Weeping

“The kitchen is in shambles and I found her weeping in the pantry,” my husband says, the babysitter in tow. Her mascara has abandoned her lashes and settled on her puffy cheeks. I tell David, “The little slut is crying, do not say weeping, as if we’re in a novel.” I’ve retrieved the baby whose diaper was so wet it plopped to the floor like a rotten melon. “Pay her, get rid of her.” When my husband drunkenly asks, “How much,” I scream, “Go!”  Clearly our evening at the party with more decorations than food wasn’t worth the price and drama of our incompetent sitter. I tuck the exhausted baby into her crib and go in search of Danny, who’s not in his room. A lurid pizza sits in the hallway, uneaten, and he is asleep in our closet, still wearing his Superman cape. I return him to his Superman sheets. The dog is missing and slinks back only when he’s sure it’s me calling from the back door.

I lurch around to set cushions to rights, put away Star Wars figures, fish around in the couch for the remote. In my day, I was a great babysitter. I played with kids, fed them, read to them, coerced them into bed on time, then tidied up the kitchens before my boyfriend showed up. I was in great demand in my neighborhood—until an abortion at 16 soured me on kids for ten years. I kick Legos into a pile, a hazard just like the ad says. Six of Danny’s books are strewn around. I wonder how many got read before the sitter’s visitor arrived. Clearly male, whose limp and sticky condom under the couch was probably the only sane decision of the evening, but sadly, looking back to my babysitting days, not of mine.

Pamela Painter
Pamela Painter

Pamela Painter is the award-winning author of five story collections, and co-author, with Anne Bernays, of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.  Her stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Five Points, Flash Boulevard, Harper’s, Michigan Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, New Flash Fiction Review, SmokeLongQuarterly, and Vestal Review, among others, and in numerous anthologies such as New Micro. Her stories have been presented on National Public Radio and on the YouTube channel CRONOGEO, and have been staged by WordTheatre in Los Angeles, London, and New York. Her newest collection is Fabrications: New and Selected Stories (Johns Hopkins University Press).