After our teenage uncle’s first day of spectacularly failing at babysitting, let’s see how day two goes!
Catch up here on the other parts:
I got up earlier than I had in months the next morning. A couple of hours before the kids were supposed to take off for school. Because I knew it was going to take me that long to figure out whatever stupid healthy meals the kids were going to have for lunch and breakfast.
It took me long enough to work out breakfast that I ended up actually using something from that dumb site Fnu sent me. Because I honestly didn’t have any better ideas.
No one ever had to know, anyway.
No one needed to know that I’d ever made something called “kale spectacularama”.
Seriously, I hadn’t even heard most of those ingredients in that recipe, even though the ingredient list was tiny. But hey, Cecily had them.
The fact that their family was able to eat this sort of stuff made me almost want to call up Fnu and tell him I’d found his long-awaited alien life forms.
I finished making the spinach, coconut milk scrambled eggs without gagging, then focused on guzzling down the rest of my energy drink. I rested my head against the counter and groaned quietly.
Henry shouldn’t take too much longer with this. I wasn’t staying forever.
“Only for a few more days,” I muttered.
The small voice made me jump. My head snapped up and I blinked a couple times to see Penrod poking around the corner into the kitchen. His eyes were wide.
“Is . . . breakfast ready?”
I straightened my back, hearing it pop a little as I stretched. “Yeah, it’s done. Eggs. Where’s everyone else?”
“They’re . . . up. I think. Charley’s just getting dressed.” Penrod scuffed over to peek at the eggs. He looked pretty impressed. I still couldn’t look at them without wanting to gag, but that was the case with a lot of Cecily’s type of food so I’d probably hit it right on.
Penrod looked up at me, plopping his lunchbox down on the counter. “Can we eat now?”
I nodded, grabbing a stack of plates from the cupboard. By the time I’d gotten the eggs all split up onto four plates, all the kids were downstairs with their lunchboxes in hand.
I shooed them off into the dining room to eat while I put stuff in their lunchboxes. The little kale burritos and carrot sticks that would hopefully do the job for lunch. I could keep the peanut butter sandwich stuff for myself, thanks. No way I was eating any of that.
But everything went smoothly. Breakfast was all finished. The kids loaded their plates in the dishwasher and took their lunches without question.
And it was exactly five minutes to seven when I got them all out the door.
I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I got a few pop tarts out of my bag for my own breakfast. Not too bad at all. Much better than yesterday, at least.
I took a bite and leaned against the windowsill. The bus rumbled past down the street and stopped at the corner. The kids hopped on board, backpacks bouncing against their backs, and the doors folded shut after them.
Well getting up this early would take some getting used to but once I got the routine set . . . hey, maybe I’d shave an hour off. And I still had naps and energy drinks to keep myself from getting too tired.
My phone buzzed in my jeans pocket. I brushed the crumbs off my hands, then slipped it out, looking down at the text.
-Everything doing alright?
I tapped out a quick reply.
I paused, then sent another.
How are mom and dad doing?
I could still feel a bit of a knot in my gut when that subject came up. But Henry and Cecily should be getting some sort of marriage fix going.
Oh yeah and speaking of fixing things, I should probably ask for another list to replace that yellow notepad . . .
Another text blipped up on the screen.
Not great at all. Just glad we got here before things got worse.
Prayers would be good.
I just looked at the screen for a few seconds. I bit the inside of my cheek and sent a “K” before clicking the phone off and sticking it back in my pocket.
I bit my lip and rubbed my thumb over my bracelet.
I was handling this fine anyway. I could ask for a list later if I still needed it.
Well at least no one came home starving that day. And it sorta made up for the fact that I burnt the healthy casserole I’d slapped together for dinner.
The kids didn’t love the black edges. I took the chance telling them it was “healthier for them that way” and that at least got Penrod and Tiny eating it. Rudy was grumpy again for whatever reason. I eyed him for a few minutes, but didn’t ask. Probably nothing I could really fix anyway. I wasn’t even close to being a kids’ councilor.
Bedtime came early, like it always did, and I herded everyone up to bed.
“Do you think one night we could maybe stay up late?” Tiny peeped, looking back at me as she went up the stairs. “And watch a long movie?”
Penrod looked at her disapprovingly.
“What sort of movie?” I asked, pushing Rudy up a few more steps.
“The one with the ladies in pretty dresses?” Tiny suggested.
Charley narrowed her eyes.
“She means Pride and Prodigious,” Rudy mumbled, scuffing his feet against the top step.
Tiny bobbed her head.
I was glad I hadn’t given any permission before knowing what she meant.
“Yeah, that’s not happening, sorry. Everyone get your PJs on.” I made a shooing motion as I turned back down the stairs to put away what was left of the scorched casserole.
After the kitchen tour I’d made earlier in the day, I knew where the plastic wrap and everything was, so I got it all wrapped up and stuck it in the fridge. I stopped for a moment, resting my hand on the fridge door and narrowing my eyes.
It seemed so . . . smooth for a few minutes there. Taking all the kids up to bed and denying a request for a later bedtime, then coming back down to responsibly put the food away.
Like I’m some sort of dad or something.
Or getting used to this uncle thing.
It felt like I’d walked through some dusty old cobweb that I needed to brush off. I wrinkled my nose and ran a hand over my hair, then shook my head and started back for the stairs.
That was ridiculous.
Tiny snuggled down further in her blankets as I finished my awkward rendition of Bastille’s “Sleepsong”. She hugged her stuffed horse tighter and smiled at me. “Goodnight, Uncle Micah.”
I nodded, pulling my mouth into a sideways smile back. “’night.” I headed for the door and reached my hand out for the knob to pull it shut behind me.
Her head popped back up for a few seconds. “Hey, why did you take down our security?”
I stopped for a second before remembering what she was probably talking about. “The baby gates and stuff over the windows?”
She nodded, her forehead scrunched up. “They were there for safety.”
I blew out my breath and dropped my hand back down to my side. “Listen, you guys have solid locks on your doors and good window latches. Nothing’s gonna sneak through. You’ll be just fine.”
The worry faded from her face and she nodded again. “Okay. G’night.” She flopped back down into the blankets.
I stood there for another second, just frowning to myself.
For . . . protection.
Seriously, Henry. Just get a security system installed.
I shook my head and stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind me.
Penrod’s room was next and it was just as easy as before, tucking him in and saying goodnight without any crazy questions or requests.
I moved on to Rudy’s room. Just as . . . weird as before. Man, this kid had a lot of junk. I thought of all the times Mom had insisted on sending extravagant presents through the mail for Christmas and wondered how much of that would downscale if she got a look at Rudy’s room. She could send him a weird shaped rock and he’d probably be happy for life.
Rudy already had his glasses set on his dresser and was burrowed under his tangle of blankets, a poof of blond hair showing out the top like a patch of dry grass.
I stepped over a few cardboard box creations and a large cloth-covered lump to get closer to his bed. “Hey. You . . . need anything?”
The bundle in the blankets moved slightly. “Nope. G’night.”
I retraced my steps backwards, careful not to lose my balance, got back out into the hall and headed to Charley’s room.
I knocked first, even though I knew she wouldn’t answer. When I came in, she was lying on her bed with her hands clasped on her chest, staring at the ceiling. Her gummy bear jar close by one elbow. And she was fully dressed.
I raised my eyebrows. “Hey, Charley?”
Her gaze flicked over in my direction for a second, then went back to the ceiling. Concentrating on the tiny shadows the bumps from the cottage cheese ceiling cast or something.
“Hey,” I said a little louder, stepping closer. “You gonna get your PJs on and go to bed or what?”
She gave a shrug so small I wasn’t quite sure if it was actually a shrug or just a twitch.
“Seriously, are you gonna sleep?”
I waited for some sort of answer for another minute before the combination of feeling stupid and creeped out finally got to me. I just reached over to shut off the lamp, then headed out of the room.
Whatever. She’d just be ready for school quicker tomorrow. Big deal.
I went back downstairs. Another phonecall with Fnu was on the schedule for tonight, and at least I had a few victories to share this time.
“ . . . so there was that weird ball of purple stuff floating in the woods and I wanted to go after it, y’know. But the other guy I was camping with was just “no way man!” and by the time I’d finished finding my flashlight it was gone again.” Fnu’s sigh came over the line. “So yeah, that was pretty exciting. Even if it was a while ago. Still haven’t figured what that purple ball was exactly.”
“Ball lightning?” I suggested.
“Eh,” I could almost hear Fnu’s dismissive hand waving. “UFO, probably. Just don’t know what kind. Anyway. How goes the babysitting stuff?”
I brushed a hand over my hair, propping my elbow on the couch arm. “Well today wasn’t too bad, actually. Actually got the food stuff figured out for the most part. And . . .”
I heard the back door open and close. My words trailed off.
I locked that door already.
Was one of the kids trying to go outside?
Or already were outside?
“And?” Fnu’s voice sounded in my ear. I blinked, realizing my mouth was still open.
“Um . . . yeah, sorry. I think I might have a problem with the kids. Somebody trying to sneak out.” I pushed up off my bed on the couch, walking towards the back door. “I’ll call you back in a minute, okay?”
“Alrighty roo. Do what ya gotta do.”
I ended the call and stuck the phone in my back pocket, slowing my pace as I reached the back door. Unlocked, obviously.
Charley had her clothes on still. Did she decide it was time for a late-night tree climbing or what?
I twisted the knob and pulled the door open, stepping out into the cooler outside air and the sounds of cicadas chirping in the trees.
“Charley?” I blinked a couple times, adjusting to the dark of the outside. I turned, looking around the yard. “Hey, come back inside, okay . . .?”
I trailed off as a loud buzzing noise came from the left and turned to look. The thought of a giant swarm of night-bees flashed through my mind, but what was actually there was a lot more . . . confusing.
A miniature UFO, strung up in lines of twinkle lights and lifting off the ground in a steady climb. It hovered, then gained speed and shot up into the air, circling around the top of the house. The buzzing noise got louder.
I just stood there for a second, dumbstruck.
Then I saw the blond little kid standing there in his pajamas with a complicated remote control in his hands. Grinning wide as he watched the UFO swoop back to our side of the house.
He hada freaking UFO? And was flying it around the neighborhood?
Rudy bit on his lip, swooping it for one of the neighbors’ upper windows
I broke out of my shock and dove for him. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Rudy yelped and jumped back as I grabbed at him. The UFO took a dip, then climbed up again, starting to loop crazily. “Stoppit Uncle Micah you’re gonna ruin my experiment!”
I cursed, pulling him over by his shirt and grabbing for the controller. He held on tighter than I thought any kid that size could.
“Heeeyyy!” he yowled. The buzzing of the UFO motor throbbed in the background, louder than the cicadas.
“Give. Me. That.” I ground out, giving a final yank and pulling it from his hands.
Rudy jumped up to try and get it back. “Uncle Micah, you can’t . . .”
I held it out of his reach, spluttering for words. “There is no way your dad lets you fly a . . . a spaceship . . .”
The buzzing swooped closer all of a sudden.
I started to turn.
Then everything turned into a big blur of getting smashed in the face with a twinkle-light-covered battering ram.
The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back on the cement patio. My head pounded and I could feel that my nose was bleeding. The buzzing noise had stopped.
Did that just . . .?
Oh boy. Rudy is dead for this.
I groaned and winced, putting a hand to my throbbing face. Okay, that thing was a lot more solid than I expected . . .
Then I realized Rudy wasn’t next to me any more.
There was the sound of the back door slowly creaking open.
I shot upright, trying to scramble back to my feet.
Rudy’s yelp echoed across the yard, along with the metal scraping of him dragging his spaceship back inside.
I staggered/ran over and caught the door just a few inches before it shut. I pulled it back open slowly, fixing my glare solidly on Rudy’s guilty face.
Rudy was frozen, his eyes wide behind his glasses.
I shoved through the door and stood over him, raising one hand and my eyebrows. “Okay buddy. What the h-. . . the hizzy . . .” I pointed down at the spaceship, “ . . . is that?”
“It’s . . .” Rudy swallowed. “My experiment?”
“In terrorizing the neighborhood and blaming it on aliens?”
“On flying stuff!” his tone got more defensive. “Mom said it was okay, and she said she’d tell you about it!”
I put a hand to my bloody nose again. “Yeah, and guess who squirted water all over my handbook so it would be really easy to lie about that? Nice try.”
Rudy scowled. “It’s true!”
“Even if it was, you smashed me in the face with it!”
“That was you! You grabbed the controls and steered it into your face!”
“Like I would . . .” I cut myself off, gritting my teeth together. That was it. I leaned over and grabbed the UFO.
Rudy let out another angry yell and jumped at me, trying to get it back.
“No. You get this back when I say so.” I tucked it under my arm.
“Jerk,” Rudy spat. He folded his arms and looked sullenly down at his bare feet, his forehead furrowed in a scowl. “Anyway it’s Tuesday. I thought you’d have more important stuff to worry about.” He muttered his last words, like they were more to himself than to me.
I stopped, mid step. “Tuesday?”
“Tuesday,” Rudy repeated, not moving.
A sound bite replayed in my head from my first instructions I was given on the kids.
That they’d rigged everything so “Charley would be fine, even on Tuesdays.”
I hadn’t asked. I hadn’t remembered.
Suddenly, I regretted everything.
I threw the UFO down on the couch and bolted up the stairs, taking them two at a time. “Charley? Hey, Charley?” I got to her door and fumbled for a second before getting it open.
Her bed was still made. The lamp was still out. The window was open.
And Charley was gone.
where has Charley gone?
We shall see next week.
Hope you guys enjoyed this week’s installment, be sure to hop back in next time!
And… y’know… scream at me in the comments or something.