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FICTION — The Babysitters

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For my parents

“C’MON MARGE, we gotta get outa here before she changes her mind,” Irving spat, cigar in hand as he twisted the steering wheel.

Marge strained the seat belt across her ample girth while Irving pealed out of the driveway, tires screeching. She looked fondly into the backseat; the grandkids were buckled into booster seats. Then she frowned, “Um, kids, what do you have on your laps?”

“Our multisport utility helmets, Grandma. Mom said you were taking us to the park.” Devonte replied.

Marge raised an eyebrow. She wrapped her arms around the cooler bag on her lap, holding it steady.

Irving stomped on the accelerator and ran a red light, cigar clenched between his teeth. To his credit, it wasn’t lit, yet. “So, what’d she send this time?”

Marge peered into the cooler bag and removed two ice packs. “Um, apples, milk, wraps, and these brown things.” She held one aloft.

“They look like turds,” Irving spat.

“’ola bar.” Chimed a voice from the backseat. “Mommy make.”

Marge twisted in her seat, “Do you want it?”

“Yucky.” Georgie pouted.

The verdict was in; these poor kids had to be saved. “To the doughnut shop, Irv, and step on it.”

“So what’s with the apples and milk? She think we got nothin?” Irving glared in the rearview mirror.

“You know, those apples are organic. No pesticides, no GMOs. And the milk’s actually made from almonds. Lactose free.” Amelia was in fourth grade, and at the top of her class. They were all so proud of her.

“What the hell’s a GMO?”

Twisting around, Marge peered into the backseat. “What’s a GMO, honey?”

The child shrugged. “I dunno, that’s what Mom says.”

Leaning across the driver’s seat, Marge pointed, “Look, we can go there for lunch.” A large inflatable clown sat on a low brick building, framed by golden arches.

“’ook! Fwench fwies!”

“Can I get nuggets? With sweet and sour sauce?”

“Please may I have a chocolate shake?”

“Of course you can sweeties; Grandma will take you there soon enough. If you’re good, we can even get ice cream too.” Her cell phone beeped. “Slow down, Irv, you’re passing it.”

A hard left across traffic and they were face to face with the drive thru menu board.

Irving rolled down the window and barked out his order, “That’ll be two extra-large coffees, and a dozen doughnuts — chocolate and rainbow sprinkles,” and paused long enough to chuck the contents of the cooler bag into the trashcan.

He looked over at Marge as he drove to the cashier window. “So, what does she want this time?”

“Oh, the phone, I almost forgot.” Marge scrolled through the screen. “It’s to remind us that the kids don’t eat anything with food dyes. No sugar. Or glutens.”

“Really?” Irving handed rainbow sprinkled donuts ‘round the backseat. Watched them tuck right in. Those poor kids, deprived, that’s what they were. “OK guys, who wants to go to the park?”

Amidst doughnut-muffled yells of affirmation and squealing tires, Irving burned down the road.

*

At the park the kids raced ahead to the playground, while Marge and Irving sauntered behind holding cups of coffee. “It’s so nice to watch them play, isn’t it Irv?”

“Yep.” Irving slurped his coffee. Looked around. “Where’s the little one?”

Marge paused, coffee halfway to her lips, “I dunno. Kids, where’d your brother go?”

“He’s up there!” they pointed to the tallest climber. A small figure waved from atop a wooden structure.

“Ah, and so he is. And he’s doing so well too, look at the little tyke, hanging upside down.” Marge sipped her coffee, and looked around for a bench to settle on.

The phone beeped and Marge glanced at it. “She wants us to take pictures of the kids. Says to go play on the grassy knoll. The climbers aren’t safe, kids could fall.” She squinted at the screen. “Something about slippery paint and unsafe substrate. Whatever that is.”

“You don’t say.” Irving lounged on the bench, cigar smoke wafted across the playground.

Amelia ran up. “Grandpa, Devonte pushed me off the swing. I bumped my head.” She rubbed the growing goose egg.

“Go push ‘em back, that’ll teach ‘em.” He patted her on the head, “’Atta girl, go get ‘em.”

Marge winced as Georgie tumbled off the climber. He immediately sat up and started throwing sand at the others.

Irving leaned against the bench and waved his cigar, “You know, this babysitting thing’s child’s play.”

*

The Babysitters was originally published on Commuter Lit; Angela hides out in many places such as editorial meetings and literary festivals, and random places online.

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