It was a weekday afternoon in the parking lot of a gleaming urban strip mall. From stores with names like Work ‘n Gear, several people hurried to their cars carrying bulky plastic bags.

“Mommy, I don’t waaaa-naaaa!” whined a sandy-haired boy of about five who was being half pulled, half dragged by a 40-ish woman. The boy, taking two steps for her every one, struggled to keep up.

“Mommy, I don’t”–jerk–“I don’t wanna!” The woman ignored him, her lips set in a firm, thin line.


The woman then stopped abruptly, causing the boy to smack into her leg. She turned, bent to his level, and thrust her face close to his.

“I’m not gonna tell you again,” she said through clenched teeth. “I am not your mother.”