Jimmy thought the man's nose was too big. He was wearing ratty clothes. He looked poor- he had dirt smeared on his face, and a tattered brown jacket that looked like it had barely survived World War I. He was talking too quickly. The man had come up and told him that he could get $100 on the spot. When he asked the man how? The man became very nervous. Now he was standing and blathering about something Jimmy didn't understand. He was only 11, but he didn't think anyone could understand what this man was trying to get at.
People passed on the left and right. The man would glance at one of them every once in a while, but he would always look at the ground, especially when they looked back.
"It's for my daughter, you see." Jimmy cocked his head.
"So you're a daddy?" The man's face lit up.
"Yes, yes, that's it, I'm a daddy!" You would have guessed that the man had just found out about her birth. "It's a girl!" echoed through the boy's mind. The man looked like he had won the lottery.
"And now I need you to use this-" he pointed to what looked like a toy gun in his hand- "on me so that I can go and find my daughter."
Jimmy scratched his head. He didn't know what those medical doctors or those doctors that work with the brain called crazy, but if he ever became one himself, he was pretty sure that this man was crazy. He looked from the man's pleading eyes to the object in his hand.
It was one of those toys you'd expect to find in a toy store from the 1930s. A very small one, bright red, with a ridge sticking up all around, showing where the manufacturer joined the two halves together. And just like you'd see in those science fiction movies of the time, there were three prongs with little metal balls on them, coming off of the front of the gun. The barrel of the gun narrowed and then closed off altogether to a point.
There's no point in making a gun if the front is closed off. How are the bullets going to come out of there?
Suddenly the man was moving. Jimmy found that his hand was open. The man slapped the device into his hand, closed the boy's fingers around it, then took three large steps back.
"SHOOT ME!" Jimmy stood, dumbfounded. He thought he should be embarrassed, but he was too interested in the man to to that. What did he want? The man's shoulders drooped, and it looked like he was going to give it up, to turn away.
A body was flying at him. Without thinking Jimmy pulled his arm up and pulled the trigger. Reflex. Jimmy blinked twice at what he saw, not understanding.
"Jimmy, let's go!" Mrs. Rogers came stepping up to the corner of the sidewalk, where she had left her son for a moment to run into the flower shop. But the boy wasn't standing on the corner. He was bent in half, peering under a bench which an older gentleman was sitting under.
"Jimmy!" the boy looked up, and she motioned with the bag in her hand. "Come on, we can't be late."
"Mom, I'm looking for... looking for..."
"Looking for what? Hurry up, we've got to get home; I've got to get dinner on."
"But he was just here." She sighed, and ushered Jimmy away from the bench.
"Honey, you shouldn't bother that man. He's probably waiting for someone."
"No, not him mom. I wasn't talking about that man on the bench." She was already walking back to the corner.
"I'm sorry sweetie, but you'll have to tell me about it on the way home. Now come on." Despondent, Jimmy trudged after his mom, but not without several glances back to the street corner. The man was nowhere to be found. All he had to show for the experience was a toy gun.
Jimmy couldn't get away from the dinner table quickly enough. He had to know more about it.