The only customer in the shop, I stood waiting for the nice lady behind the counter to fill my meager order: one white creme-filled donut and two glazed cinnamon twists.
Behind me, the donut shop’s front door swung open with a resounding “ding” and in stepped a graying man, sharply dressed, with two small children flanking him. Also wearing their Sunday best, they rushed passed him, straight for the counter. Their dress shoes skidded across the slick vinyl floor.
“Now, remember, one dollar each,” he called after them.
The little boy, about six or seven years old, turned his attention to the refrigerated case. Perhaps he was sucked in by the recognizable brand names like Coke, Red Bull, and Sunny D. The man ignored him.
The little girl, a blonde about four years old, pointed at a tray filled with a variety of sprinkled donuts. ”I want the chocolate-covered one back there,” she said, and pointed.
I handed my money to the lady helping me, but kept an eye on what was happening.
The other worker pulled the tray out and set it atop the case, then tilted it as if making a ramp for the treats to slide down onto the girl’s head.
The donuts held fast.
The little girl stood on her tiptoes and peered over the case. “That one,” she said. She wasn’t tall enough for her hand to get very close to the donuts, but she appeared to be pointing to one at the back, topped with shredded coconut. The worker lifted one that sat three or four donuts away and placed it on a floral print plate lined with wax paper.
“No, that one,” the little girl said.
“That’s fine, that will be fine,” the man said.
“Oh, want two?” the worker said, and selected another donut identical to the first. Now the little girl’s plate held two donuts she didn’t want. The language barrier was not helping.
The man huffed. “No, no, just one donut,” he said.
The worker took away the extra.
Without whining or raising her voice, the little girl pointed again. “No, I want that one.”
To the little girl, whose only stipulation ostensibly was a one-dollar spending limit, the man said, “They’re all the same.” Then, to the worker, “That will be fine.”
“I want that one.”
“No, they’re all the same. It’s fine.”
There were no customers behind them, and it wasn’t clear to me whether the man was in a hurry, frustrated at the communication gap, or both.
The little girl spun halfway ’round on her toes and leaned hard against the case, then slid down into a squatting position. She frowned and muttered, “Now I’m not going to like my donut.”
The man, now busy giving his own order, didn’t seem to notice. “Yes, I’ll have the kolache with jalapeños,” he said.
Part of me — no, most of me, wished the woman would give him a plain kolache and say, “All same, asshole.”
Instead, she silently filled his order.