The Babysitting Solution to Ennui

            “Mickey, eat something.  Play a video game.  Go on a date.  Play a video game on a date.  Doesn’t matter.  Just do something, okay hun?”  Elia hands Mickey the keys.  “We’ll be back around 3.  Food will be here around 5.  Okay hun?  Don’t get bored.  Take care of the kids.  Stay cool.”

            The family gets into five cars.  They roar away in a line, and God help anyone stuck behind them, thinks Mickey, as he pockets the keys.

            “Arnie, go on the computer for a while.  I’m giving Jane a bath,” says Mickey.

            “Jane smells.  Needs a bath,” notes Arnie.  He’s already on the computer.

            Mickey takes Jane upstairs.  “You’re dirty okay?  You’re really dirty and you need to be clean because we’re having a party and you’re getting cake.  Okay?”  She sneers at him.  It’s impossible to get the water temperature right.  Jane hates shampoo.  She can’t stand soap.

            “Almost done.  Hun.”  Mickey tries to use words Elia would.  Jane looks at him from behind the bubbles and gives him the finger.  “Little shit,” he murmurs, just enough to let her know that he said something bad but not enough for her to repeat it later.  The towel has a hood and a tail.  Jane is dripping on a dish towel.

            “Stay here, I’ll get some clothes.”

            Mickey is gone for less than a minute.  It takes that long to gather some jeans and a white top, underwear and socks.

            The bathroom smells.  Jane is on the ground, twitching.  She is next to a receptacle.  Her hair is soaking wet.

            As Mickey watches, Jane stops twitching.  “Hun?  Hun?  Jane?”  He kneels next to her.  Gets his knee wet.  “Darling?  Jane?”  He pulls the hood aside, puts his hand under her nose.  When it’s clear that she’s not breathing, he checks her pulse.

            “Get off the computer!” yells Mickey, pushing Arnie’s chair aside.  It rolls over the hardwood.  He gets the search string wrong four times in a row.

            “What happened?” asks Arnie.  “Why are you looking that up?”

            “Shut up.  Go eat something.”

            Upstairs, Mickey performs CPR.  “Come on hun.  What are you doing?  What are you doing right now?  Come on.  Come on, Jane.”  He is pushing so hard that he can feel her ribs bending.  He is blowing so fiercely into her mouth that he imagines her lungs inflating and popping like a balloon.  He is out of breath when he finally stops.  He sits against the bathtub.  Water is soaking into his socks.

            In the bedroom, Mickey picks up and puts down the phone several times.  He lies down on Elia’s bed.  He tries to close his eyes.  But in the bathroom, Jane is cold.  “Oh Lord.  This didn’t happen.”  He picks her up.  He puts on her clothes and carries her to her bed.  He tucks her in and shuts the blinds so that the sun can’t bother her.

            Downstairs, Arnie has made a mess of the island in his pursuit of a sandwich.  “Want one?” he offers.  Mickey drinks some orange juice.  “That little stinker finally sleeping?”

            “The stinker is sleeping,” confirms Mickey.  He drinks a second glass.  Mickey is burning hot.  He is aware of the electrical impulses running through his body, producing heat; and also of those that create the functioning of the house, making light; and of those that connect the frame of the house to the broader world, sending information and voices and photos and ideas into the rest of human existence.  He does not know why he thinks that orange juice will change any of this.

            “Going to play out back,” says Arnie.

            “I’ll sit with you.  Read a book.”

            “You read books?”

            “Do now.”

            Arnie grabs his hat.  “Well, Mom said you had to find something to stay motivated.  Glad for you, Mickey.  Don’t forget the baby monitor.”

            “I won’t.”  Mickey picks a book from the living room.  It’s about menopause.  He knows nothing about menopause.  The plastic lawn chair creaks under him.  Arnie is on the swing set.  The sun is way too hot, he thinks.  He closes his eyes after three pages of the book.  Arnie is swinging, but Mickey is gone.

            “Ding dong,” comes a voice, later.  It’s Arnie.  “Ding dong!” he shouts.  “Wake up, family’s back.”

            Elia is pulling food out of grocery bags.  “Shame about the plastics ban,” she says to Grandma.  “Hun, hi!  How are things?  What happened to all the orange juice?”

            “Have to pee,” says Mickey.  “Going to do some work in my room.”

            “What kind of work do you do?” asks Grandma.  “I thought you didn’t do that.”

            In the hallway, the family is pulling off their shoes, thirty pairs of feet all unrobing at the same time.  An uncle pats him on the back.  A cousin steps on his toe.  An aunty gives him a hug.  They move into the living room and eat the snacks Grandma is bringing them.  Grandma keeps looking at him, as though she is actually interested in whatever work he might be doing.

            It takes ten minutes for Mickey to get his pee out.  He goes into his room and opens the window.  Turns on the computer.  It’s 4:30.  The food will be here soon.  The party will begin.  The smells will start, and someone will suggest that it’s okay to begin with the beer.  But the ladies will say no, only wine is acceptable at this time of the afternoon.  Elia will be the first one to finish two glasses, and then she will start making phone calls, inviting other people over even though she probably doesn’t have enough food for them.

            At some point, someone will ask where Jane is.  Elia will say that she’s likely having a long nap today.  Grandma will want the little cutie though, and will make to go get her.  Elia will say no, that little girls need their sleep.  But later an aunty will sneak up and open the door to Jane’s room, will have a look at the little bundle under the covers.  Afterwards, they will wonder how it is possible for little girls to die in their sleep.  They will look it up, they will investigate.  They will send electricity into the world, seeking answers.

            Mickey waits for it.  He smells and hears what is happening.  It’s 5:00.  The food is here.  The beer is flowing.  Someone calls for him but Mickey is working, he is working with the window open.  It is 5:30 and voices rise.  It is 6:00 and someone is singing.  It is 7:30 and the music starts.  It is 8:45 and the street lights are on.

            At 10:00, he knows that something wrong.  He goes downstairs and gets a kiss from an aunty.  Arnie is on the computer with the cousins and Grandma is dancing next to the coffee table.  There are fifteen shot glasses on the dining room table, and bodies are crowding around them.  Elia is in a recliner, laughing.  At her feet is a little girl in jeans and a white top.  Jane is sleeping.  She is pale.

            Mickey watches.  He feels hot.  He feels like he is burning.  He needs a drink.  But then he turns cold, because Jane’s eyes are open.  She is staring at him.  But her eyes are not her own.  They are black, and they are cold.  She sits up and stares at him.  And slowly, deliberately, she raises both her arms and gives him the finger.

*****

             Mickey is cleaning up.  The beer bottles have to be put in a cardboard box because some aunty fell on the cases.

            “You have fun, hun?” asks Elia.  “I’m glad.  You know that you’re a help around here, doesn’t matter what anyone says.  Just a matter of time until you find something to do, right?”  Before he can answer, she says, “Can you take the kids up to bed?  They’re way past their bedtime.”

            Arnie’s sleeping under the kitchen table.  Mickey leaves him there with a blanket and a cushion.

            Jane is cold as he lifts her up.  The stairs groan, but there is no noise in the world that would wake up the family.  “Well,” she asks, “was it a good day?  I hope you weren’t too bored.  We wouldn’t like you to be bored.”  He shakes his head.  At the top of the stairs, he steps over an uncle on the way to Jane’s room.

            “How do I smell now?” she whispers, as he tucks her into bed and opens the blinds to let the moonlight in.  Jane closes her eyes.  Mickey stays until he is sure she is sleeping.  He checks her breathing.  He feels her pulse.  He does this again and again, until he is sure that those little puffs of air are real.  That those tremors are made by a heart like his.

            Later, he is out the window on the roof, looking over the city.  He is chasing dreams, wondering why he can’t lift himself to go after any of them.  Behind him is a girl.  He thinks she is sleeping.  He thinks she is dreaming.  But she is not asleep at all.  She is standing behind him, staring through his body.  Waiting for him to turn around and see her properly.  To see those eyes, the black ones that are dimmer and much further away than whatever night Mickey finds between the stars.

*****this is for my friend Kizzy (http://kizzylee.wordpress.com/), who, like her friend Rhinda (http://50-shades-of-gray-hair.com/), is a rock for me in the blogosphere.  They are not necessarily easy with me, but I love and respect them all the more for it; the one thing they consistently do is make me laugh and challenge the heck out of me.  Kizzy mentioned one of the styles of stories that she likes, so I thought I would give it a try.  For all interested, I’ll be working on some stories in the next few weeks that will stray from what I’ve written before.  It’s time to do something different.

146 thoughts on “The Babysitting Solution to Ennui

    • Striving for a bit of the chill and the darkness you aim for, Jones. I’m actually glad you got a shiver out of this, makes me feel like I got where I wanted to go.

  1. Well, good morning to you, too! I’m really glad I didn’t read this before I went to bed last night. I was properly terrified and holding my breath. Kids can really freak a person out. The family gathering seemed very familiar to me and I had to reassure myself they weren’t relatives.

    • Michelle! I felt a bit bad writing this after seeing your bad post. You wrote about all the good in children; I wrote about a hell child. I don’t think I measure up there.

      Sorry about the scares, but would be lying if I said that’s not what I was going for.

      • Trent, no need to feel bad. You should feel great that you accomplished what you set out to do. Our stories were apples and oranges, not to be compared to each other. My stories are usually memories yours are creative genius.

  2. Dude.
    This Jane..how old is she? Young enough to need to get bathed, old enough to torment and destroy her father psychologically?

    I wonder if people without kids are going to feel like I feel right now. Like I can’t focus.
    This is a horror movie, not a blog post.

    Kizzy and Rinda are good writing comrades. I need people to kick my ass, the way you did on my most recent post. Don’t just shower me with accolades. Push me to the next level.

    xo,
    S

    • Careful now. I’m a little bit harsh with that kind of thing, but I figure endless adoration doesn’t get anyone anywhere. And I am not enabling your so-called self-esteem issues by telling you how great you are to soothe what ails you at the time. I think the occasional self-detracting soul-wrenching near-collapse posts are the least interesting things you write, by far. They feel like angling for sympathy. I think you are way better and above that, you’re bold and articulate and dare I say, literary.

      Well, there, I sound totally sanctimonius and like a total prick. But that’s how I see things. I think you can do something special if you don’t let yourself get in the way. Show me.

      • You sound like someone pushing me to the next level.

        I’m in a blog Alliance with all fiction writers just because it makes me so uncomfortable. It’s all good.

        Trent- I mean it. It may sound harsh, when you say it. But the fact that you believe in me so much is pure gold, in my book.

        xo,
        S

          • Man, I just got a little emotional.

            It may sound like you’re being harsh, but it sounds like support to me. To be better. Isn’t that all any writer wants?

            Thanks, Dude.

      • I wouldn’t have been able to sleep if you had posted it at night (and I had read it at night). 🙂

        And speaking of sleep, that’s a good segue into my most recent post. (Hangs head in shame…)

              • Drinking may help with the mortification of the sleep aid post. Today’s was just my usual exercise drivel. 🙂

                ps I am just leaving London. Been moving my son from one uni house to another. Sweet baby jeezus, boys are gross. I’m itchy all over from the disgustingness I’ve had to deal with all day. Blech.

              • I still haven’t got to your posts! But I will. The time is lacking.

                Okay Nancy, yeah, boys are gross. It’s a fact of life. We are gross gross gross.

              • And I’m sitting in bumper to fucking bumper traffic at 11:30pm. WTF??? Express lanes on the 402 closed and for reasons that are completely inexplicable – they have also reduced lanes in the collectors. Where is the logic???

              • Okay that sucks. 400-series just suck in general. I was in TO today, and got out unscathed, even though I left at 4 pm from Mississauga Road area. I need me my personal 407.

              • Finally able to turn off to 400. Cruising now to 407. Takes me way north of where I need to be but fuck it took 40 mins to drive one exit. Fucking Toronto traffic.

              • Okay good. Have a good cruise home. I’m going to pass out from the wine fumes now. Shit, I didn’t read half the stuff I wanted to. And I wrote fuck all. Excuse my language. People telling me about being stuck in traffic at this time of night makes me anxious. And hungry for Chinese food. I don’t know why that is.

                Fucking candy crush… still don’t know what that is. But once I find out, it’ll likely be the end of my writing career, such as it is.

  3. This made me sit up and take notice. After the initial horror of Jane’s death which you portray so well, I start to sink into a world of Dali surrealism. Excellent Trent.

  4. ok, just so I know, this wasn’t the post that was supposed to suck was it? Cause if it was you failed miserably. I believe it left me temporarily stunned….

  5. Wow, I don’t know what I’d do if Jane didn’t make it! I would be in a bad funk all day. I’m curious how old Jane is in this piece. It’s such a sad thing that no one cared to check on her. That the communication is nonexistent. You describe that perfectly. The woman who wants to invite more people, even if there is not enough food. Is Jane really sleeping the whole time? Is she still in her wet clothes? Sorry, if I don’t have all the details right. This is a chilling piece. It kept me going me going the whole way through. Great pacing and it kept me in suspense. I almost expect Jane to push Mickey out the window in the end. I have a feeling their relationship will not be the same and that Mickey won’t be giving any more baths anytime soon.

    • Let’s see… I picture Jane as say 5 at most.

      I don’t know if she’s sleeping the whole time. She might be. I kind of just left that out there, it’s either she’s a really weird kid or her brother (or whatever he is) is a very disturbed, listless guy.

      • I get that the babysitter is disturbed. Yes! And the parents, the party folks, also disturbed, even negligent. I wonder if the babysitter took more time looking for clothes with the bath duties, if we might find him even more disturbed. Say he can’t find them, or doesn’t know what color she would wear, etc. The length of time wouldn’t even need to be mentioned. Honestly, a minute doesn’t seem long enough, unless she hit her head or something, or unless he has no sense of time and it was a longer time. I guess that could be the case. Just a thought.

        Really excellent work, Trent, and a pleasure to read!!

  6. I read this at lunch. Tears started welling up (child death does that). Then black eyes and giving the finger freaked me out and made me laugh at the same time. I’m sure anyone watching thought I was daft.

    Breathing is back to normal, now. Back to work. Hope you do more of this.

  7. But… then what?
    Does she push him? Does she torment him the rest of his life? Does he admit what happened? Was it all in his imagination?
    Was it all in my imagination?

    Another fantastic story, Trent. Well done.

    • Dunno. I figure the poor sot’s in for a rough ride. And that she’s not going to amount to anything good.

      Yes, it was all in your imagination. It was. I know this. I was there. Watching.

      • On some days I’d say that would be very interesting to watch my imagination….
        “Good” is a sujbective term. She may not amount to anything good on a moral scale, but I bet the written summation of her exploits would be very good.

  8. Yet still clever as all hell. What exactly do you think that means? If hell were that clever it would find a way to do away with heaven and get all the souls for itself. Nope – not drunk but you would think so.

  9. Alfred Hitchcock used to do this sort of thing. Show you something horrific and then let regular life circle around it unawares. Tension for breakfast. I have to remember to read your stuff later in the day. It’s too much for my mornings.

    • The optimal time for reading my stuff is between beer number two and scotch number four. I have proven this through endless study and data collection.

      I have to admit something terrible. I have, despite being a huge movie buff, never seen an Alfred Hitchcock flick.

  10. I’ve been out of outer space a little bit and just saw this NB. First…holy fuck. My mind was going in a completely opposite direction when I read the first paragraph. And you can likely guess where. Second, If I were to say “I know this family” would you think less of me? Yikes…what a crew. My impression when they were leaving was that the family was going to a funeral. Why? Not sure, but was the image that slapped me. Next, I couldn’t figure what/who Mickey was, and I still can’t. Third, I felt Jane as a precocious 5ish sort of shit, though not sure why she smelled so bad. I also got the impression, further into it, that Arnie was younger of body but older of mind than Mickey. And lastly, as to the big M…he’s screwed. Jane just set the stage for one very strange life for this kid…and she’s going to have fun watching him slide. From whatever side of the plane she’s on (haven’t quite decided if the kid’s gone or not…I’m leaning though.) Now…I notice Kizzy hasn’t commented. One could assume she’s not read it…but to be honest, she likely won’t since she usually refuses to acknowledge stories where kids are hurt, in any way…even if she thinks it’s the best thing she’s ever read. Hope you already knew that. I could be wrong, but then again…scary read my friend…not sure how it was for you when writing it, but reading it was like a hot knife in soft butter…smooth.

    • Crap! I didn’t know that about Kizzy. I went for the horror angle and this is what came out… have to drop her a note and make sure I didn’t offend. Man, I suck at taking requests…

      No, of course wouldn’t think less of you for knowing a family like that. I know families like that. I think maybe Mickey is the older brother, Arnie is the middle kid but the most mature, and Jane is youngest? Could be.

      Thanks SB. Felt a bit cold and weird writing it, to be honest.

      • You could never offend her…never fear that. She’d just silently give a nod to a well written story and such. She wouldn’t take offense, especially not at one of her mates. I bet it did feel weird, but it read really well. You might just have a knack for this genre NB. 🙂

  11. Whoa. This was all so weird and I’m still trying to figure out what happened. I’m creeped out by the little girl, but just as creeped out by Mickey and the whole bath thing. It was all very disturbing. Good job.

  12. well my friend I am sorry i only just got here I have been so poorly yup again, this is my life, anyways okay now bear with me because it is important to me that I am honest with you but at the same time I don’t like to give any negative feedback, the story in itself is as always with you my friend well written, but rhinda has me spot on; she is my soul sister and probably knows me better than anyone else in this world even more so than my hubby, and i confirm that yes I switch off as soon as children are mentioned, sigh , please do not in any way think you have done anything to upset me i am ridiculously sensitive when it comes to children case in point-you remember a film called trainspotting i think it was;- bunch of young twenty somethings doing silly amounts of drugs? well here in my tiny hometown two of my friends took me to the cinema to see it and to this day A i don’t know what happens after about a quarter of the way because it was at that point the baby died and i cried the rest of the film and B the friends who took me? they refused to ever take me back to the cinema again because -i cry when babies die – so you see it’s me, its the way i am, now having said that i still have to point out that you took up the challenge admirably, you really do have a talent and i respect the way you approach any and all challenges and it is good for you, and by the same token it is good for us the reader as well; as you broach and surpass those boundaries so we are treated to your new wider perspective in writing, you have an ability to take the reader to any given situation and even though the subject matter was not one I would choose the story still held until the end because of your style of writing, again though my wonderful brother the style is still not quite what i look for in a story, and try as i might i find it difficult to even describe my own style, and that is why i wanted to provide you with a link to give you an example so now as promised the link;- trentle my friend i will not put the link I promised you here in this message as to me it is bad manners to link back to a blog in someone else blog if you follow me, so what i shall do is put up a new post on my blog with the link on that and then its up to you if you follow it or not but if you do choose to then it should take you to the first ever short story i wrote please be aware though it as written in one take, no rewrite, no editing not even a second reading i just wrote it and posted i was not an author you see just some daft lass who waffled out a short story ^_^,
    and after all this may i say that i was really poorly but your kindness in writing this and accepting the challenge helped take my mind off the pain for once so for that I thank you and want you to know how much I appreciated your kindness and sweet friendship, be well my brother and i hope you and your lovely family are having a nice day hugs ya brother x

    • Dear Kizzy, I stand quite amazed by the type of person you are, which is meant to say such a person you are… I couldn’t watch Trainspotting. It was too much. I am so sensitive about kids that… well, it’s hard to explain, but I figure you know what I mean. I take nothing negatively ,don’t worry, you are one of the few who gives feedback that I know is from the heart, and without pretense, I go forwards and backwards waiting for someone to call me out, give me a suggestion, tell me how they feel. I appreciate it, a lot.

      I”m going to go to your post and find that story. Thank you for posting it. I’m glad you did. I’m going to read and tell you honestly how I feel about it, same honour you give me. I appreciate you, my sister. I do.

  13. ps, i forgot to mention that i liked the ending and that is in fact a very rare compliment around these ‘ere parts, I am famous for not liking endings it’s one of the reasons I don’t like stephen king he does rubbish endings so my friend you have achieved something that even stephen king failed at in my eyes- you wrote a good ending ^_^ (dean koontz is also rubbish at endings there are not many horror writers I read because I really am incredibly fussy ^_^ ) have a fab day my wonderful brother x

    • Why thank you Kizzy Lee… must read the rest of your other comment shortly, I have been sadly waylaid by mountains of work. I hate Stephen King and have never read Mr. Koontz. I am a huge horror movie fan though. Glad you liked my ending, I have trouble with those at times.

  14. OK. So here I am thinking “I’ll just relax with a couple of blog posts.” It’s been a hard day. Pouring rain — commute from hell through flash floods that wanted to drown me.

    Just needed to relax a bit. I’ll open Trend’s post.

    Shit.

  15. I came to the lake beside my house because it’s such a beautiful evening here.
    I read this and now I feel unsettled and disturbed. That’s how great you are at evoking these feelings.

    • Ooops, sorry Janey. Although disturbed is kind of what I was going for. Thanks for the words – hope you enjoy the time by the lake, that sounds very nice actually.

  16. Mickey deserves to be haunted! him and all the other jerks there who thought a little kid would sleep all afternoon and that is normal! bunch of idiots! never had kids obviously. well Trent, this was just an emotional wreck. I loved how the ending wasn’t sad or mushy, but more like a horror story! You are GREAT at horror, in case I’ve never mentioned that. Especially death. I get morbid, and go off on my soap box, but you get in there and make people REAL, like how he didn’t bother to tell anyone, chicken shit! lol and then she haunts him! hopefully forever, which is the sense I got. I was really hoping he’d jump out that window! man you get me all stirred up! GOAL ACHIEVED! lol hat’s off!!!

  17. Gah, everyone was saying how you shouldn’t read this first thing in the morning… but I read it before going to sleep and now… well, time for TV and coffee, I suppose. 😉 Beautifully awful imagery…. and oh so tense…

  18. Pingback: The Two Years of Trent Lewin | Trent Lewin

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