rumors of war

       I was outside Marshalls, heading lightly down the sidewalk, bag swinging, when I saw him.  He was thin and he wore a blue coat.  I couldn’t see his whole face because he was busy wiping his eyes on first one sleeve and then the other.  I put my arm around him and promised not to leave him until we found his mom.  The sleeves came down, and he walked bravely back into the store with me.  He told me his first name and hers, but they were Middle Eastern mysteries, and I couldn’t understand.  I told the customer service man about our emergency, but he kept taking returns as if there were no rush to right this small, shattered world.  As we waited, I wondered what I would do if she had left him on purpose.  Then, finally, the PA system broadcast among the dress racks our plight.  I saw her before he did.  Draped in her black headdress, she walked from the back of the store slowly and calmly, as if she agreed with the customer service man that there was no hurry.  Her little boy left my side and buried his face under her shrouded arm.  Over his bowed head, her dark eyes met mine, mother to mother, and rumors of war for a moment ceased.