A Peek-A-Boo Variation

A Peek-A-Boo Variation

A Story by Chopstix

An account of childplay at Panda Express

In a philosophy class, perhaps math since it covered saddle theory, my professor discussed the game of Peek-a-Boo. Basically, one player waits in anticipation for the other player to reveal himself before the first player exclaims surprise. Since the first player is invariably an infant, and this game loses its appeal by the time infants grow into children, few formal variants of Peek-a-Boo enjoy documentation. Horror movies could be instances of the game as monsters, villians and grotesque creatures pop out of hiding places eliciting shrieks of surprise, but such categorization would be a stretch.

None of the above musings prepared me for an impromptu game of Peek-a-Boo a few weeks ago. I dined at a local Panda Express before it became crowded. Along the left wall, three tables shared bench. I sat in the far corner table near the front window.

After putting aside my balsa wood chopsticks, I read from Stephen King’s Under the Dome, quietly digesting. Two young girls (I’d venture five year olds since they were over three feet tall, verbal and seemed to be friends or class mates) sat along the same wall at the table furthest from me (about five feet). One of these girls wore a dark blue dress and appeared Hispanic perhaps white. The Asian girl wore white jeans and a pink top under an unfastened white shirt or light jacket. Their parents waited in a long line snaking out the front door.

Dark-blue-dress girl snuck along the bench till barely an arm's length separated us. I rotated my eyes from sidewise monitoring to direct gaze. She shrieked and retreated. Peek-a-Boo. I directed my sight to reading a few words and monitored these girls. The girl in the dark-blue dress timed her next approach, surprising me a little. I recoiled and she squealed. A game begun. I pretended to read while she planned her next advance. In alternating rounds, we played roles of surpriser and surprisee. 

She implored her Asian friend’s participation. Torn between sororal bonds and parental dictates, she practiced, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Smart girl! I thought before a quick ocular redirection and exaggerated, astonished yelp.

Peeking is part of the game. Spreading fingers of the hand covering eyes allows reconnaissance. In this case, discreet scans between rounds uncovered looks of recognition between Dark-blue-dress girl and a woman waiting in line. She bore little resemblance to this mischievous pixie sneaking up for another round. She was tall; sporting short black hair; large nosed; dressed in a sleeveless, knee length black dress and carrying a white, oval baby carrier. One of those things that mounts in car seats, strollers chairs and rockers. She looked like dark Big Bird protecting her egg while watching her offspring tease hapless prey.

I offered the, “So what should I do?” shrug. I interpreted her black stare as "Can’t you see how stressed I am? Do you think I want to be here? Work alternated between tedium and stress, and then I had to pick this one up from the babysitter and the other one from our neighborhood soccer coach’s house. So just play along until I’ve picked up dinner for my family.” 

Eye contact, a squinty-eyed stare followed by a giggling retreat, and another round ended. The Asian girl buried her head into her forearms, disbelieving her friend’s improvised adaptation of an infantile game and her insistence on breaking a fundamental childhood rule, Don’t talk to strangers

An Asian man joined the girls at their table followed, in short order, by dark Big Bird. They exchanged PTA pleasantries and guided their charges out. Perhaps he’s their soccer coach. Perhaps Big Bird’s husband encountered office delays.

Perhaps reckless childhood develops character. I prefer to believe so. Not all survive, but those who do approach problems, tease out their secrets and astonish rule followers. I took no liberties; not even bidding Dark-blue-dress girl farewell. I hope she does (farewell) and survive her audacity.

© 2017 Chopstix

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Added on February 6, 2017
Last Updated on February 6, 2017
Tags: Peek-A-Boo, child play, audacity, Big Bird



Los Angeles, CA

In high school, I wrote lyrics. I started college writing poems and switched to short stories. After college, I discovered I could write computer programs, but I could not finish a novel (kept editi.. more..