Clara picked up a Magic 8 Ball at the store today. “Oh! Look Dad! I’ve seen these before. Cousin Niqui has one.” She shook it softly and rolled it around in her hands. “How does it work?”

“It will answer your questions.” I told her. “You have to ask a ‘Yes – No’ question and then shake it and then it will give you the answer in the little window. Does that make sense?”

She nodded and then looked up at the ceiling as her tiny robot brain processed all of the possible questions she could ask. After several seconds she reanimated, eyes and mouth snapping wide. She had settled on the perfect question. A ‘Yes – No’ question to beat all other ‘Yes – No’ questions. “Okay!” She lifted the ball up to her mouth and screamed into it, “Ball! When did Yes and No become capable of working!?” She shook the ball above her head and looked down at it for half a second before repeating everything again even louder.

“WHEN DID YES AND NO BECOME CAPABLE OF WORKING, BALL?”

It all happened so quickly that my brain wasn’t able to keep up. What was even being asked? I guess it is technically a ‘Yes – No’ question, right?

I suddenly realized after three or four iterations of her nonsensical routine that crowds of holiday shoppers were turning in stunned silence to face the little girl. People shuffled out of aisles up to a hundred feet away just to see what ridiculous creature was screaming such insane questions in the middle of the toy aisle. Were we being attacked by some crazed lunatic? They looked back and forth at the girl and then at me, and I sort of woke up to the fact that I was her father and should probably be doing something to intervene. Someone had to disarm this deranged little girl before things became violent, and I guess it had to be me.

“Clara!” I lunged around my cart, overturning a hot wheels display in the process. “Clara! Give me the ball!” I struggled to grab it out of her hand and smiled an apology to the tired crowd of other parents. “Sssshh… You don’t have to yell.” I held a hand over her mouth. “Please?”

The little girl didn’t seem to notice that anything was out of the ordinary. “What does it say Dad?” She pointed at my hands. “When did Yes and No become capable of working?”

“What?” I shook my head at her and looked down. “Oh.” the message slowly floated through the murky bubbles.

“Okay, It says: My sources say No.”

She was quiet for a few peaceful moments as she processed this voice from the great beyond. “But that doesn’t make any sense,” she said blankly. “Why is it refusing to answer my question?”

I sighed. “Just… I don’t know… Garbage in, garbage out I guess… You know what, let’s go get some Eggnog.” We turned to walk away down an aisle of Barbie dolls, “Maybe a lot of Eggnog.” I hesitated before continuing and asked one silent question to myself as I placed the magic ball back on the shelf. A silent prayer shared by all weary young fathers of little girls.

“Outlook Not So Good,” the ball replied ominously.

Yeah. I thought so.