Yaayy for another week and another chapter of Say Uncle, the babysitting story. Where we get to see some actual babysitting. Last wee we saw our hero, Micah, receive his assignment. And this week, let’s see how it works out.
If you missed part 1, here it is: Part 1
(sorry guys. no interesting chapter name titles on this serial story. instead you get texts at the beginning of each chapter.)
I steered my car around the corner onto the final street of the trip. Stuck on the outskirts of the city in a mismatched little neighborhood . . . and behind a few confusing turns . . . was Henry’s family’s house.
Ingrid had visited a lot more than any of the rest of us. I’d been here only a couple of times before, on obligatory visits with my parents, but I knew the way pretty well.
Henry’s house was easy enough to spot. It looked like a dollhouse, with the picture perfect shutters, the cute little dormers sticking out from the shingled roof and the pale blue paint.
I stretched my neck a little bit, squinting at what was happening in his driveway, as I got closer. Looked like he was already working on loading up for the trip. And by the little bodies hustling around, it also looked like his kids were helping him.
Oh man, there’s no way I’m remembering all of their names after this long . . .
I blew out my breath, slowing my car up by the curb as I reached the house.
Henry slung a last bag into the trunk of his car and turned around just as I cut the engine.
The two kids who were outside exchanged a look before scampering back into the house.
Clearly looking forward to seeing me.
Henry gave a wave in my direction and started walking over, hooking one thumb on a belt loop.
I grabbed my keys, popped my door open and stepped out into the cool, damp air outside. Everything was soaking wet outside and tiny branches and leaves littered the ground, but when I squinted up, there was barely a cloud in the sky.
Schizophrenic Missouri spring weather. What timing for a visit. Like it wasn’t bad enough usually, with all the snakes . . .
I let out my breath and fidgeted with the bracelet on my right wrist. Some stupid old paracord bracelet Ingrid had made me when she was into that sort of thing. Don’t even know why I grabbed that before leaving.
“Hey,” Henry greeted, stopping by the hood of my car. He raised his eyebrows and nodded towards the back. “Have you got a bag to bring in?”
“Yeah, right back . . . hold on.” I stepped around to the trunk and popped it open, pulling out my duffle bag and slinging it over one shoulder. That was all I’d brought. I’d considered breaking down my drum set and bringing that along, but . . . really, this wouldn’t take that long and it’d probably just end up being more trouble than it was worth, anyway.
With my bag in place, I walked over beside Henry. I reflexively straightened my posture and stood up taller, even though it was pretty obvious that I still wasn’t as tall as he was. I still felt like I needed to make some effort.
Henry’s gaze went down to the rock band patches stuck to my bag and then to my hair that was still that untrimmed length he’d said he didn’t like before. A slight frown pulled at his mouth, but was gone in a second.
Couldn’t really complain, once he’d already hauled me along this far.
He met my eyes again, pulled a smile and clapped a hand on my shoulder.
“Really, Micah. Thanks for doing this. Mom and Dad’ll thank you in time, too.”
I nodded, looking over towards his car, then towards the house, where I saw Cecily walk past one of the windows. “So, you guys all ready to go, then?”
“Just about.” Henry started walking back to the house. I followed him. “We just wanted to stick around a little longer and give you a better rundown on some other things you should know, with the kids, before we take off. You can call either of us, I know, but . . . you know . . . probably best to get it all worked out now.”
He went up the steps and I followed, getting to the top of the short flight in two long strides.
Henry opened the door, holding it for me to step inside. The house was shockingly clean, to have this big of a family actually living in it. I could see the kids just in the next room, looking at me – staying back like I was some bizarre alien, brought for display.
I stepped inside, squinting back at the kids before shifting my look over to Cecily.
She always seemed like some sort of . . . too-perfect wife, to me. Always smiling and talking in sweet tones and looking perfectly put together. I still couldn’t quite believe that she’d just married my brother.
I felt like a hobo whenever I was around her. But at least she seemed to like hobos.
Cecily smiled, tucking her thin blonde hair behind one ear. “Hi, Micah! Are you doing alright? Was the drive okay?”
“Uh . . . yeah. It was good. I’m good.” I shifted my bag on my shoulder and scratched at the back of my head. My gaze wandered around the entryway, glancing over towards the living room. “You guys redecorate in here?”
“Just moved a little furniture around. Hung some new pictures.” Cecily smiled. “It’s nice to mix it up.” She turned down the hall towards where the kids were, her hair swishing over one shoulder. “Kids! Come say hi to Uncle Micah!”
I kept myself from wrinkling my nose at the title. There should be some accept-or-deny deal that goes with being a full-on uncle. I sure didn’t feel like one. I couldn’t even remember any of the names of the little MacQuoids scuffling their way out to meet me. Even if their faces looked kind of familiar in the echoes of their parents’ features.
Except for one, whose dark skin put him in the category of either an adoption or an affair with the milkman.
“Everyone line up here,” Henry’s tone took on the firm dad note as he stepped over and gestured along the table in the entry.
The four kids took their places, mismatched in height order. The tallest one sat on the floor and fixed me with an eerie stare. I watched to see if she’d blink for a few seconds and she didn’t. Just kept slowly scanning me over.
I glanced over the others, trying to remember any names and failing, though their faces did ring a bell in my mind.
“Right,” Cecily chirped. “So, name refresher! Kids, tell Uncle Micah your names and ages so he can get a leg up in keeping you all straight.” She pointed to the smallest little girl at one end of the line, who had long reddish-brown hair and freckles across her nose.
The girl tapped her toes together shyly and waved at me. “I’m five. And Tiny.”
I . . . well, I could see that, but . . .I blinked.
“Clementine,” Cecily said. “Tiny’s her nickname.” She pointed to the next kid in the row. The dark skinned one that I’d picked out from the rest just a minute ago.
The kid grinned at me, showing a gap where one of his front teeth was missing. “And I’m Penrod and I’m seven.”
“Ah,” I gave a half smile back and awkwardly waved one hand.
Next kid’s turn. He had his mom’s blonde hair, ruffled up on his head. Glasses perched on his nose, and he had on what looked like a too-big, white dress shirt for a coat. He was the tallest one standing.
“Rudy, eight.” he stated. He looked too absorbed in squinting at my bag to expand on that.
“Rudolf,” his mom corrected. “But we do usually call him Rudy. And right here is Charlotte.” She leaned down and rested a hand on the shoulder of the girl who was sitting – and who still seemed to be trying to bore her way into my soul with her intense, dark eyes.
“Doesn’t really like to talk, and the kids mostly call her Charley,” Henry added.
I nodded slowly. Well, at least no one could say my brother was uncreative in his naming choices. Clementine, Penrod, Rudolf and Charlotte MacQuoid. They weren’t gonna have any problems getting mixed up with other kids.
Charlotte looked down at my shoes and narrowed her eyes in some sort of unspoken challenge, like she was ready to attack my untied laces.
I shifted my feet awkwardly, looking back at Cecily. “So. Other things I should know?”
“Well,” Cecily straightened up and let out a sigh, tucking her hair behind her ears again. “As far as daily routine goes, it’s just getting them up and out the door in time for school. The bus stops right at the corner of the street. Oh, and getting their lunches packed for them – I have some instructions for that, written on a pad in the kitchen.”
She pointed back down the hall towards the kitchen and gave a delicate shudder. “The school lunches they serve are so toxic.”
Right. I almost forgot about Cecily being such an organic food nut.
“And with Penrod’s allergies . . .” she continued.
I frowned. “Wait, wait . . . what allergies?”
“That was my next point,” she rubbed at one sleeve, giving Penrod a smile before looking back at me. “He has a lot of food sensitivities that you’re going to have to watch out for. But if you just stick with the menu I wrote out, it should be fine. It’s mostly gluten, peanuts and lactose that are problems.”
Penrod nodded seriously.
Well, that was a thing then. Okay. So no peanut butter, bread or . . . “L-Lactose?”
“Milk,” translated Henry.
Cecily continued and I wondered if I should have brought a notepad of my own.
“Tiny needs her nightlight on before she goes to sleep at night. We hopefully set everything up so that Charlotte would be fine, even on Tuesdays . . .”
A half grin pulled at Rudy’s mouth and he glanced sideways at Charlotte, who looked back at him like she sensed his gaze. She gave a single nod before looking back to her mom.
I wondered what secret message I’d just missed.
“ . . . and Rudy mostly knows the instructions, but he might need help feeding Gerald.”
I stared at her. “Hold on, there’s another . . .” I knew I was lacking in niece/nephew knowledge, but good grief, did I seriously just forget a whole kid? One named Gerald?
Cecily laughed, shaking her head. “No, no, Micah. It’s Rudy’s pet snake.”
My heart skipped a beat. I could put up with a lot. It was already stretching the limits for watching all the kids. But a pet snake? Snakes were not cool.
I gave Henry a disbelieving look as he shrugged an apology.
“Asnake? Dude, you know about . . . why the f- . . . the flip would you . . .?”
Henry held up a hand, lowering his voice. “Hey, it’s Rudy’s pet and it stays in its terrarium, for the most part. You probably won’t have to do anything; we’re just saying it’s there, alright?”
I kept my withering look on him for another second. Brotherly love. Just box up a childhood phobia for me, won’t you . . .
“Are you scared of snakes?” Rudy’s voice piped.
“No,” I snapped back, too quickly. And too loudly. I cleared my throat and moved my bag again, frowning at Rudy for a second.
Rudy just grinned, nudging Charley with one foot.
Charley nodded and kept staring at me. It was really starting to creep me out. I remembered her being quiet before, but this was like she was trying to convince me she was possessed. I swallowed, rubbing my thumb over the paracord of the bracelet.
“I think Henry already texted you the number for my parents, so if you have any trouble, they’re nearby and can help out. And I think that’s just about everything,” the cheer in Cecily’s voice sounded just a little bit more forced. “I made some casserole for dinner already, so all you need to do is just pop that in, and it should be ready to go.”
“Yeah,” I muttered distractedly. “Um . . . hey, what’s up with . . . her?” I waved one hand and gestured to Charlotte, who only intensified her look.
“Oh, do you not . . .?” Cecily exchanged a look with Henry before answering. “Well I . . . I thought we told you before, she’s got a certain form of autism? She’s very quiet and has a few odd habits, but really she’s been doing very well lately. Everything should be fine. Just be patient with her, and she’s actually very sweet.”
Okay right, I’d . . . yeah, totally spaced on that. I nodded down at Charley, who narrowed her eyes again. I got a feeling that whatever “sweet” side she had, she wasn’t inclined to show it to me. I had suspicious shoes, or something.
“And . . . if you think you’ll be okay, we’ll be taking off, then.” Henry clapped his hands together, looking over at the kids. “You gonna be good for your Uncle Micah?”
“Yes, Daddy!” chorused Clementine and Penrod. Rudy gave a salute and grinned. Charlotte didn’t say anything, of course, but looked over at her dad.
“Okay, well . . .” Cecily sounded like she was getting slightly choked up. “We’re going to miss all of you.”
I stood back as both parents went down the row, giving hugs and kisses and promising to be back soon.
Then they were out the door, heading to the car. All the kids went to the front window and waved, some of them yelling “bye” as the car pulled out.
I took the minute or so that gave me to take a better look around the main floor. Get a fix on where everything was. I dug in my pocket for a few seconds, coming up with a pack of gum. I chewed that while I looked around.
The “cute” exterior had certainly lent itself to a “cute” interior. I couldn’t imagine how Henry lived here and still kept any sort of manliness.
I ran a finger over some painted flowers around the kitchen door frame, shaking my head in disbelief.
The kitchen was amazingly clean. It looked like some sort of display. Man, they really kept stuff clean around here. Either that, or Cecily went crazy cleaning to get a good impression down for her house, while I was watching it.
Better pick up after myself, then.
I walked over to pick up the notepad on the counter, glancing over the loopy cursive notes across the paper. My cheat sheet for the week or so I was gonna be here . . .
I didn’t notice that all the yelling “bye” that had been going on had stopped until I felt a tug on my sleeve.
“Gah!” I jumped back, giving a split-second thought to the idea that the house was haunted before seeing it was just Clementine. She jumped back as well at my yell and stared at me with wide eyes.
“Oh, I . . . sorry.” I blew out my breath and shook my head, turning my attention back to looking through the organic menu on the notepad.
She edged closer again. “Uncle Micah, what are you eating?”
“Um . . . nothing.” I pushed my gum to one side of my mouth.
“But you’re chewing.”
“It’s gum, okay? It’s for grown-ups.”
She grabbed my sleeve again. “I’m hungry.”
“Well, then, we’re gonna have dinner in a few hours. Chill out.”
“Can I please have a gum?”
None of the words on the menu were even registering in my mind. I rolled my eyes, sticking my hand back in my pocket and pulling out another gum stick.
Clementine gave a happy gasp and clasped her hands together.
I held it just out of her reach and raised my eyebrows. “One, you can’t swallow this. You just chew it and you spit it out when you’re done. And two, if I give you this, you gotta go play with everyone else, okay?”
“Okay!” she held out a hand eagerly, bouncing on her toes. “Mom never lets us have candy!”
That gave me pause, unsure if that was a good thing or not. But I unwrapped the gum and gave it to her. “Don’t swallow it.”
She popped it into her mouth, squeaked out a “thank you,” and scampered off around the corner.
I looked back down at the notepad, skimming over a few more pages.
More footsteps slapped around in the halls, and a few of the kids poked their heads in to look at me.
Then Clementine was back.
“Can I have another gum?”
“You . . . wait.” I squinted at her. “You spat that one out already?”
“Then you . . .” before I’d even finished, she’d ducked her head, looking guilty. “You swallowed it?”
She twisted her fingers in her hair. “It just fell down my throat by accident. Can I try again?”
Penrod came around the corner by his sister, looking stern. “Gum has after-ficial flavors, Tiny. And if you swallow it, it stays in your tummy forever.”
Tiny looked stricken and started to cry.
Oh great. Just great. Not ten minutes in, and I’d already made one of them cry.
“How do I get it out?” she sobbed.
Rudy appeared, helpfully giving his suggestion. “Surgery?”
Tiny cried harder.
“Guys!” I came out from behind the counter, pointing the notepad at all of them in turn. “Listen, no one needs surgery. Clementine, you’re not going to die. Penrod, gum isn’t evil, and Rudy . . .” Just as I started to point at him, he whipped out a squirtgun from underneath the too-big shirt he had on and shot a stream of water at my face.
I reflexively held up the thing I was holding as a shield. And the whole notepad took the squirt for me. The whole middle of the paper was soaked through.
I stared in horror.
Rudy raised his eyebrows, looking impressed. “Whoa. Nice block.”
I choked on my words. “That was . . .”
The notepad was ruined. That was all the instructions Cecily had written down. All the foods that could get past the allergies and what to do for that stupid snake and . . .
Penrod screamed and clapped his hands over his ears. Rudy burst out laughing.
Nothing like getting off to a great start.
Hope you enjoyed! Please comment what you thought. 😀
Have a great Thursday, everyone. ❤