The water bed store in Evanston had a half dozen customers when the family walked in. They headed for a salesman and he told them he would be with them in a second. Other salesmen, too, were busy finalizing deals.
The boy--he probably was three or four--pointed to a customer who had the Michael Jackson skin disease and in that cute but very loud little child voice asked, "What happened to his face? Mom, what happened to his face?"
Immediately the other adults began talking to each other as if they too had been in the same embarrassing position at one time or another, but the child's mother just bent over and very quietly said, "Everyone is different. You have to remember that. People come in all kinds of colors and shades and some of them"--and suddenly everyone stopped what they were doing (even the salesmen finalizing their deals) and turned to the mother to listen--"some of them come in more than one shade. That's what makes people so neat and interesting. There's just so many different kinds. Do you understand?"
"Yes," her son answered. "It's another kind of knowledge."
People began to clap, but the mother, oblivious to all of the attention focused on her, stood up, walked over to one of the water beds, and plopped right down on top of it.
On a northbound el train, a woman passed from one car to another holding a mess of key chains. Attached to each chain was the planet earth, diminished to the size of a jawbreaker, along with a note requesting money. She handed the key chains to passengers who showed interest and set them on the empty seats next to those who ignored her. More than a dozen colorful globes with seats to themselves tipped and tilted with the movements of the train.
Just as the woman emptied her hand of her last world, the train stopped at a station and a lone young woman stepped into the car. She cast glances to her left, her right, seeking a place to sit, but confusion forced her to stand. Her suspicion grew but her nerve was lost. She had stumbled upon a conspiracy of unsettling proportions: an army of tiny planets escorting their sullen humans on a train trip north.