My Christmas shopping felt different this year, hectic but detached. It's nothing like that year where moms were beating each other up to get a Cabbage Patch doll, or the Great Crush of 2000 when everyone battled to get a Playstation, fighting as if it was over an oil-rich country.
I was hit by the domino effect. It would be rude to tell you which store, but they specialize in curiously unpopular things at a discount—things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but didn't sell. Things like avocado-colored bowls, pink area rugs and two-foot-tall wine glasses.
They had a row of creepy-looking dolls, perfect for giving that special child on your list who has nightmares. The dolls were baby-sized and wore baby clothes, but had oddly adult expressions—unsmiling, unfeeling, uncomfortable, much as if you locked a midget in the freezer.
Right next to them was a lunchbox-sized tin full of dominoes. I thought it would be really funny to tip over the whole box with my finger. Get it? But the domino box didn't fall over. It was heavy and oddly stable, as if it were magnetized to the shelf. It just kept sliding around as I pushed it. Thanks to my determination to complete the sight gag, it finally toppled over, but twisted a little first and bumped a row of—I didn't get a good look at what they were, because the first one fell forward off the shelf right at my face, and in lunging to save it I knocked it too far backwards, and it tipped the rest of them down, one by one in a row, and then they all slid off the shelf, one by one. I used to be a pretty good juggler, so I kept up with the raining boxes for a few seconds, but then they spilled over the side into the scary dead midget dolls, who then lunged at me like a single-file army of zombie babies.
My friend watched all this without expression. "Man," she said finally, in the eerie quiet that followed, "those are good dominoes."
I ended up buying the dominoes. I figured if I could harness their power, I could rule the world. For half price.