“So, what are you thinking about, Clara?”
The little girl looked up from her burrito bowl and squinted one eye to avoid the light coming through the window of the restaurant. “Oh,” she waved a fork and shrugged dismissively. But then she smiled and squinted again. “So, I was just thinking about Seward. Where Macey and Annabella live.”
“Yeah. It’s a small town, right?”
“But it’s not like, super super small. People there still need to buy things there right?”
She leaned back into a shadow and took a deep breath, “Well… I think they only have one grocery store in that town, if I remember correctly, and it only sells food.”
“I think that’s right.”
“Well,” she continued, “What if they want to buy other things?”
“Like, I don’t know, couches, or paper, or socks, or anything that is not milk, cheese, corn, whatever food. I think what they really need is a Fred Meyer sort of store. So people don’t have to drive all the way to Anchorage to buy those kinds of things.”
“This is what you were thinking about just now while you were eating lunch?”
“Yeah,” she looked back down at her bowl. “I guess so.”
“Well… alright,” I folded my hands. “I guess you could do a study and find out how much it would cost to start a store like that, and how much it would cost to ship things there, and then you could compare that cost to how much you think you could make selling things.”
“I thought about that,” she said.
“Uh huh. Oh, and remember you would have to factor in that there is already a store there, selling groceries, so you would only get a portion of the grocery money from the city.”
“I thought about that too actually,” her eye sparkled strangely and she squinted again as she held back a smirk. “I think it wouldn’t take very long before people wanted to shop at my store more than the old one. I think they would probably go out of business pretty quickly.” She made a strange motion with her hand that looked something like a ship slowly sinking.
“Oh? Oh no… Do you really think so?”
Her head bobbled back and forth a few times. “Yeah. Probably. I mean, why would anyone want to shop there when I had a store that offered them the same thing only better and with more options?”
“Huh…” I said, glancing at her brother and sister to make sure they weren’t as frightened as I was. Lydia was digging inside a dissected taco with her hand. Gideon was eating a quesadilla from the wrong end. Neither of them seemed to be paying any attention to the fact that their sister was on the other side of the table slowly transforming into a pirate.
I changed the subject and life moved on.
About three hours later I was sitting at my desk when my phone rang. It was Clara. She was distraught. I walked into the hallway.
“Hey, settle down. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know what to do?” She groaned. “It is such a beautiful day, and I was going to set up my snowcone stand.”
“Why can’t you?”
“I can!” she audibly wrung her hands. “I just. Oh Dad. The neighbor boy. I was just out in the yard getting my table ready and I saw that HE set up a stand at the end of HIS driveway across the street.”
“Oh dear… This IS a pickle.”
“Well, I don’t think you have to worry, right? You just set up your snowcone stand and I think people will still buy them from you. You don’t have to feel threatened at all by whatever this other kid is doing.”
“What? No, Dad, you don’t understand. His stand, it’s such a mess. He doesn’t even have a sign! I’m not worried that people are going to go to his stand instead of mine. I’m worried that I’ll hurt his feelings if I set up my stand and no one shows up to HIS.”
I quickly sat down on a set of stairs and rest my forehead in my hand. “Oh. Oh, Clara,” I said softly. “Thank God. You’re not a pirate after all.”