Meredith had come into a little money and decided to buy her son a Lego set. At the end of her shifts at the restaurant, she would often stop on her way home and buy a Slushee and a couple of scratch tickets. Generally, she lost, and even the most she had ever won before was only ten bucks. It was never enough to worry about, so it just went for coffee or more tickets.
But this time she had won a hundred dollars. She felt like she wanted to do something useful with it. She wanted to spend it on something good and not just roll it into the usual tight budget. It could easily just get spent on bills or something, but that felt like it would be lame. It was too much to just piss away, but it wasn’t enough for a new TV or anything. Enough to be significant, but not enough to really be useful.
After she’d given it some thought, she decided that she should stop thinking about big things, and that if she really wanted to make the money useful, she would buy Milton something instead. Some of the stuff he wanted was really expensive—like a dirt bike or something—but most of it wasn’t. He had figured out that he should read price-tags so that he would know enough to only ask for things that were at least in the realm of possible purchases.
So, Meredith went to the store and picked up a Lego castle set for him. He had been wanting it for a while, but the set was just over a hundred dollars, and she’d never had the extra money to get it for him before. It made her feel good to get it. She was kind of surprised by how nice it felt to carry a big bag onto the bus. It was comforting to place the package beside her on the seat.
As soon as she gave it to him, he pulled apart the packaging and started putting it together. It was a complete castle with knights, little horses and even a catapult. There were thrones and a couple of little crowns as well, so you could make a couple of the little figures king and queen and then the knights would have someone to fight for. She didn’t know where Milton had gotten his fascination with knights, but he collected little plastic ones as well and always wanted to watch TV shows with swords.
The set was missing a few pieces, however. A few of the blocks for the walls and a couple of the hinges were missing. Milton had been reluctant to tell her, so he was forced to take some blocks from his other Lego sets to fill in. All he had were blue blocks from the space station, so despite his efforts, it was still obvious that something was wrong. The blue stood out, and Meredith asked about it.
“Did you use some of your other blocks?”
“I did. There’s a few missing from the castle,” he said, and kept building. He said it like it was no big deal, just the usual way that all Lego sets worked.
“There’s blocks missing? How many?” She knew she was beginning to shout. She could hear it starting for herself, and she could see it in Milton’s face. Whenever she started to shout, he got a sad look on his face.
“It’s fine,” he said. “Look, the other blocks are fine. Don’t take it back.” If she took it back, he didn’t know how long it’d take to get a new one. There’d been other toys that she’d tried to exchange, and it hadn’t worked out well. And a castle with some mismatched blocks was still better than no castle at all.
“But if there’s pieces missing…”
“Don’t take it back,” he said, pleading.
She relented, even though it still made her angry that all the pieces weren’t in the set. Nevertheless, she managed not to say anything more about it until he went to bed. After she had tucked him in, she returned to the living room of their apartment where the castle had been built. The blue blocks he’d used to fill in the blanks mocked her. She couldn’t tear her gaze away from the castle, even though she tried. The longer she looked, the angrier she got.
And the angrier she got, the more depressed she also felt. And even while she was getting worked up, she knew she was over-reacting. Milton was fine with it, and so she knew that maybe all she should be feeling was irritated, not enraged and saddened. She was glad that he’d gone to bed, because she knew that if she’d had anyone else to talk to and didn’t need to be quiet, she would be shouting.
She wanted to take that castle apart and pull those stupid blue blocks out so she didn’t have to look at them. But that would wreck all of Milton’s work, and so she knew that she couldn’t actually do it.
So, not knowing what else to do, she went to the linen closet, grabbed a towel and then came back and covered the thing up. She knew that she was being ridiculous, but not having to look at those blue blocks anymore made it worth it. Having to look at those blocks again would be worse than feeling stupid. So, she just felt terrible and cried a little, making sure to keep quiet so Milton wouldn’t hear her.