Just Another Day

Jonathan and Susan held hands across the smeared tabletop in Good Brews, their coffee cups pushed to the side. Oblivious to the bustle of the crowd around them, they stared, glittery-eyed into each others faces.

“Do you really love me?” Jonathan asked, leaning within inches of Susan’s forehead.

Susan squeezed his hands and smiled. “Yes, I do.”

“You do what?”

“Well, you mean a lot to me,” she said. She disengaged her right hand, picked up her cup and took a sip of the lukewarm coffee.

Jonathan seemed to shrink as he lost his luster. “That’s it? I mean a lot to you?”

Susan picked up her fork and cut into the piece of tiramisu before her. She closed her eyes as the bite entered her mouth. She nodded as she chewed. “Yes, you are everything to me. I don’t know how I existed before we met.”

“But do you love me?” Jonathan sat back in his chair and ran his hands through his one-inch black hair. “Because you never say the words.”

“I do,” Susan said. “Maybe you just aren’t listening.”

“Oh, I’d hear that,” he said, “if you actually said it.”

The waitress stopped by their table. “Is everything okay?” she said.

“We’re fine,” Jonathan said. “Could you bring the check, please?”

“Sure.” The waitress pulled it out of her pocket and placed it next to Jonathan’s empty cup.

“Have a great day,” she said as she  walked away.

Susan rooted through her purse, took out a twenty and handed it to Jonathan.

“What’s this for?”

“My half,” she said.

“But this is my treat.”

Susan sighed. “We’ve been over this before. I always pay my half. You pay yours.” She stood up and pulled her t-shirt down over her ample hips. “I’m going to use the restroom. I’ll meet you outside.”

Jonathan watched her walk away. Although he felt like crying, no tears fell. He stood and stumbled past all the occupied tables, picking up snippets of boisterous conversations along the way.

Outside, the early morning air still held the crispness of a foggy San Francisco morning. Noisy trolley cars ran up and down the street, blocking out the sounds of countless panhandlers begging for money.

When Susan emerged, they headed east on Market Street, toward the business district.

Jonathan wanted to hold her hand, but held back. “Are you busy this weekend?”

“Not sure,” she said. “My sister mentioned something about shopping on Saturday and some friends want to see a movie on Sunday afternoon, Why? What did you have in mind?”

They split temporarily to dodge a shopping-cart lady blocking the sidewalk.

“I was thinking,” Jonathan said. “Well, never mind. It’s not that important.”

Susan pulled ahead when they crossed at an intersection, giving Jonathan a good look at her swaying hips. He shuttled forward to catch up, lightly touching her on the shoulder to get her attention.

“Can we talk a minute?” he said.

Susan looked at her watch. “I guess so.”

“Are we a couple, or not?”

A man in a topcoat brushed past, knocking into Jonathan.

“We care about each other,” Susan said. “Isn’t that good enough?” She tapped Jonathan’s arm on his bicep.


“Why not? We’re doing fine as is,” she said.

Jonathan put his hands on her shoulders, drawing her near. He kissed her on the forehead. “I need you to need me. To love me as much as I love you.”

Susan pulled away. “I’ve got to go to work. Can we save this for later?”

Jonathan’s shoulders fell and a dejected look crossed his face. “So you’re turning me down.”

“Not really. I just need time to think.”

“Time away from me.”

“I guess,” she said. “Yeah. I’m not ready to commit.” Susan opened the door of her office building. “You’re a great guy. I like you a lot. But I can’t handle the pressure.” She turned and walked through the door.

Jonathan watched her go until she entered the elevators. He checked his watch, then turned and walked back to Good Brews. Standing inside was a lanky redhead. “Hi, Estelle.”He planted a kiss on her cheek, placed a hand in the middle of her back and guided her to a booth.

On Death

There is no quicker way to end a pleasant conversation than by bringing up the topic of death. Beyond the saying of requisite condolences, we don’t really know how else to respond. Death touches us all eventually, but interestingly enough, we have never mastered the art of talking about it, despite the fact that we all will eventually die.

There are many terms to describe the process of dying; passed away, late, no longer with us, moved on. For some reason we find all of these terms more palatable than the simple word, dead. We try to sweeten it up, either for the benefit of the sorrowing ones, or to mask our own discomfort.

Some of us are lucky enough to go peacefully and quickly. We are alive one moment and gone the next. No lingering, no suffering, just blessed peace. Is it part of our genetic makeup? Are some of us destined to die with our dignity still intact while others of us disappear slowly, particle by particle? Is that also part of the design?  Science might not have the answers, but maybe it will someday.

It is interesting how far we will go to avoid the topic of death, yet our media is inundated with gory images of death. Every day the news is filled with stories about children caught in the crossfire, families killed in horrendous car accidents, fatal home invasions and violence deliberately enacted on the targets of unsuppressed rage. We watch and listen, but seldom discuss.

Movies and television programs thrive on the study of death, almost to the glorification of the act of killing. Almost every night, on every channel, there are police scenarios, crime scene investigations, mentalists who look into eyes and can determine guilt, and gang-style organizations that wreak havoc in our cities. Video games allow players to reenact, over and over, the countless deaths of perceived enemies, not just in the act of war, but of those who simply have the audacity to cross our paths.

Has all this made us immune to the reality of death? The permanence of death? There is that possibility. How often do we cry over the news? Probably not all that often. We might shake our heads and bemoan the loss of life, but do we truly mourn, deep inside, for those unknowns who have left us. Until death becomes personal.

An elderly woman, full of life, yet living in a residential care facility, dresses every morning as if she is going out for the evening. Neatly pressed dress, hat, white gloves. She goes to the art room to participate in a class. Sits down. Keels over. Just like that. Quiet, peaceful, with dignity intact. Dressed as if she knew it was her final act in a one=person play.

A man in a skilled nursing facility who can still walk and talk, gets up one morning and slips. As he falls, his head strikes the metal bed. He dies immediately, with his family wondering what happened. Yet they are spared of watching his mind vanish and his body crumble.

There are those who linger, caught in a never-never-land of oblivion. Their hearts continue to beat, lungs to breathe, organs to process, yet there is no one home. They are force-fed in order to keep them alive. But is it living? Does quality of life count for anything?

As we age, death becomes more of a reality. We develop conditions. We are hospitalized. We have surgery. We learn again to walk, talk, eat, be human. But we know and understand that we are dying incrementally every day. No matter how much we exercise, eat the right foods, abstain from the vices of drugs and alcohol, our bodies fail us by degrees. We hope that our end is not near, that by taking care of ourselves we are postponing what is to come.

But what happens when we are touched by death? Do we cry? Wail? Pound our heads against the wall? Climb into bed and bury ourselves in our covers? Or do we realize that others need us to be strong, to support them as they accompany us through the grieving process?

We walk through this life with others standing by our sides. Holding our hands. As good citizens we must be there to listen, to hold, to comfort, even when we are hurting inside.

After all, isn’t that what we hope for when our time comes?

The Beast

The woman’s right arm thrust forward, her finger pointing at the huddled mass on the kitchen floor. “What’s that thing doing in here?”

“I got me a dog,” the man said as a self-deprecating smile crossed his face. He walked to the refrigerator, got out a can of beer, popped the top and took a huge sip. “Norm and me are going rabbit hunting tomorrow.” He gulped down the rest of the can, scrunched it up and set it on the counter.

The woman leaned against the sink, reached for her lit cigarette, brought it to her lips and inhaled in one fluid motion. “It ain’t gonna live in this house.”

The man shrugged. “I knew you’d say that.” He got another beer, threw back his head and swallowed. “So I’m gonna build her a house out back.”

The woman took another puff. “Then you’d better get busy.”

“C’mon, girl,” the man said as he led the dog outside.

The woman laid her cigarette in the ashtray and then walked into the front room, her skirt making a swishing sound with every step. She turned on the television, switched channels until she was satisfied, sat on the couch and then lit a new cigarette.

She twisted a chunk of her hair into a tight curl, bobby-pinned it tight against her scalp, then picked up another swatch of hair and did it again. Again and again until her head glowed from the sheen of the pins. She stopped only long enough to smoke, each time the end of the cigarette glowing like the sun. When finished, the woman wrapped toilet paper around and around her head until she looked like a surgery patient.

All the while, from outside came sounds of sawing, swearing and pounding, accompanied by the occasional whine of the dog.

“Come outside,” the man said just as the sky was turning gray.

The woman followed him to the end of the yard, where now stood a finished doghouse with a rectangular doorway and a sharply pitched roof. The dog sported a chain attached to its collar, the other end looped onto a large stake.

The man smiled. “The dog will live out here.” He stood tall, with shoulders squared, proud of his work.

The woman turned and went into the house, sat on the couch and puffed on her cigarette.

The man followed, stopping long enough to chug down a beer. “I’m gonna take a shower and go to bed.”

That’s when the noise began. At first it was a high-pitched whine, but it quickly escalated into an ear-piercing howl that spoke of loneliness and despair.

The woman opened the back door, stuck out her head and yelled, “Shut up.”

The dog quieted down immediately.

The woman went into the bedroom, put on her nightgown and got into bed. As soon as her head hit the pillow, the howling began again, this time louder and longer in intensity. “Go shut that dog up,” the woman said when her husband came out of the bathroom.

The man went outside and cussed at the dog. It whined and whined and so the man cussed some more. When the dog was finally quiet, he got in bed. Pulled the covers up to his shoulders. Closed his eyes. The racket began.

The woman punched the man on the arm and said, “You’d better keep that dog quiet or the neighbors will complain.”

The man got up and slipped on his shoes and a shirt. Cussing all the while, he walked down the hall and outside. The door slammed.

In the morning the woman unwrapped her head and took out the bobby pins. She carefully fluffed her hair so that the curls kept their shape. She dressed and went to the kitchen where she found her old cigarette in the ashtray. She lit it and inhaled, closing her eyes as the wave of nicotine hit her.

She looked out back and saw that the dog was gone. So was the car. “By God, he did go hunting.”
In the late afternoon, the man returned. He staked the dog to its chain and came in for a beer. “That dog is worthless. She wouldn’t follow the pack and jumped every time someone fired a gun.”

The woman smirked.

“I’ll take her back tomorrow. I’m gonna go take a shower.” The man headed down the hall.

The howling started up as soon as the water began to pour, so the woman stepped outside and yelled, “Be quiet.”

The dog obeyed. The woman slowly walked toward it. “What kind of beast are you? You’re a pretty thing, aren’t you.”

The dog turned its sad brown eyes at the woman, laid down its head and rested its chin on its front paws.

“Look at those eyes,” the woman said. “You’d melt butter.” She bent over and rubbed the dog’s head. “My, your fur is soft.”

The dog inched closer until she was able to rest against the woman’s leg. The woman patted the dog on the shoulders and back. “You’re a sweety, but I’ve got work to do.” The woman walked away.

Immediately the dog began to whine, its tail flopping from side to side and its eyes wide and sorrowful. The woman returned, bent over and picked up the dog. She cradled it in her arms and rocked it like a baby. “I bet you’re hungry, poor thing.” She unhooked the dog and carried it inside. She gave it a bowl of water and some of the canned food her husband had brought home. The woman smiled as the dog wolfed down its breakfast.

When finished, the dog collapsed to the floor with a sigh and promptly fell asleep.

The woman moved her ashtray to the kitchen table, sat on a chair, and smoked with a satisfied smile on her face.

“What have you done?” The man hit himself on the forehead. “What’s wrong with you, woman? I thought you didn’t want that dog in the house?”

“She was lonely. And hungry. I couldn’t leave her out there, all alone, another minute.”

The man opened the back door. “You’ve ruined her. You’ve made a pet out of her. Now I can’t bring her back.” The door slammed shut behind him.

The woman smiled, inhaled, blew smoke in the air and said, “Now, what shall I call you?”

Gratitude Comes in Small Packages

One September morning as my mom and I sat on our back porch steps, a group of children walked by, happily swinging colorful metal boxes. They laughed and giggled with huge smiles on their faces. I thought they were the luckiest kids on earth.

“Where are they going?” I asked.

“To school,” my mom said as she lit a cigarette.

“What’s school?”

“You’ll find out in a few years.” She inhaled and then blew out the smoke. It drifted across my face, making me cough.

Two more happy kids walked by, also carrying those strange boxes.

“What’s in those boxes?” I asked.

“Their lunches.” She inhaled again, this time turning her head away from me before blowing out the smoke.

“Can I have one?”

“It’s too early for lunch,” my mother said.

“I mean, a box like that.”

“Not until you are old enough to go to school.” She ground the cigarette into the weeds next to the porch and sat with her arms wrapped around her knees.

“How old do I have to be?” I asked.


I thought about that for a bit as I counted on my fingers. “So in two more years.”

“Yes. Bill will go to school first, next year. Then you the year after that.” My mother put a new cigarette in her mouth and lit it. She inhaled and then blew a cloud of smoke that drifted my way.

“What do you do at school?”

“Learn things.” She inhaled again, this time blowing the smoke high over my head. She stood up, brushed off her skirt and opened the door. “It’s time to go inside.”

I followed her into the kitchen. “Why can’t I have a lunchbox now?”

“There’s no money, for one thing. Another is that you don’t need one.” My mother got down some pans and pulled things out of the cabinets and refrigerator.

“I don’t care,” I said. “I want a lunchbox anyway.”

“Go away,” my mother said. “You’re bothering me.”

I went into the bedroom that I shared with my brother. I climbed up on my bed and looked out the window. A few more kids went by, each of them swinging a lunchbox and smiling. I placed my hand on the glass, reaching out to those kids, wishing I could be walking with them. I watched for a while, but saw no more kids, so I sat on my bed and cried.

When my dad came home from work, I asked him for a lunchbox. I thought he’d understand since he carried an old black one. It wasn’t shaped like the ones the kids had and wasn’t new and shiny. But at least he had a box. “Can I have a lunchbox?” I asked my dad.

He did not answer. He looked at my mom. “What’s she want now?”

“She saw school kids carrying boxes this morning and that’s all she can think about.” My mother carried dishes to the table. “Dinner’s ready,” she said.

My brother was already in his chair. I slid into mine. “I want a lunchbox like the ones those kids had.”

“Let it go,” my mom said. She glowered at me. That was the signal to shut up and be still, but I was a stubborn child.

“Daddy,” I said, “Mother says I have to wait until I go to school. That’s too long. Can’t I have a box now?”

“Shut up and eat,” he said.

I did the best that I could with tears in my eyes. After dinner we went into the front room and watched TV. I sat on the floor with my legs crossed, looking at the set, but my mind was elsewhere. All I saw was me following those kids, carrying a pretty lunchbox.

When it was time for bed, I asked again. “Please, can I have a lunchbox?”

“Go to bed,” my dad said.

I did, but I didn’t fall asleep for a long time.

The next morning I sat on the kitchen steps again, watching the kids go by. “Mother, why can’t I have a lunchbox? I’ll take really good care of it.”

“Shut up about it,” she said. Her face looked angry, so I sat quietly until my mother finished her cigarette and went inside.

I drew pictures of lunchboxes and kids and me, all walking together, smiles on our faces.

When my dad came home I asked him again for a lunchbox. He did not tell me no, but he didn’t say yes, either. He walked into the kitchen. I heard my mom and dad talking, but I couldn’t hear their words. We ate dinner, watched TV, and then went to bed.

In the morning when I went into the kitchen there was a blue metal box sitting on the table. My eyes grew huge. “What’s that?”

“It’s a lunchbox that your father brought home,” my mother said. There was a funny look on her face that I didn’t understand. She didn’t seem to be angry, but she wasn’t smiling, either.

“Why didn’t he take it to work?” I asked. My fingers carefully touched the sides of the box. It was bumpy in places and smooth in others.

“Open it up.”

I did. Inside I found a sandwich wrapped in paper and an apple. “Is this Bill’s?”

“No. It’s for you.”

“For me?” My eyes grew huge with surprise.

“Yes, for you.”

I closed the lid and picked it up by the handle. I swung it by my side, just like those kids had done. “Do I get to go to school?”
“No, you’re too young.”

“Did Bill get a lunchbox too?” I asked as I held it tightly to my chest.

“No. He didn’t want one.”

“Oh.” I rocked back and forth, thinking. My brother didn’t get a box and he had to go to school before I could. “I get to keep this?”

“Yes. Your father got it from someone at work who didn’t want it anymore. It’s for you.”

I carried my lunchbox into the front room and sat on the couch. I opened the lid. The sandwich and apple were still there. I picked each one up, turned them from side to side and them put them back inside. I closed the lid and flipped the latch. “When will it be lunchtime?”

“Not for a long time,” my mother called from the kitchen. “Find something to do to keep busy.”

I went into my room and got out a coloring book and crayons. I put everything on my bed, with my lunchbox tucked neatly by my side. I colored several pictures, taking my time to stay in the lines like my mother wanted.

“Lunch time,” my mother called.

I put my things away and carried my lunchbox into the kitchen. I carefully placed it on the table and sat in my chair. I opened the lid and took out my sandwich. “Is this what kids do at school?”

“Yes. They sit at tables, just like you.” My mother lit a cigarette, inhaled and blew smoke out into the room.

I took a bite of the sandwich. “Why did you give this to me if I can’t go to school?”

“Your father wanted you to have it.” She inhaled again. “Just be grateful that someone gave it to him.”

I was grateful. That blue metal box was my most precious possession for many years.

A Babysitting Disaster

Needing spending money as a young teenager, I decided to take up babysitting as a profession. I had no experience with little children, had never changed a diaper, and was terrified of the dark. Big deal! I could do this.

I didn’t know how to drum up business either. I was incredibly bashful. Put me in a room with someone and I became invisible. I could hide in the middle of my own birthday celebration, simply by blending in with the upholstery on the couch. So how was I going to approach neighbors and ask for work?

Because my brother was a superb salesman, he did the legwork, and then I followed through with the delivery. This worked for the diverse things that we took on, such as a small Midwest newspaper that came out once a month. My brother knocked on doors to get clients; I left the merchandise on the porch.

We sold fruits picked from our neighbor’s backyard, vegetables from our own, seeds from catalogues and various kinds of magazines. All in all, we did well.

I loved the feel of independence that salesmanship gave me. With my bicycle tires humming along the pavement, I felt strong and brave. I envisioned myself as all-powerful: capable of doing anything, anytime, anywhere.

That all changed after I deposited the paper on the welcome mat on the Wilson’s front porch. Normally no one answered, so imagine my surprise when the door opened.

Mrs. Wilson smiled warmly. “Hello! Aren’t you the newspaper girl?”


“Do you ever babysit?”

I wanted to yell, Oh, yes, but I was a horrible liar. “No, but I am interested.”

“Are you free Friday night?”

Of course, I’m free. I’m always free. We never go anywhere. “Yes.”

“Can you come around seven? My husband and I are going into Dayton for a company party. We should be back by ten.”

I should ask my parents first. If I agree without their permission, I could get into big trouble. “Sure.”

“Can you come in and meet the kids?”

You mean the ones screaming in the background? The ones pushing each other off the couch? “Sure.”

Mrs. Wilson, with a fake smile plastered on her face, held open the screen door while I stepped inside. The living room floor was covered with bits and pieces of toys. The couch cushions floated between the detritus, like icebergs in an artic sea. On each cushion, stood a little boy.

“What’s your name?”


“Terry, I’d like you to meet my sons. This is Billy. The one in the middle is Joe. That one over there is Mickey. Mickey and Joe are twins.”

Billy looked like a demon, primarily due to his flying red hair and jam-encrusted face. All he needed was a pair of fangs and some horns. Joe and Mickey were duplicates, down to the brown freckles dancing on their cheeks. They even wore matching clothes. As long as they didn’t move, I shouldn’t have any trouble.

“Come into the nursery. I want you to meet Nancy.” Mrs. Wilson led the way, with the flotilla of boys drifting in her wake. I brought up the rear, noticing as I did so, that either Joe or Mickey had sat in something brown and gooey. Could it be?

“There’s my little girl!” Mrs. Wilson stood in the doorway of a pale pink room. A stark white crib sat along one wall, a matching chest of drawers on another, and a changing table on the third. Fortunately, she explained how to operate the changing table, or I would have been in terrible trouble.

“When you come, the boys will already be in their pajamas. After you read them a story, send them to bed. They know the routine. Nancy will be asleep. You shouldn’t have to do anything with her at all.”


The family headed for the front room, so I tagged along. By now I knew that I was in over my head. Three boys, all under five, plus a diaper-clad baby. I yearned to tell Mrs. Wilson that there was this family obligation that I just remembered, but the words failed me.

“Here’s the television. After the boys are asleep, you can watch whatever you like. You don’t do ironing, do you?” Her hand swept melodramatically toward an ironing board set up in one corner of the room. A huge pile of clothes filled up a nearby chair. “We’ll pay extra if you also iron. What do you charge?”

I had no idea. Not only had I never babysat, I’d also never done someone else’s laundry. “A dollar an hour.”

“We’ll give you one-fifty, as that is what our last babysitter charged. Then we’ll give you another fifty for the ironing. That makes two dollars an hour. Does that sound good?”

You’ve got to be kidding! For taking care of four little brats, plus ironing two-week’s worth of clothes, she should give me a hundred! “Fine.”

“Great! We’ll see you Friday!” Mrs. Wilson smiled as she escorted me to the door. Billy had his middle finger embedded in his nose, while Joe and Mickey clung to their mother’s skirt. “Say bye, boys!”

“Bye!” they chorused.

I stepped onto the porch, wondering what I had done to myself. True, I had wanted to become a professional babysitter. True, this was a prime opportunity to hone my skills. There were a few problems, one of which was telling my parents that I had accepted a job at a total stranger’s house. The other had to do with three little boys and a baby.

Surprisingly enough, neither of my parents complained about my independent thinking. My father’s only requirement was that he drive me to the house and meet both parents. I didn’t tell him about the ironing.

The next two days flew by, as all summer days do when you are young. This was long before the Internet, so I had no way to research proper babysitting methodology. I would just have to figure things out as they happened.

Just after dinner on Friday, my father picked up his car keys and headed out the door. By now I was scared nearly to death. My heart blocked my throat and my legs wobbled like pudding. Nevertheless, I picked up a book that I was reading, and followed.

When we got to the Wilson’s house, my dad said, “Let me do the talking. If things don’t check out, then I’m taking you back home.”

Please, please, don’t “check out.” Please take me back home. “Okay.”

With his normal swagger, my dad stepped on the porch and pounded on the door. He held his shoulders back, and a stern look fell across his face. He seemed much bigger than his five foot seven frame.

“Hello,” Mrs. Wilson said as she opened the door. “Is this your father, Terry?”

“I’m her father. I just wanted to make sure that she would be safe here.”

Not that routine! Please don’t embarrass me! Not tonight!

“No problem. Come on in.” Mrs. Wilson held the door open for us.

I felt like a little girl clinging to my father’s proverbial belt, as we stepped into the front room. “We should be back by ten. The boys are ready for bed, and the baby is sleeping. Terry is going to do our ironing once everyone is asleep. After that, she’s going to watch television.”

Why did she mention ironing and television?

Without saying a word, my father turned and left. I faced the boys, who sat on the couch, with hair wet from baths and faces squeaky clean.

“We’ll be going in a few minutes.” Mrs. Wilson disappeared down the hall, her skirt swishing behind her.

“Hi,” I said as I sat on the edge of the couch. “Want me to read to you?” Billy nodded and handed me a book. I found a spot between the twins, and began reading.

“We’re leaving now,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Boys, you be good and go to bed when the book is finished. We’ll see you at ten.”

Mrs. Wilson looked gorgeous, decked out in a fancy dress and high heels. Mr. Wilson wore a black suit and white shirt. They made a handsome couple.

After the car drove away, all hell broke loose. Billy climbed up the back of the couch and began shooting at the twins. Joe and Mickey ran in circles, dodging the imaginary bullets. Billy jumped down, picked up a sofa cushion, and threw it at Joe. Is that Joe or Mickey? Who cares anyway? Joe threw it at Mickey, hitting him squarely on the nose. Mickey crumpled to the floor, blood squirting between his fingers. Joe chased after Billy, threatening to kill him. As they ran in and out of the kitchen and family room, I got Mickey up off the floor and into the bathroom.

While I tried to stop the bleeding by pressing his nose with a cold cloth (ineffective, but the only thing I could think to do), Billy raced down the hall, shrieking like the devil he was. Joe wailed, complaining about an injury to his right ear. The baby woke up with the commotion.

I left Mickey in the bathroom, holding a blood-tinged cloth to his still-dripping nose. I caught Billy as he ran by, and held him up in the air, his feet pounding my thighs. His attempts to wriggle free worked. As soon as his feet found purchase, he was off and running. Meanwhile, Joe had found a plastic gun, which he was waving around like Clint Eastwood. Nancy’s screams reached ear-splitting level.

I decided to check on the baby, and to let the boys kill themselves. When I picked up Nancy, my hand squished something cold and wet. She was soaked all through her pajamas. The din in the hall had escalated considerably, as Mickey had joined the fight now taking place in kitchen, front room, hall, and family room.

I placed Nancy on the changing table, and unsnapped the pajamas. I got the clothes off of her despite her flailing arms and thrashing feet. Not only was she wet, but she had also pooped a gooey, sloppy mess.

The bathtub seemed too big for a baby, so I immersed her in the sink. Using the only washcloth that I could find (the one with Mickey’s blood on it), I washed off the urine and poop. Nancy stopped shrieking, which was the only good thing happening.

I got her reasonably clean and then carried her back into the nursery. I fished around the table until I found a diaper, a plastic cover, and a clean pair of pajamas. While she wriggled and squirmed, I got the diaper in place. Unfortunately, I didn’t know to put my hand between her body and the diaper pin, so she got stuck. Her face turned dark red, and then a wail erupted the size of Mount Vesuvius.

I could hear the boys, now hooting like banshees, throwing something that thumped and crashed. I prayed that it wasn’t breakable.

As soon as Nancy was dressed, I put her in the crib. That was not what she wanted, however, and so she resumed screaming. I picked her up, thinking that I had better get the boys in bed.

When I stepped into the family room, I thought a bomb had exploded. Books littered the floor, the pile of clothes covered all surfaces, and pieces of tableware (fortunately not broken) were balanced on the arms of the chairs and the couch.

“Stop. Please, stop.” When there was no change in behavior, I searched deep inside and found my “parent voice.” “Stop, now.” I put my left hand on my hip and glowered, as I’d seen my mother do. They’re stopping! Yes! Now what do I do?

“It’s time for you to go to bed. All of you,” I said.

One by one, they peeled off the couch and headed down the hall. I followed to ensure that their intentions were honest. “In your own rooms,” I said as all three turned into the same room. With a sheepish grin, Billy went into the next room and slammed the door. I watched as the twins climbed into their beds. I patted each one on the head, and said, “Good night.” Before stepping into the hall, I asked, “Do you want me to leave the door open?”

“No! Close the door! Close the door!” Mickey stood up in bed, and began jumping and chanting. Joe did the same. Nancy thought the whole thing was pretty funny, and she started giggling.

“Get back in bed. Your parents will be angry if they knew what you were doing.”

“No they wouldn’t. We do this all the time,” Joe said. “Jump, jump, jump,” he sang in his high-pitched voice.

A loud pounding came from the direction of Billy’s room, so I left the twins. When I opened the door, Billy threw a hardball against his wall.

“Stop,” I said.

“Make me.” He threw the ball, aiming for my head. Just as it bounced off the wall behind me, I grabbed it and tucked it into my pocket.

“Go to bed.”

“You can’t make me,” Billy sang. “You’re dumber than our last babysitter. She quit and won’t ever come back.”

My heart skipped a beat. I knew that this was too good to be true! Mrs. Wilson took advantage of me. Nevertheless, there was nothing I could do except get these kids in bed.

“Well, I’m here, and your mother wanted you to be in bed. I’m going to stand here until you get under the covers.”

Billy, for some strange reason, complied.

When I left him, I was feeling ill. My heart had grown ten sizes, and was ready to explode. My stomach churned like Niagara Falls, and my head spun like a carousel.

I stopped outside the twin’s room and listened. All was quiet. That left Nancy to get back in bed, and then tackle the ironing. I carried her into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and found a bottle filled with milk. Nancy pulled it to her open mouth. Thinking that all would be fine now, I put her in the crib. She sucked noisily, making a snuffling, gurgling sound.

There was still no noise coming from the other rooms, so I sighed, thinking that the worst was over. About that time, Nancy’s yells echoed off the walls. I scurried into the room. She had spit up, and a creamy vomit covered her pajamas, the wall, her blanket, and the sheet. I took off her messy clothes, only to discover another pooped-in diaper. I got her cleaned up, then put her on the floor.

After changing the sheet and blanket, and scrubbing the wall, (while trying not to throw up!), I got her back in bed.

By now it was nine, and I was exhausted. I straightened up the family room and kitchen while the iron warmed. With the television on, I made it through the huge mound of clothes. I hung up each item, proud of my work.

It took me over an hour, but I felt satisfied with my efforts. Thinking that the parents should be home at any moment, I stretched out on the couch to watch a little television.

I must have fallen asleep, for I jumped when a man leaned over me, calling my name.

“You were sleeping,” Mr. Wilson said.

“No, I was just resting my eyes.”

“So, you got the ironing done. That’s good. And the kids are asleep. Thanks. I’ll drive you home.”


I followed him out the door. I got in the passenger seat and closed the car door. He drove me home, talking constantly. When we pulled up in front of my house, he said, “We’re going out next Friday. Would you be interested in babysitting?”

“No, thank you.”

“Well, here’s your money. I put in a little extra since we got home so late.”


After I had closed the front door, I looked at the clock. It was two in the morning! Then I counted my money. Mr. Wilson had given me one dollar more than he owed.

You would think that I had learned my lesson and would never babysit again. Unfortunately, I gave it two more tries.

The next was on a stormy night. Branches scratched against the windows and the wind whistled as it blew. Lights flickered and all the shows on the television were frightening. I ended up calling home for help. My dad came and spent the time with me until the parents came home.

The last time I took care of a baby boy. When his diaper needed changing, at least this time I knew what to do. I took out the pins, removed the stinky diaper, but as I was putting on a clean one, the baby let out a stream of urine that shot into the air. I caught much of it with the diaper, but then I needed another clean one. Just as I got it into place, he pooped. I went through all the diapers on the changing table before I finally got one pinned on. When his parents came home, the mother was horrified.

After that I gave up babysitting for good.