Happy Birthday, Happy Shamwow!

The Shamwow Guy sits on the curb outside of the toy store and lights a doobie. Fuck dis life, he thinks.


Of course, there’s no escape. There never is.

Behind the Shamwow Guy comes a familiar voice. The voice that kills peace and ruins happiness.

“Hey dad,” the voice says. “Can we go inside yet?”

“Yeah, kid,” says the Shamwow Guy. “Let’s get dis over wit’.” He stomps his joint out on the pavement and taps his son on the shoulder, pointing him in and past the automatic double doors into the gigantic toy store.

The Shamwow Guy’s kid deserves a nice birthday present this year, and the Shamwow Guy knows it. The kid posted straight A’s for the sixth year in a row, and he’s only been in school six years. I mean, the kid’s practically a little Dave Einstein, and the Shamwow Guy knows he ought to get his son something nice. I mean, it’s his birthday.

What the kid wants isn’t much of a mystery either. The hints have been ample, if not particularly subtle. Aces, pop. That’s what the kid would say. Owning a bicycle would be totally aces. Of course, he’d usually say it when he would get home from walking the three hour distance that separated school from home. How many years this has been going on for, the Shamwow Guy cannot remember. Six or more, maybe.

Sure, he wants a bicycle, the Shamwow Guy thinks. Everyone wants a bicycle. Two wheels, some spokes. Bor-ring. You want a boring bicycle for a boring life, he reasons.

Father and son march through the store, the former following the latter, through the action figures, plush toys, girlie toys, video games and board games, all the way to the furthest back aisle where a row of bicycles and cycling equipment are set on display. Not a very exciting display, observes the Shamwow Guy. Just a stack of bikes on a rack. Big whoop.

The kid doesn’t waste any time. He knows which one he wants. He walks up to it, the shiny 10-speed red one, and runs his small hand over the frame. He’s done this before. “I think I want this one,” the kid says.

“Dis one? You want dis one?” the Shamwow Guy asks, incredulously. He shakes his head. “You don’t want dis one.”

Of course he wants dis one, the Shamwow Guy thinks. Of course he wants the eighty dollar one. Kid doesn’t know dis from dat.

“I’ve checked it out on the internet,” the kid offers. “And it’s gotten a lot of positive reviews. It’s really durable.”

“Kid, listen t’ me,” says the Shamwow Guy, bending at the knees to meet the kid’s eye line, not patronizing at all. Honest. “Ya can’t believe everything ya read on the internet. I can tell ya, just by lookin’ at dis thing, it ain’t gonna last. Just ain’t. I mean, it’s just a mess.”

The kid considers this for a moment. “Well, I don’t know,” he says. “I guess I just really want it. And I promise to take care of it.”

Please, thinks the Shamwow Guy. Don’t gimme the cute kid syndrome. He’s all cheeks and freckles, this kid is, and he’s cute as a button, sure, but he thinks he’s gonna run that game by me? Please!

“Nah, kid, what you want is right here,” he says, grabbing a clamshell package of plastic Walkie-Talkies ($8.99) from the shelf behind him. “Look at dis. Are you kidding me? These are great, I mean, this is much better than a bicycle.”

The kid isn’t convinced. Polite as he is, the kid listens and is patient, but his eyes can’t help but keep wandering away from his father and back to the 10-speed red bicycle.

“Listen, kid, I know kids with bicycles,” the father continues. “And they ain’t happy. You think they have good lives? Kid, I’m telling you, their lives are terrible. Bicycles don’t make life better, just forget about it.”

From around the corner, a helpful employee eyes the pair, the very picture of how-may-I-help-you-sir. The Shamwow Guy shoots him a look that should be front page of the New York Times. “You gettin’ dis, toy boy?” Quickly, the helpful employee immediately finds something else to busy himself, an aisle away from the bicycles and the fella with the headset.

“Look, kid, bottom line, these walkie-talkies are great, just great,” the Shamwow Guy says. He holds the package up to his ear to prove it.

Then, as if he were suddenly receiving a message, his face contorts. “What’s dat? Oh, you have a message for my kid?” He turns and faces his son, serious as can be. “The walkie talkie, chalky balky, rocky dockies wanna go home wi’choo, whatta ya say?”

The kid bites his lip. Big brown eyes look at the floor. He is quiet. “I want the bicycle,” he whispers, barely audible.

“I mean, look, they can’t hold on to these, can they? They’re a very popular item, kid.” The Shamwow Guy cups his hand around his mouth and hollers to the next aisle over where the helpful employee went, “isn’t that right, chief?”

He doesn’t wait for a response. “They don’t got all day for this, I mean, what are ya waiting for?”

He taps his son on the shoulder and motions toward the front of the store where the check-out lanes are. “Ya made a good choice, kid.”

The kid will be getting Walkie-Talkies for his birthday. They will remain unopened and collect dust under his bed, along with all of his previous birthday presents, sitting right next to his worn, dirty shoes.


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