Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Evil Genius

There is an insidious plot, I fear, afoot. It starts so innocently:

You walk down the driveway to your mailbox, skipping a little because it's such a nice day. The forsythia is a golden haze, and that bush you love--the one with the pink flowers--is bursting with color. You marvel at the variety of green God created: the bold green of grass, the dark green of lilac leaves, the tender green of new leaves. You want to roll around in all of that green, to breathe it in and absorb it, but then you remember you're on a mission: you're supposed to be getting the mail, not cavorting in the new grass like a winter-crazed wood-nymph. (Although, honestly, you do feel quite nymphish indeed.)

You open the mailbox, grateful that it is early spring and the ants have not yet begun to nest in it and produce their tiny, wriggling white larvae. When that happens, of course, it's time to send the children out for the mail, for no self-respecting nymph-like mother ever stretches her hand into dark depths crawling with maggots. Nymphs may love nature, but nobody loves maggots.

What you find in your mailbox sends all blissful thoughts of spring skittering from your brain. This thing you pull from the mailbox, innocently nestled between a bill for your daughter's braces and an envelope containing a plea for a charitable donation is the full-color, slippery-paged advertisement for That Store.

You know That Store, right? The one with unbelievable sale racks? The one where you can find a birdcage necklace--with a little twirling teal bird inside? Yes, that store. And of course, the advertisment has a sticker you can peel back to reveal your savings. Of course it's tantalizing. You just may be the lucky winner of a Thirty Percent Off Coupon.

You wait until you get into the house to peel back the sticker, with each step now blind to the glory around you as you think about your son's math homework from last night in which you helped him figure out questions about probability (okay, truth time: you told him to look back at the lesson and figure it out for himself. Teach a man to fish, right?) But you're thinking about probability nonetheless and wondering what might be the probability that you'll land the Big Three-Oh.

Inside your house, all is dim, the sunlight itself seeming to have hidden its eyes in anticipation. Slowly, you slip your fingernail under the edge and then begin to lift the sticker. Then you pause. Maybe you don't want the 30 after all. For if you get it, you'll feel obliged to at least go to the store and check the sale racks. 30% off something that's already marked down 70%? It's practically free! How can you not go? But if you only get a 15, then maybe you won't feel any compulsion at all. If you only get a 15, then you can stay home, oblivious to any possible sales, convincing yourself that they probably weren't that good anyway. You will save money! Saving money is good!

You lift the sticker, hoping now, desperately hoping not to get a 30. You're lifting from the right, so the first digit you spy is a "0." Could be a 20, you whisper. I can stay home with a 20. I won't get sucked in with a 20. You shut your eyes and tear off the rest of the sticker, a painless rip like your mother used to do with band-aids on your skinned knees.

What you see is not painless at all.

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