving on to the next aisle.
Oh, sweet, board games. You never think you have enough of these, even if every time Bro opens your closet he gets nailed in the head by Monopoly or Candy Land. There's a game right on your eye level that looks really fun. It's called Ants in the Pants, which makes you laugh after you take a couple of minutes to sound it out. Maybe you can get Bro to buy it for you if you say please a lot.
Speaking of Bro, maybe you should think about getting back. Too bad you don't know which way back is. You stand in one spot for a second, spinning in a circle to try and orient yourself. It doesn't help. If anything, you feel even more lost now. You guess at a direction and start walking, trying to look grown-up as you go.
It doesn't take you long to realize you picked the wrong direction.
You try again, turning down an aisle full of engine oil. It smells like tires over here and you don't like it. Pinching your nose shut, you turn again, heading toward a display holding a bunch of towels. You're thoroughly lost now, and the reality of it hits you like that time you fell off the swing at the park. Big, warm tears blur your vision. You try to wipe them away. Striders don't cry, that's what Bro always tells you, but it doesn't work. Standing in the middle of the Home and Furniture section you begin to bawl.
It doesn't take long for someone to find you; you don't think you've ever cried this hard before in your life. It isn't Bro, which only makes you cry harder, but the lady hands you a tissue and asks if you want a sticker. You nod, rubbing the tissue under your nose before handing it back to her. She wrinkles her nose and takes it, pinching it gingerly between her fingers. She lets you choose a sticker from the sheets in her pocket, and you choose a race car. She sticks it to your shirt with a smile that you return hesitantly.
"What's your name?" she asks.
Bro told you not to talk to strangers, but you think she's okay and you don't know what else to do, so you say, "My name is Dave."
"Well, Dave, it looks like you're lost!" You nod. "Let's go to the front of the store and we'll use the intercom to find your…who are you here with? Your mom?"
"N-No," you hiccup. "My Bro is here. He was looking at noodles when I had to go potty."
"Okay, sweetie. We'll find your brother."
She smiles at you sweetly and holds her hand out, and you take it. She takes you to the front of the store and lets you sit in a big-kid chair next to the counter while she calls your brother through the intercom. She describes you as around five or six and wearing shades, which you think is a dumb thing to say. Your Bro has to be looking for you, he knows she's talking about you.
It occurs to you that he's probably going to be mad at you. You don't like it when he's mad at you. He yells and throws his hands around, but even worse is when he just falls back on the couch and rubs his face like he's really tired. That's when you know you're really in trouble. Tears fill your eyes again at the thought, and suddenly you wish you hadn't let her help you. You stare at your shoes and try not to make too much noise when you sniffle, and you jump when Bro's sneakers suddenly appear in front of you. Biting your lip, you peek up at him, face blotchy and full of remorse.
"Dammit, Dave, I thought I told you to stay by the cart!" He drops to a crouch in front of you, and you can tell he's frustrated. You can hear it in his voice. But you can also hear something that sounds a lot like worry. "I just about tore this place apart looking for you, kid. You know you're not supposed to run off like that."
"I know," you mumble, looking at your feet again. You swing them a little bit, waiting for him to yell at you. The last thing you expect is for him to hand you a Milky Way, but that's exactly what he does, wiggling it in front of your nose until you look up again. His mouth is turned up in a crooked sort of smile. You ask, as incredulously as a six-year-old can, "You got me a candy bar?"
"Yeah. You look like you feel bad, and that's enough for me."
He opens the wrapper for you because he knows you have a hard time doing it yourself and presses it into your hand. Once you take it, he holds his arms out to you and you hop down from the chair and throw yourself forward, knocking him off balance with the force of your hug. Laughing, he catches himself and stands up, strong arms supporting you.
"I'm just glad you're okay, Dave," he says softly, and you nod, your little arms wrapping themselves around his neck. "Now come on. This mac 'n cheese ain't gonna cook itself."
He shifts you up onto his shoulders and you perch there happily, nibbling at your candy. You stay there all the way through the check-out line. The cashier gives Bro a dirty look when you hand him your wrapper so she can scan it, but it doesn't matter. He takes all of the bags in his hands to carry out to the car, and as the doors slide shut behind you, you turn to look up at the big building and swear you'll never let go of the cart again.