“You want to see a trick?” the old man behind the cash register at the local grocery store asked the little girl. She was holding her daddy’s hand.
“Yeah,” she replied, a little uncertain. A small smile surfaced anyway.
The cashier – Les, according to his nametag – pulled out a strip of blank receipt paper. “I’m going to trace my thumb three times, okay? The secret is making sure you bend your thumb a little.” His voice had a gentle, enchanting Mister Rogers quality to it.
The girl’s father picked her up so she could have a better view. Les took out a pencil from his pocket and began his outlines. “One, two, and… three.”
Les spun the paper around. He drew a large dot on the tip of the first traced thumb, then planted a second dot somewhere in the middle. He finished by sketching a floppy ear.
“You can turn it into a dog,” Les said as he concentrated on his second picture. “Or a horse…”
“A horsie!” The girl clapped her hands wildly.
Les and the girl’s father shared a laugh as he finished the final animal. “You can even draw a reindeer.” He uncapped a red Sharpie – which seemed to appear from out of thin air – and colored in the reindeer’s nose.
Les handed the paper to the little girl. “This is for you.” She thanked him and beamed ear to ear as she held the three-thumbs-turned-animals in her delicate hands.
“Were you an art teacher?” the girl’s father asked Les as he began to ring up their groceries.
“No,” Les replied, eyes twinkling. “I was a pediatric nurse for almost forty years. And now I’m just a grandpa.”
Special thanks to the kind cashier my daughter and I met the other day. This story is loosely based on our interaction with him. The above photo is what he drew.
Thank you so much for reading “Three Thumbs” and for subscribing to Along the Hudson. Writing fiction brings me joy, and I’m humbled to know there are people who are here on this journey with me.
I hope you bump into a “Les” today or choose to be a Les for someone else.
Have a great week!