A Babysitter Memory

I am presently participating in a writing class offered through the Literary Kitchen and one of my writing mentors, Ariel Gore. Among our assignments each week is a ‘Quick Write’ exercise, which is to be completed in ten minutes or less, in response to a prompt. For this week’s QW, the prompt was ‘Allow an image or memory to come to mind while considering the word ‘babysitter.’ Write about it.’ Here’s my QW#2 entry:

Greg Seidel was going to spend the night at my house. The coolest kid in the fifth grade—the first kid picked in pick-up games, the fastest, most agile athlete on every team, the first boy fifth grade girls noticed—was spending the night at my house! That would easily make me the second coolest kid in the fifth grade.

Tragedy! My parents announced they were going out for the evening and having a friend over wouldn’t work. I begged. I pleaded. I bargained—I’d do more than my share of chores. Big sister Diann stepped in to save my life. She offered that she could babysit both Greg and me.

We were having fun. But it turned south, fast. Diann told us we needed to quiet down. Greg sarcastically mocked her. She scolded us. He talked back. The tension mounted, and I began to get nervous. I knew my sister. Before I could warn him, the two were locked in a fiery exchange.

“Listen you little punk!” she demanded. “I’m bigger than you. I’m badder than you. I’m meaner than you. And I’m a helluva lot madder than you. You’d better shut your mouth!”

Greg crossed the line. He mimicked, “I’m biiiiiger, I’m baaaaader, I’m meeeeeener …” Greg’s life flashed before my eyes. Diann formed a perfect fist. It was like one of those slow motion scenes from the movie Rocky—you know, where the punch lands, and spit and blood go flying from flapping jowls. The coolest kid in the fifth grade was ass-end over tea-kettle across my living room, his lip swelled to the size of a kielbasa before he even hit the ground. The coolest kid, reduced to a puddle of blood and tears by my sister.

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Fancy Meeting You Here

Over the next eight weeks I am participating in a writing class offered through the Literary Kitchen and one of my writing mentors, Ariel Gore. Among our assignments each week is a weekly ‘Quick Write’ practice, which is to be completed in ten minutes or less, in response to a prompt. For this first QW, the prompt was ‘Tell the story of running into someone who you didn’t really want to run into.’ Here’s my reply to QW#1:

It was a Monday like every other. I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled past the family at the breakfast table, tanking up for a day at school. Routine–I rounded the table as I passed them, greeting each with a good morning kiss on the top of the head.

Practically sleepwalking, I was into the bathroom, disrobed and in the shower without thinking about it. Like a million times before, I grabbed the shower curtain to pull it closed. A thud at my feet and sudden movement jarred me from any remaining slumber. An eastern rattlesnake had dropped between my feet. The wake-up efficiency was espresso, squared.

If only a video existed. I somehow went up and out, taking the shower curtain, rod and a pound or so of wall plaster with me as I exited the tub. I screamed something. I don’t remember what, though my wife recalled that it included “Jesus!” and a string of expletives we should expect to hear repeated by the kids.

The serpent and I engaged in a brief stare down. He won.

Naked! I have to tell you, the first thought that crossed my mind was that I was buck-naked and should this snake bite me, paramedics would arrive, and … Underwear! I reached for the briefs. What a relief! Amazing how the thought of dying in your underwear as opposed to out of them makes a difference. Now, what to do?

The serpent was turning circles, rattling his tail, and cussing little snake words no doubt, because he couldn’t scale the sides of the antique tub. My wife kept it scoured–slick, slick, slick. Never again would I complain about how slippery that old tub could get. He had probably worked for an hour to get up in the curtain, moments from escape, when my morning ritual foiled his plan.

All I had at my disposal was a wastebasket and a long handled back scrubbing brush. And my underwear. What more does a man need to protect his family? ‘It’s you and me, serpent! Let’s dance!’

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed. Have you ever written a short/quick to a prompt like this before? Good practice? Or aggravating? 

Lost My Girl to a Kid Named Ewee

I’d asked her. She’d said yes. Just like that, we were going out.

We didn’t actually go anywhere, mind you. When you’re twelve, there aren’t too many places you can go without grown-up assistance. But if there would have been any going to do, I’m sure we’d have done it together. We did ride the same school bus. We sat together and everything. It was a proud feeling, I remember. Her name was Doreen, but that didn’t really matter. She was a girl, and not just any girl—she was my girl. At lunchtime other kids would say to me, “Are you the guy who’s going out with Doreen?” Yep. That’s me. Share a seat with her on the bus, I do.

Our relationship lasted about three weeks. That’s like a silver anniversary in middle school years. Alas, it ended when Doreen developed a crush on the new kid.

The new kid moved in down the end of the street. He came to our bus stop but he didn’t speak to anyone. He stood around like a mute. We didn’t even know his name. The girls called him Ewee. Yep, pronounced just like it looks, Ew—ee.

Where did he get a name like that? Were his parents high when they named him? Had they stepped in something?

Doreen vacated the seat next to me to sit next to … Ewee.

I played it cool. On the bus I sat with my back to the window. I stretched my legs out on the seat—no room for any girls, least of all a certain girl who chose to sit next to a pile of … Ewee.

Truth is, it was an anxious season for me. The harsh reality: I was the kid dumped by a girl for a kid named … you know.

Another girl named Leslie rode our bus. One day she sat next to me. You bet I moved my feet and made room for her—she was the only girl on the bus that hadn’t succumbed to the spell of Ewee.

“It comes from a song,” she told me. “Ewee. It’s part of the Pointer Sisters’ song ‘He’s So Shy.’” I must have looked like I needed further explanation, as indeed I did. She began to quietly sing the lyric, “’He’s so shy! So good looking! He’s so shy! He’s really got me going! That sweet little boy who caught my eye; Ew-ee, ew-ee, baby!’”

Ewee, ewee, baby? Is it any wonder I didn’t listen to the Pointer Sisters? Like she was reading my mind, Leslie snarked, “I know. Stupid, isn’t it?”

It was at that very moment I noticed how incredibly attractive Leslie was. I went with the impulse, “Do you want to go out with me?”

I think she replied, “Ew.”

An excerpt from Story of Me, a memoir in short stories.