He wore a mask. Jay didn’t see it that way as he wandered the aisles of the WalMart, hunting down some new accessory for his tablet. He hides his true nature as a creature from Outside the universe easier than I hide being a magician, but it is not always enough to avoid attention. He is small and pale and tugs on the hand of one of the staff, asking about a micro sync cable.
It comes out as ‘micro thync,” thanks to his lisp, but he’s sucking on his right thumb as he asks and people explain his lisp away as that, not thinking further about it. Not defining him by it. The staff member crouches down, smiling and asking what model Jay wants. He recites it, and they file it away as precious kid, perhaps eight. Maybe seven. Lead him to the aisle he wants and help him get the item. He gives them a huge hug in reply and bounds down the aisles to me, informing me that he found it firmly and dragging me toward the check-out lanes.
The staff member grins over Jay’s head and I return it and ruffle his hair as we walk. He’s far less ashamed than he used to be about thumb-sucking in stress; I caused the habit to emerge by drawing on his future potential to save a town, damaging him inside and out like the lisp is another echo of. He’s turning it into a weapon, using it to make people forget about him. Because a ten year old who lisps travelling with a magician is someone who can be noticed and Jay hates that so much he’s made masks to hide behind.
And he doesn’t even notice it at all, as innocents seldom do. I wonder how much of even that is a mask now, but keep the thoughts to myself as I pay for the cable and wonder idly what other masks he might someday use and how much of Jay is entirely a mask to cover how scared he is of his own potential.
He ceases sucking his thumb the moment we leave the shop with a huge sigh of relief and opens up the package, plugging the cord into the spare battery for his phone. “I can use it with my tablet now,” he says proudly.
“And that is worth that entire performance?” I say dryly.
He blinks, thinks about it, nods. “Yup!”
“There is a creature from Outside the universe hiding in the mens washrooms at the food court; how is this cable supposed to help us deal with it again?”
Jay grins. “I can put it up on youtube and make lotth of money!”