Being pushed in the main basket of the shopping cart on the way to the checkout, past the front-of-store impulse-buy islands, Ulysses noticed a tree of lollipops, the superball-shaped kind that come in lots and lots of flavors and colors with a little tag on each one that tells you what kind it is. He caught hold of a pop sphere as we rolled by, and so I stopped -- partly just to keep the display from slinging through the air.
U grabbed tighter onto the pop and frowned, with a low, quick whimper. Ready to fight for the right.
"Do you want a lollipop?" I asked. "Which one do you want?"
His expression melted into one of surprise. He looked more directly at the pop in his fingers and his grip loosened. It was a muddy, pinkish color, and I could read the label: marshmallow. It wasn't a pop he'd choose -- just the one he'd managed to grab.
His expression changed again as he surveyed the lollipop tree more critically. I read the labels as he went: tutti-frutti, pina colada, banana cream. Finally he put his fingers around the brightest pink pop on the tree. I looked at the label: pink lemonade, a flavor I expected he'd like. I helped him pluck it from the white, cylindrical trunk.
When we got to the cashier's lane, he placed it on the counter directly in front of the young woman there and looked up at her. But I had something to return, and she motioned me towards the customer service counter. I tried to push my cart on through the lane, but Ulysses stood fast, still looking up at the cashier. She was making no move towards picking up the pop, the only thing on her counter. After all, my cart still held the rest of my merchandise.
Ulysses held up one arm and jabbed downwards at the pop with his index finger, a swift, single gesture, his gaze steady all the while. That caught the cashier's eye. They regarded one another for a moment.
"We'll go ahead and buy the lollipop here," I told her, and handed Ulysses some coins.
At last! The transaction was complete.
Now it was just to finger the cellophane in anticipation of the moment I'd be done at the service counter. Minutes later, at last, we were outside. Outside the store! The place where packages can be opened! I helped him unwrap the pop. He held the stick in his fist, staring. I don't think he's ever had such a big piece of candy. He looked up at me, questioning.
I leaned over and tasted the pop. "Mmm!" I said. It was a nice, citrus-y, fruity taste, and not cloying -- exactly pink lemonade.
U, emboldened, took a lick. "Mmm!" he said. "Not bad!"
"'Not bad'?" I repeated. "Not bad!" I laughed. U laughed, too. "Not bad!" he said again and again, his eyes merry.
At home, I said to Don, "Do you know what Ulysses said when he tasted his lollipop?"
Before I had a chance to go further, Ulysses piped, "Not bad!"