The Little Young Man

how do kids percieve adults?

At first glance, he seemed a friendly sort of person, yet there was something about him that caught my eye. There was an open expression on his face, characteristic of boys his age...coupled with...worry? As I sat behind the 'Lost and Found' center of the mall, watching him closely, I saw him hesitate outside, and then he walked in.

"My sister is missing," he informed me, trying to appear casual, but I could see the fear in his eyes, "She's four years of age."

"What is her name?"I asked, pulling the Public Address System microphone towards myself.

"No, please" he almost pleaded me to stop, "My parents are in another store...they don't know that Amy's lost."

I was flummoxed, to say the least. This twelve-year-old boy wanted me tomanuallysearch for his four-year-old sister. Didn't he realize that it was well nigh impossible?

"It's alright. They won't shout at you" I reassured him, picking up the microphone again.

"No, no, no" he almost wailed, his voice cracking under the strain, "This is the first time they allowed me to babysit her..."

This, I realized, was male ego at work. He looked like he was going to burst out crying in disappointment, but was trying very hard to control it. I had to humour him, I decided. He needed to realize that getting a shouting from his parents was better than living with the guilt of a missing sister all his life.

I got up silently and led him out. We started searching in the kids' center first. I guessed that there was a high chance of a four-year-old girl probably playing inside the mini-house-for-kids contraption that was the main attraction of the kids' center.

No such luck.

There was no missing girl in the two extensive toy stores, or near the elevators. I could see the boy getting more and more anxious on each passing aisle, but he still refused to give up. He simply refused to accept the futility of a search conducted in such a haphazard and primitive manner.

"Why don't we go back and announce her name on the PA system?" I offered, tired of crouching in corners, searching in all the possible places where a small girl could hide.

"One more store, please" he begged me, "Please, just one more. There's a book store on the first floor that Amy absolutely adores..."

I couldn't bring myself to refuse, though my feet were being butchered in my regulation three-inch block heels. "One more" I gave in.

Infused with new hope, the boy walked purposefully towards the store. The cashier saw me entering, and then beckoned to me. She must have recognized me from my distinctive lavender uniform.

"Yes?" I enquired.

"There's a young girl in the kids' section," she whispered, "I thought that she was lost, because she wandered in alone. I was waiting for a Lost and Found announcement."

"Thank you" I sighed in relief and hurried towards the kids' section.

But the boy had been faster. When I reached the kids' aisle, I saw him sitting on the floor, next to a very animated young girl, who was showing him a book that had particularly interested her. I saw him give her a tight hug and warn her not to wander off on her own again. But he didn't reprimand her, not even once. Very calm and collected, he told his sister that they would come again to buy the book, and left with her. Before leaving, he turned and thanked me.

"My parents always treat me as a twin to Amy" he said, "Now I'll show them that I'm not so small. I'm a young man," he concluded with pride.

"You're a young man" I acknowledged, amused at his declaration.

He was still a young child at heart- it would be years before he turned into the 'self proclaimed' young man, but it was nice to see the open, friendly smile on his face, with no worry to mar the innocence.

The End

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