Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fiction: Baby-sitter Saturday night (a short story)

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
By W.M. Dean

[Editor’s Note: I found this story last week when I was going through my files after installing a lovely desk given me by a friend, Bill Johnson, who just moved away. I’d like to dedicate its publication to him, to whom we owe the pleasure of two “Liam’s Wuff” stories.
    The baby-sitter rates from the 1970s haven’t been revised.

“Monroe, you call a baby-sitter this time – please? I always call.”
    “That’s because it’s your job, Louise, not mine.”
    “Why is it my job?”
    “I always carry out the garbage.”
    “You don’t always carry it out, Monroe – I do it sometimes.”
    “Tell me the last time you did it.”
    “Well…Please call – just this time. Okay?”
    “But you only have to get a baby-sitter about once a month; I have to take the garbage out every couple of days.”
    “I don’t see what the frequency has to do with it, Monroe. I asked you a simple favor, that’s all.”
    “But baby-sitters are girls – it’s more natural for you to call them.”
    “What difference does it make, Monroe?”
    “…What if the baby-sitter’s mother answers? She says, ‘Who is this?’ like I’m calling her daughter up for a date. It’s embarrassing.”
    “Just tell her you need a baby-sitter and ask to speak to her daughter.”
    “If it’s so simple, why don’t you do it?”
    “Oh, Monroe, you frustrate me. Let’s just stay home. I don’t want to go to the movies that bad anyway.”
    “Oh, all right, Louise, I’ll call – just this one time…Who should I call first?”
    “Look under ‘baby-sitters’ in the address book. They’re all okay, except Teresa got a job at McDonald’s, and Carol doesn’t seem to want to baby-sit the kids anymore.”
    Monroe went to the telephone and returned after twenty minutes.
    “None of them could sit Saturday, Louise. I even called Carol. But she had a friend who can. Only, we have to pick her up, and she lives in Larkspur.”
    “Oh, well, that’ll only take you fifteen minutes or so.”
    “Me? Why me? Why do I have to pick her up? I did the calling. At least you could pick her up and take her home.”
    “All right, Monroe, you’ve got a point…Let’s compromise – I’ll pick her up, and you drive her home.”
    “Louise, you know I hate to drive late at night.”
    “But if I take her home, you’ll be asleep when I get back, and you won’t want to—”
    “Aw, Louise, I’ll be too tired for that anyway, after being out late.”
    “Okay, Monroe, I see it’s no use. I’ll drive her home.”
    “If I pick her up, her mother’ll probably see me…and she might imagine I don’t really need a baby-sitter at all, but I’m just using it as an excuse to—”
    “Oh, really, Monroe! That’s fantastic. Anyway, what does it matter what she imagines?”
    “You know how guilty I feel when I wear a coat with big pockets to the supermarket—”
    “Would you rather I picked her up and you drove her back?”
    “No, no, forget it – you know I can’t stay awake late at night. I’ll pick her up, and you can drive her home.”

It was settled. Saturday rolled around, and Monroe drove to Larkspur. The neighborhood in which the baby-sitter lived was poorly paved and poorly lighted; it took Monroe half an hour to find her house.
    “Who is it? I never open the door to strangers.” It sounded like the mother.
    “Monroe Beardsley, Mrs.— I called about a baby-sitter.”
    “Just a minute.”
    Monroe waited for what seemed longer.
    “Which one was going to baby-sit for you?” the voice said through the door.
    “What was that? It would be easier if you’d open the door—”
    “No! Who was going to baby-sit for you?”
    “‘Who’?...Your daughter.”
    “I have three daughters that baby-sit.”
    “Oh…I’m sorry, I don’t remember her name.”
    “Well, none of them know a Morton Bardsley. Just a minute.”
    Several minutes later, the door opened.
    “Oh, thanks for opening— Oh…” Monroe had difficulty breathing and finding words. Before him stood a creature from his dreamworld, wet and fragrant and red-cheeked from her bath.
    “Hi, I’m Bea. You’re going to see King Kong?”
    “You didn’t tell me your name. And I forgot to get your telephone number. I can’t baby-sit tonight.”
    “But you’re in luck. Kay isn’t doing anything. Is it okay if we switch?”
    “Yes, I’m Bea. Come on in and sit down. Kay will be ready in a minute.”
    “Just sit here. Kay’ll be right in. Nice to meet you—”
    “But where are you going?”
    “I’m just going to dress.”
    “Oh…what are you doing tonight?...I mean, that you can’t—”
    “A boy asked me for a date. I would have said I couldn’t, but Kay—”
    “That’s really too bad— I mean…uh, lucky you…Are you a junior or a senior?”
    “I’m a freshman.”
    “Just a freshman? But you’re…you look more…older.”
    “This the first year Mom and Dad have let us date. Excuse me, I’ve got to get ready.”
    “Sure…Have fun…Uh, be careful…I mean…you can never tell about boys.”
    “Oh, Mom covered everything ten times if she’s covered it once. And I mean everything…Bye!”
    Unhappily Monroe watched her leave the room. He sat down in the chair she had offered him to wait. It would probably be longer than a minute. At least the mother was nowhere in sight.
    The chair was lumpy. Monroe looked around. This was a much poorer neighborhood than the one he lived in.
    “Hey, Bea!” Monroe leapt up. “That was quick.”
    “I’m Kay.”
    “‘Kay’?...But— Oh, you’re twins! How perfectly—”
    “No, we’re triplets. Dee already left to baby-sit at a neighbor’s.”
    “Triplets? There’s three just like you? Wow, that’s fantastic. Monroe looked around, expecting the mother to swoop down at any moment. He looked at his watch. “We’d better go – the movie’ll be started.”

Later that evening, Monroe and Louise were leaving the movie theater. Monroe stifled a yawn.
    “That was a lousy movie, Monroe. I don’t know why I ever agreed to go see it.”
    “Oh, it wasn’t so bad, Louise.”
    “Well, I’m glad you liked it…Want me to drive home?”
    “Oh…I’ll drive.”
    “Really? I’m surprised.”
    “…I just feel like driving, that’s all, Louise.”
    “Oh, fine, dear— Look! The espresso bar is open. Let’s have a cup of coffee first.”
    “I think we should get home, Louise. So the baby-sitter won’t be out so late.”
    “What difference does it make?”
    “Well, it’s her first time with us. We shouldn’t keep her up too late.”
    “So what? She’s getting paid.”
    “She’ll need to get up tomorrow—”
    “There’s no school tomorrow, Monroe.”
    “She said she’s got a yard job in the morning.”
    “Then maybe she shouldn’t have taken this job.”
    “We’re lucky she did, though.”
    “Hah! If she didn’t, we might not have come to this awful movie.”
    “It wasn’t so bad.”
    “…Come on, Monroe, let’s have some coffee.”
    “Oh, all right.” Reluctantly he followed her to the espresso bar, where they ordered and took a table.
    “Um, that’s good, Monroe. I’m glad I had cappuccino. How’s the New Orleans?”
    “It’s good. We ought to do this more often. We don’t go out enough.”
    “Yes, this is nice.”
    “And you can pick the movie next time.”
    “You aren’t sleepy?”
    “No…not too,” he said, stifling the yawn she had suggested.
    “Tonight…don’t you think we could—”
    “Hum…yeah, I feel…sort of in the mood….”
    “Monro-o-e, that’s nice!...You haven’t used that expression in a long time…‘in the mood’.”
    They finished their coffee and Monroe drove home. He pulled into the driveway.
    “Monroe, how much do we owe her? Let’s decide before we go in.”
    “Oh…uh, five dollars?”
    “Five dollars! That’s much too much.”
    “But we want to make a good impression the first time, so—”
    “But if we pay her five dollars this time, she’ll expect a dollar and a half an hour every time. I’ll give her two-fifty.”
    “That’s all right, Louise, I’ll pay her…I’ve got the money. The baby-sitter’s my treat….”
    “Oh, thanks, Monroe—”
    “And I’ll even drive her home for you, Louise…Really, I don’t mind.”
    “Oh…are you sure you’re awake enough, dear?”
    “Yeah, I think I can stay awake okay. I feel pretty fresh…The coffee helped.” Despite himself he yawned.
    “You’re sure…?”
    He finished his yawn. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
    “Well, good….”
    They got out and went into the house.
    “Hello-o-o, we’re home,” said Louise from the front door.
    The baby-sitter was in the family room watching their color television.
    “Hi, Bea,” said Monroe, “how did it go? The kids treat you okay?”
    “They didn’t want to go to bed at eight, but other than that…I’m Kay, remember?”
    “Oh, sorry. Ha, ha, ha. Here, let me help you with your coat.” He picked it up before she could reach it and held it open for her. “Easy does it…Uh-huh…No, here it is…let me—” He moved his head close to hers and breathed in deeply the fragrance of her scalp.
    “Okay, Louise, we’re off.”
    “Hurry back, dear. Don’t forget…you’re in the—”
    “Yeah, yeah, I’ll remember.”

Monroe drove slowly, enjoying the miles.
    “Is this the right way, Kay?”
    “Yes. Turn left at the next street.”
    “Ah, it’s a lovely night, isn’t it? Look at that moon!”
    “It’s beautiful…I love the moon.”
    “Kay, they say the moon….”
    “…Oh…they say the moon was made for—”
    “Is that in a song, Mr. Beardsley?”
    “…I don’t remember where I heard that….” This wasn’t quite the conversation to be having with a freshman girl. Monroe drove on in silence.
    “My street is the next right.”
    “We’re just about there…Kay?”
    “Do you like baby-sitting?”
    “It’s okay…A way to make money.”
    “You don’t have to do very much…Read…Watch television….”
    “I enjoyed the color TV – I usually do my homework.”
    “You’d like to have more sitting jobs?”
    “Oh, sure, whenever I’m not doing anything.”
    “We go out pretty often….”
    “Are you sure you don’t mind the long drive to pick me up? There are probably sitters closer—”
    “Oh, no, no, no, not at all…Will you always need a ride?”
    “Well, we don’t have a car— There, that’s our house.”
    “…And if you’re busy…Bea and Dee sit too, right?”
    “Yeah…But call me first, okay?”
    “Is it okay if I pull up into the driveway?”
    “How much do you charge, Kay?”
    “People usually pay fifty or seventy-five cents an hour.”
    “Well, whenever you baby-sit for Monroe Beardsley, you’ll make more than that…Here.”
    “Four dollars! Thanks, Mr. Beardsley.”
    “Oh, you’re welcome. It’s nice to find a good baby-sitter. I…I always get the baby-sitter when we go out, so I’ll be sure to call you girls first – I’ll ask for you…What are you doing next Saturday…?”

Copyright © 2016 by Moristotle

1 comment:

  1. Monroe & Louise currently engage a baby-sitter about once a month. Why should Monroe want to alter that?