The woman behind the counter smiles and finds one in the tangle of toys.
Last April, when he was found after 12 hours in an abandoned car, he told emergency medical technicians he was 2 years old, then held up three fingers. He knows his numbers now. And his ABCs. He fell asleep Thursday night in front of a television, missing the last two innings of the World Series game.
Then his father carried him to bed.
Alamin Cave had not seen his son in 2 1/2 years when he heard the boy's name on the late news.
''That's when my life changed,'' he says. He threw on a coat and ran to Children's Hospital. Literally ran. He doesn't have a car. And he prides himself as the ''fastest guy in my softball league.'' But fast wasn't fast enough.
Victor was gone by the time he got there, taken by Hamilton County Children's Services. Al Cave tracked him down the next day, convinced the social workers that he could care for the boy. Then he went to work at M&M Metals International and asked for some help. Just a little.
Instead, they gave him a lot.
His boss, Ron Hughes, let him take a week off work, and ''the rest of the guys pitched in to cover,'' Mr. Hughes said. Helen Hesketh, the office manager, organized donations of clothing and toys, a bed.
Bringing out the best
After stories ran in the Enquirer, more toys, money, clothes and shoes came in. ''I really owe you guys a lot,'' he says. ''I had exactly nothing for my little boy.''
Well, we guys would love to take credit, but there is something about this kid that seems to bring out the best in people.
His mother, Al Cave says, never meant any harm to come to Victor. ''She never really recovered from the death of her mother,'' he says. Tashara Jetter, 25, was treated at the Pauline Warfield Lewis Center in Roselawn, and Al says she is ''doing great, has a job.''
The 34-yar-old man was given full custody of his son in June, but Victor's mom visits him a lot. ''It delights him to see his parents in a room together, talking and being friendly.''
Victor tells me he remembers being in the car, was hungry but not scared. Then he flexes his arm, showing me his muscle. He would rather talk about other things. Football. Michael Jordan. Baseball, especially baseball.
''He's a sunup to sundown kid,'' says his father, who although he comes from a big family and has ''been changing diapers since I was 10'' didn't quite know what to expect. And money is tight.
''I sure have more respect for single mothers,'' he says. ''But it's also more fun than I thought it would be.''
As I left them, they were walking up the steps to Victor's school. Al Cave was laughing. And Victor was talking, bouncing as he walked. Yeah, I know. The kid is 3 years old and there are a lot of hard years ahead.
But it sure looks like the beginning of a happy ending.
FATHER CLAIMS VICTOR April 22, 1997
Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.