Carol Ann Evans
c 2009 All Rights Reserved
word count: 2146
Bobby sat in the fitting room chair in J C Penney’s with a fierce look of resentment on his face. Why do I have to go shopping for dresses? Bobby looked out of the fitting room door. He could see women browsing through dresses on the huge racks located just outside the fitting room. He knew the entire department would be packed with bargain shoppers, mostly women. It was always full of women shopping for dresses when Penney’s had a sale. He knew because he always had to come shopping with his mom and sisters. He heard the familiar loud screeching the hangers made as they were pulled this way and that along metal rods making space between them so their garment could be viewed.
A look of satisfaction came over his face. He remembered the time he had twisted Cindy’s braided pigtails around a huge paperclip he had found on the playground. His first grade teacher had called his mother before Bobby got home from school. Bobby asked how she knew about the prank.
His mother said, “A little birdie told me.”
Bobby spent the whole summer looking for a little tattle-tale birdie, except for the week he was grounded, but he never found it. That was a good prank. He grinned.
Bobby stood to stretch and yawn.
“I’m going to wait outside the fitting rooms,” he announced.
“Bobby, don’t you go wandering off,” his mother said.
“We don’t want to spend our time looking for you,” his sister DeDe yelled.
“Yeah,” his other sister, Lydia, chimed in, “this is our time to shop for dresses with Mom.”
“I’ll sit in the orange chair by the big mirror,” he said.
Bobby settled in the chair and began to look at all the different people in the busy dress department. Yep, mostly women. He saw mothers attempting to look at dresses, but their young children made it almost impossible because they hung from their mother’s arms like heavy weights. He saw groups of three and five teenaged girls giggling as they scraped hangers back and forth, holding dresses out for inspection without taking them off the hanger. Grandmothers jerking hangers by yanking on the dresses that hung from them. They made a selection and held the dress up to their granddaughters to assess shoulder width and hem length. And he saw old ladies with their purses tucked neatly under their arms, but clutched so tightly the purse contents bulged out on either side of the gripping arm, leaving only one arm free for dress selections. Clutchers! Bobby grinned.
The dress racks were large and small. Some were long rectangles with equally long rods of dresses on each side, and some were display-type racks with dresses hanging layered like the steps of a ladder. Bobby’s eyes stopped moving. Down the aisle not far from where he was sitting, a young man was hanging dresses on a round rack. The rack was as wide as the small monkey bars at school. Bobby stood up to get a better look. It was on wheels. There was a shelf almost like a seat attached to the frame just above the center of the bottom of the rack. The dresses would completely hide it from view once they were all placed on the rack. I wonder if I could…
“Bobby, what are you looking at?” his mother asked.
Bobby jumped and turned to face her.
“N-N-Nothing, Mom,” he answered.
She looked at him suspiciously. Her left arm was covered with her dress selections. Her purse hung behind her right shoulder. Her right fist was planted on her right hip. It stopped her purse from swinging forward. DeDe sprang out from behind her.
“We’re going over there to look for more dresses,” she said, pointing toward the back of the dress department.
Bobby smiled. His gaze shifted to the round dress rack in the opposite direction.
“You stay here and we’ll be back for you in a little while,” Lydia commanded.
Bobby shifted his gaze back to his family. His mother’s suspicious look hadn’t changed. She shifted the dresses to her opposite arm.
“Are we going home soon?” Bobby asked. “I told Sam and the guys I’d meet them at the field by one o’clock for a ball game.”
“We have to look at all the sale racks; then we can go,” his mother said.
Bobby groaned and sat back in his chair, defeated.
His sisters and mother chatted and laughed as they walked toward the back of the store.
Bobby looked at the round rack again. The young man had finished hanging the dresses. Bobby glanced in all directions. No one was approaching the rack. Bobby grinned and darted toward it. He circled the rack, divided the dresses, made an entrance to his hideout and disappeared.
Bobby shifted himself to sit cross-legged on the shelf. He could straighten his back to sit fully erect and still remain completely hidden. He giggled.
“Did you hear that?” someone said outside the barrier of dresses.
Without moving his body, Bobby attempted to catch a glimpse of his visitors. The dresses shielded most of the light and a wooden display on top of the rack made it difficult for him to see outside the rack without moving the dresses. The only light that seeped into the center where he sat was from the gap the hanger rod made. Bobby looked down and sighed.
While he stared down, a pair of shoes approached the rack. They were fairly new, black patent leather high heels. What type of person would wear these shoes? Certainly not an old lady clutching a purse or a mother with children hanging on her. Maybe a secretary or a teacher wore these shoes.
Miss Kissinger, his first grade teacher, had shoes like these. That’s it. These shoes belonged to a teacher, he was certain, but he had to know for sure. He reached up to part some dresses just enough to peek out when another pair of shoes appeared at the rack.
These shoes belonged to a man. In fact, the only man who wore shoes like these was his gym teacher, Mr. Peterson. Everybody knew that Mr. Peterson wore the only tennis shoes in the whole city with buckles. No laces, just three buckles on each shoe. All of the kids called him “Buckleson,” but he didn’t mind.
“Are you ready to go, sweetie?” a man’s voice asked.
“Yes, Dave,” the woman’s voice answered.
No way! Bobby strained to peek through some dresses as the couple left. Buckleson and Kissinger? Wait ‘til I tell Sam and the guys.
Bobby remembered what he had promised Sam-- a ball game at one o’clock. He wasn’t going to be there because he was stuck at Penney’s with his mom and sisters. Bobby hung his head.
Another pair of shoes quickly approached the rack. They belonged to a teenaged girl. Bobby knew because Lydia had shoes exactly like them. Bobby played the shoe guessing game for a long time. He hadn’t heard his mother or sisters call his name so he stayed in his hideout. He was quite content to remain invisible and spy on shoes.
Soon he forgot about the ball game and concentrated on identifying shoes. He got good at matching them with the people who were wearing them. Bobby developed a game—identify the shoes, close his eyes, imagine the person, make a guess, and spy on the person through the dress hangers to see if he was right. The routine entertained Bobby for a while; but soon he began to feel restless. He started making noises from inside the dress rack. Maybe I can get someone to scream. Bobby saw people look suspiciously around the store after he made different noises but nobody screamed. Bobby sat in the middle of the dress rack thinking of something else he could do to cause a commotion.
A pair of black low-heeled loafers stopped in front of the rack. Bobby closed his eyes. An old lady clutching her purse. Bobby opened his eyes. Without warning, his hands reached out from under the rack and grabbed the lady’s ankles. A blood-curdling scream filled the dress department. Bobby giggled. The lady ran away. Bobby saw her through the hangers. She waddled off as fast as she could, her purse clutched in one arm, and her mouth covered with her other hand. Bobby sat back with a look of satisfaction. He closed his eyes and played the whole prank over in his mind.
He repeated the prank for half an hour. He waited for more low-heeled loafers. Each time he spotted a pair, he grabbed the ankles above them. And again, a blood-curdling scream would echo throughout the dress department. When Bobby looked out there would be another old lady waddling away with one arm clutching her purse and the other hand covering her mouth.
Suddenly the dresses parted. The store manager frowned at Bobby and motioned for him to come out of his hiding place. Bobby obeyed. An old clutcher lady was standing beside the manager. She frowned at Bobby, also. Her arms were folded across her stomach. She still had her purse clutched under one arm.
“Did you grab this woman’s ankles?” the store manager asked, pointing a scolding finger at Bobby.
Bobby shrugged. “I didn’t mean no harm,” he said.
“You scared me to death,” the old clutcher said. She was patting her heart with her free hand.
Bobby shrugged again. “You still look alive.”
“Young man,” the store manager said, “it isn’t nice for little boys to grab people’s ankles from under a dress rack.”
“B-o-b-b-y?” his mother approached from behind the store manager. “What’s going on here?”
The store manager explained the situation to Bobby’s mother. Bobby watched her facial expression change from inquisitive to angry. Bobby’s mother looked at him.
“Why did you do that? You scared this poor woman to death,” his mother said.
Bobby looked at the clutcher lady.
“She still looks alive,” he said.
“Of course she is still alive,” his mother said. “You follow the manager to his office and I’ll get your sisters and meet you there.” Bobby trailed after the manager.
The manager told Bobby to sit down then left the room.
Bobby sat in another orange chair in the manager’s office. He looked around and then looked at his shoes. He closed his eyes. Six year old boy. Bobby opened his eyes and grinned.
Why is everyone so upset I grabbed old ladies’ ankles? It isn’t as bad as when I folded a piece of metal in a “U” and shoved it into the electrical outlet in the basement. I blew every fuse in the house. And it isn’t as bad as when I lit a whole box of fire crackers behind the barn. How was I supposed to know DeDe was bringing her horse in?
The manager and Bobby’s mother entered the office. The manager was holding some papers and a camera. Bobby looked at them. They both had stern faces. Bobby glanced at his sisters outside the office door. They glared back and shook reprimanding fingers at him. The manager closed the door.
Bobby sat on his hands and began to swing his feet. The manager spoke first.
“We can not tolerate such pranks in this store.”
“I’m sure it won’t happen again,” Bobby’s mother said.
She looked at Bobby firmly. He stopped swinging his feet.
“Bobby isn’t allowed back in this store for one year,” the manager announced.
“We love to shop here,” his mother pleaded. “Won’t you reconsider?”
“That’s my decision.”
The manager took Bobby’s picture. A square paper came out the bottom of the camera and the manager placed it in a folder with Bobby’s name on it.
“Looks like we’ll be shopping at Sears or Bremer’s from now on,” Bobby’s mother said. “C’mon Bobby, we’re leaving.”
Bobby grabbed his mother’s hand. She led him out of the office.
Bob “Bobby” Robison is the original “son” of Robison & Son construction company. Later Bob Robison and his brother took over the business, changing it’s name to Robison & “Sons.” Robison and Sons still serves Port Orchard today.
Bob’s family settled in Port Orchard in 1906. The family had a dairy in Black Jack Valley. The last parcel of family property is located on Lider Road. The original milk barn still stands across the street.
This is a story from Bob’s youth, it reveals his curious mischievous nature as a child.