Excitement at the Mall

By Linda Porter Carlyle

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans slowly pushed one black checker into the next row. She paused and carefully looked over the positions of all the pieces on the board before she removed her finger from the checker. “There!” she said. “Your turn.”

Joseph gazed silently at the checkerboard. He sighed.

“It’s your turn!” Mac repeated impatiently.

Joseph pushed the board away. “I don’t really feel like playing checkers,” he said.

“What’s the matter with you?” Mac demanded. “This is the third game you’ve said you don’t want to play!” She ticked the games off on her fingers. “First, we played Dominoes and you quit. Then we played Go Fish, and you said it was a silly game. Now you don’t want to play Checkers. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know,” Joseph answered. He shrugged his shoulders.

“Are you feeling desultory?” Mac asked, grinning.

Joseph looked at Mac with startled eyes. “I don’t think so. Is it contagious?” he asked.

There was a sputtering sound from G.M. who was washing dishes at the kitchen sink.

Mac giggled. “It’s not a disease! Desultory is my newest word. It means kind of unconnected—just going from one thing to the other with no real plan,” she explained.

“Well, it sounds like something horrible!” Joseph shuddered. “Like, I have leprosy. I have desultory!”

G.M. laughed out loud. “Where did you find that word, Mac?” she asked.

“I like to read the Word Power section in the Reader’s Digest,” Mac answered. “I like to pick out one new word and learn it. I thought desultory was an elegant-looking word.”

“Well, I think desultory describes Joseph very well this afternoon,” G.M. agreed. She squeezed out the dish cloth. “Why don’t the two of you pick up the game, go sit by the stove, and figure out what it is that you want to do.”

Mac and Joseph put all the black and red checkers back into their box. Joseph carried it into the living room and put it in its place in the bookcase. Mac sank down on the rug in front of the wood stove. “I wonder if it’s ever going to stop raining.” She shook her head, bouncing her read curls.

“I like rain,” Joseph said, sitting down cross-legged beside her.

“I know! I know!” Mac said. “So what do you really want to do on this rainy afternoon?”

Joseph watched the raindrops chase each other down the window panes. Suddenly he snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed. “You know how Pastor Chuck was talking about how it’s exciting to serve God. Well, that’s what I want to do. Something exciting! Let’s do something to serve God!”

Mac looked at Joseph in awe. “That’s a great idea!” she agreed. “What shall we do?”

“Hum-m-m,” Joseph muttered. “I haven’t figured that part out yet.”

“We can’t rake leaves for any of the neighbors,” Mac said.

“We can’t do any outside stuff today,” Joseph answered.

Mac rested her chin in her hand. The stove happily warmed her back. Then she suddenly sat up straight. “I know!” she exclaimed. “Let’s go to the mall! Let’s see if G.M. will take us to the mall.”

“Shopping?” Joseph asked. “I thought we were trying to think of a way to serve God, and you want to go shopping?

“I don’t mean go to the mall to go shopping,” Mac protested. “I mean go to the mall to serve God. It’s a brilliant idea!”

“What idea? What are we going to do there?”

“Well, I heard my mom say that this is the busiest shopping season of the year. People are buying presents for Christmas, and the stores are having lots of sales. And my dad said that this is the loneliest season of the year for lots of people. Maybe they live far away from their families. Or maybe they’re not getting along with their families. Or maybe they don’t have any family left. Anyway, my dad said that lots of people get depressed during this time of the year, and it’s supposed to be a happy time with Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything.”

“I still don’t get it,” Joseph said with a puzzled frown. “Why do you want to go to the mall and look at unhappy people?”

Mac jumped to her feet. “We could go to the mall and do small, kind things. We could stand by the outside doors and open them up for people who are coming in or going out. There are mothers with strollers, and they have a hard time with those doors. There are older people. And people with lots of packages. We could open the doors, smile, and say, ‘Good afternoon.’ We could surprise people with unexpected kindness!”

“And maybe G.M. would take us to the cookie store before we come home!” Joseph said. “No! Wait! We should take some money and buy a cookie for G.M.! That would be an unexpected kindness!”

“I love it!” Mac shouted.

Joseph and Mac dashed for the kitchen. “Will you take us to the mall?” Joseph called. “Please!”

G.M. looked up from wiping the stove top. “Shopping?” she asked. “You two want to go shopping?”

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