Thursday has rolled around again and it’s time for us all to see how a teenage uncle handles a PTA meeting.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might want to catch up below.
Enjoy the chapter, guys!
Three full energy drinks and a few hours later, I was headed out the door on the way to the stupid PTA meeting.
The fact that I had no tote bag, no ponytail and no mom-pants on was enough to know that I’d probably stick out. But honestly. I wasn’t even planning on trying here. Any attempt to look like the “mom” sort was a surefire way to dig myself even deeper into shame of my babysitting career.
I’d just set my goal at not looking too dead. Hopefully that was something I could manage.
I got to my car, holding another energy drink in one hand as I stuck the keys in to unlock the door.
Why I was still drinking that thing . . .? I honestly had no idea. I still felt just as energetic as a sloth. I was stuck in a weird limbo of my brain still feeling asleep while the rest of my body jittered with caffeine.
It took me a few tries to get the keys in the lock right before I clicked it open and got the door open.
As I sat down in the driver’s seat, I noticed for the first time a little green sticky note stuck to my window. I couldn’t see what it said on it from this side of the window, but I could make out the scribbled handwriting of one of the kids.
When did they have time for leaving me little notes?
Groaning quietly, I got back up and grabbed the note before sitting down and slamming the door shut behind me. I clunked my drink down in the cupholder and flipped the little piece of paper over in my hand to read the scribbles. My eyes picked out the signature at the bottom first.
I frowned and looked back up to focus on the top of the note.
Hey uncle mikea
Sorry u got hit in the face last nite. The spaceship has a camra on it and I wanted to use it to spy on the kidnapper in the neyberhood. If I told you outside then he wood have herd.
Also Charley sed she went out with a frend last nite. And he’s a good frend so you shoodn’t be too wurried.
I just stared at the words for a few seconds, then read them over again.
Okay. So maybe he was trying to kiss up. Or maybe he felt bad and wasn’t all of the malicious monkey I’d taken him for being.
I looked at the second half again.
So Charley talked to Rudy? Or . . . well I’d seen them communicating somehow at least. Even if it was some telepathic link.
What sort of friend wants to hang out after midnight?
Well. Fnu. But we were talking about friends of an eleven year old kid here. What parents would even let their kid have friends over at that time of night?
I thought about it for a minute, then shook my head and started up the car. I could work out whatever secret nightlife Charlotte had later. All the better to not look more guilty at the PTA meeting if they started drilling me down about how my children were doing.
Like it wasn’t bad enough already.
I slapped the sticky note onto the dashboard next to me, took a gulp of my energy drink and then shifted the car into gear and headed off down the road.
It was exactly noon as I drove up to the school parking lot.
The school was a nice little low-rise building that looked like it would be easy enough to navigate if I knew where I was even going. Which I . . . didn’t. And by the way I looked right now, I could be very easily mistaken for some creepo highschooler hanging around the middle school so I’d better get my directions straight.
I rubbed at the scab forming on the side of my forehead as I pulled out the slip of paper Penrod had given me.
It was an aggravatingly cheerful and bright pattern around the edges and my headache pounded worse just looking at it.
Meeting to talk about the end of the year events! In the usual spot! Bring snacks!
Each of those exclamation-pointed phrases had different ways of really bothering me.
End of the year meant . . . school getting out and the kids being home. I hadn’t even thought about that before now.
“The usual spot” . . . I had no idea where that was.
And snacks. They said to bring snacks. I had brought no snacks aside from a half-drunk Devil Juice energy drink. Though really that one bothered me the least. That probably meant that the other moms had brought snacks and I could have a little more for lunch than my cold pizza roll I’d eaten before I left.
And it wasn’t like I had some spectacular chance at impressing these school moms with my great character anyway.
I let out a shaky breath and slumped back in my seat, just staring out my windshield for a minute. I could take a moment to myself and just look at all the cars in the parking lot. Which was about as relaxing as I had a chance at getting here.
A bunch of minivans and old cheap cars. And one big black pickup a few spaces down across from me.
I squinted at the guy inside the truck, suddenly feeling like I wasn’t the sketchiest guy in the parking lot anymore. At least I didn’t have a mountain-man beard and a perma-scowl.
Probably the dad of that one mustached ape kid every fourth grade has.
We were definitely in Missouri.
I’d better head in.
I huffed out my breath, picked up my drink and opened the door to get out.
My sneakers scuffed against the pavement as I walked towards the entrance to the school. Squinting in the bright sunlight bumped my headache up a few more notches. I took another gulp of my drink, which was starting to get warm by now.
A few younger kids were ruckusing around on the play equipment and stopped to stare at me.
I raised my eyebrows slightly in acknowledgement as I went to open the door.
Only May and I was already glad to get into the air conditioning inside. Gotta love the south.
Thankfully inside they had a more informative poster up about the PTA meeting and I followed my instincts to find my way to the gym. I reached the double doors to go inside just at the same time as a mother with her arms full of a big box.
“Oh!” she said as she saw me. Her eyes widened as she took in my appearance. She blinked a couple times like she thought her eyesight might be glitching up on her.
I stepped back from the door to give her more room. “I . . . hi. Yeah.” I coughed and jammed one hand in my pocket.
She just stood by the door with her box and didn’t move. “Are you . . . lost?” By the tone of her voice it sounded like whatever answer I gave would probably be of equal shock.
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. This is the . . .” I pointed hesitantly towards the door, my expression shifting into a questioning wince. “The PTA meeting, right?”
“Yes,” she chirped back, sounding more alarmed. “Is everything alright, young man? Is your mother inside?”
“I-I’m . . .”
“What’s your name?”
“Micah . . . MacQuoid?” I said my own name like it was a question. “I’m babysitting while Cecily and Henry . . .”
The woman’s face lit with recognition at the name. “Ohhh you must be Henry’s brother! I see now. What a small world! What are you doing here?”
I just stared for a second, unsure if she was serious. Yeah, I just happened to be driving through and wandering down the hall by my sister in law’s PTA meeting . . .
“I’m . . . babysitting,” I repeated slowly. “Cecily isn’t here and apparently someone has to go to the PTA meeting so . . .”
“Oh of course of course. And you’re very welcome here.” She beamed at me, but didn’t move. I didn’t get the hint of why she was still standing there until she just glanced at the door.
I managed a half smile back as I pushed the door open for her and we both stepped through. Yes, it made that awkward exchange so much better knowing that I could have cut it short by just opening the door.
There was a circle of folding chairs set up inside, a bunch of women all sitting around and chatting with each other. A plastic snack table sat a little ways away, loaded with cookies and chips and sweet tea.
A few ladies looked up as we came in and a cry of shrill mom-voices chimed out.
“You made it! Ooh tell me you brought some oatmeal cookies!”
“Goodness it’s been forever!”
I winced, the volume spiking my headache worse. I awkwardly stood back and drummed my fingers against my energy drink can, tapping out a steady “thunk thunk” rhythm on the aluminum.
In all the chaos over Terri and her oatmeal cookies, I managed to take a seat next to a younger looking mom on the other end of the circle without calling too much attention to myself.
The woman I sat down next to looked over at me and gave a smile, tucking her short hair behind one ear. “Hey, are you looking for your mom?”
Again with that. I really didn’t look like parent material.
I shook my head, tapping one knuckle against my drink can and propping one leg up on top of the other. “Nope. I’m . . . representing the MacQuoids here. Cecily had to go out of town.”
The mom’s brow unfurrowed a little and she nodded. “You’d be . . . the babysitter?”
“Yeah. And uncle. I’m Henry’s brother.”
She looked about to respond, but cut off and looked up as another woman stood, clasping her hands.
I blew out my breath and planted both feet back on the floor to look attentive as she started talking.
The standing woman smiled at everyone, her bright red lipstick accentuating the smile. I didn’t know how, but I smelled an even stronger scent of perfume just looking at her.
“Alright ladies! It’s been a while since our last meeting and I’m sure we’ve been busy planning our end of the school year party . . . putting together our different parts and all.”
A murmur of agreement went up, but I frowned. What part had Cecily volunteered for? Why didn’t she tell me about this?
I was so thrown off by that bit I didn’t even think about being thoughtlessly included in the count of “ladies”.
“And everyone’s piece is very important, which is why we’re here to talk about progress.” She turned to her left and nodded. “Barbara, do you want to start? We can go around the group to say how we’re all doing on it, then work out the smaller details.”
The woman named Barbara smiled back. “Absolutely. Well as far as the plan for the food buffet goes, I have the drinks and chips covered. I’m thinking that . . .”
And on she went talking about the details of the different drinks and chips she’d chosen and why. The next mom had something to do with the seating. The next with the main course of the party.
Everyone had bits and pieces of this and that and as it got closer to me, my dread grew. I chewed on my lip for a few seconds, messed with my paracord bracelet then downed the rest of my energy drink, sticking it beneath my chair.
Alright, I was probably overthinking things. Cecily hadn’t told me because they would be home by that point, right? I wouldn’t have to even do anything.
Either that or it had been yet another thing written down in that stupid yellow notebook Rudy had soaked straight off the bat . . .
I blew out a breath, bouncing my leg and tapping my fingers nervously.
Ingrid would have been a lot better at faking her way through this whole PTA thing.
Finally, the question made its way all the way to me.
The lady in charge had definitely been shooting me some curious looks before now, but pretended to just now notice me.
“And well, it seems that we have a new face here tonight!” she smiled at me. Or . . . tried, while wincing about the bruises on my face she’d just seemed so excited about seeing. “Did you get in an accident, honey?”
I shifted my position uncomfortably again. “I . . . kinda . . . my nephew Rudy sorta . . . flew a . . . UFO into my face. Last night.”
Instantly, that was the most silent I’d ever heard a room full of moms.
I felt my face turning red and I swallowed, clasping my hands neatly in my lap to try and look more respectable somehow. “Anyway, I’m Micah MacQuoid. I’m just here because . . . family problems and Cecily’s . . .”
“Ohhh so you’ll be with Cecily’s job then.” Barbara regained her smile. And the smile stayed impressively in place as she looked down at a sheet of paper she had in her hand. I could see the fear in her eyes though.
There was no good way this was gonna end.
She blinked a couple of times, then cleared her throat a little as she looked up at me. “I’m sure Cecily will be back before the party?”
I shrugged, wrinkling my nose.
“And did she say anything to you about . . . being the decorating crew for the Memorial Day party?”
I barely kept my mouth from dropping open. I just sat there for a second before managing to even shake my head.
The MacQuoids were signed up to do decorations.
And the extent of my decorating skills was plastering band posters on the walls of my basement room. Not exactly the right type they would be looking for here.
Decorating, I need to do decorating . . .
Why does there even need to be decorations? I don’t get it.
The question moved on after my vague answer that I’d talk to Cecily and figure it out.
Figure somethingout. Because babysitter was bad enough. Party decorator . . . was not a job for me.
I was so shaken I couldn’t even find it in me to eat more than a few chips at the snack table.
The meeting got out at twelve-forty-five. And a few minutes after that found me sitting in my car, staring straight ahead out the windshield to the empty playground.
I just couldn’t . . .
This was ridiculous. I mean there were other PTA moms but they were busy with their own things. And me with decorating? The whole party would look horrible. I didn’t even understand the mindset of decorating at the lowest level. Streamers? Balloons? I didn’t even get why.
Just even trying to visualize it, the best I could do was some sort of . . . banner. Banners were festive, right?
But this was supposed to be outside, where would I even hang this hypothetical banner?
I rubbed a hand over my face and groaned, thumping my head back against my headrest. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone, just looking at the screen for a bit.
It was time I confessed about the notepad. That I needed help.
And maybe . . . ask if they’ll be home by then.
I started to slide my finger across the screen, but stopped midway. I bit my lip and sat there for a second, then put the phone in the cupholder.
Just not this second. I needed to get my words straight so I sounded a little less desperate before I called.
I turned my keys in the ignition and shifted into reverse to get out of my parking spot. I got myself steered back onto the road, heading back towards the house.
And I probably had a little bit to sleep before the kids got back, right?
Counting out the fact that I still have to do dinner prep.
I zoned out on the straight road ahead of me, narrowing my eyes and contemplating that I’d gotten a glimpse into a Hell for teenage boys.
My thoughts were just a little more organized by the time I reached the house. At least I had a few sentences planned out.
Just as I pulled up, put my car into park and started to reach for my phone . . . the second I touched it, it vibrated, the “Back in Black” riff blaring through the car.
I jumped violently.
The screen lit up.
Henry really freaked me out like this sometimes.
I took a deep breath and picked up the phone, hitting the button to answer and putting it to my ear. “Hey, Henry.”
“Hey Micah, how’s it going?”
He sounded pretty cheerful so I considerately didn’t ruin that by answering truthfully.
“I’m okay. How’s stuff with mom and dad?”
“That’s what I’m calling about, buddy. We’re really making progress here, I think.” His tone was a world away from the hopeless tone I remembered from our last conversation. “I just wanted to say . . . seriously, thank you. Having this much uninterrupted time with them has really just broken down a lot of barriers and there’s . . .” he sighed. “It’s painful sometimes but it’s good. It needs to happen. And we couldn’t do this if you weren’t watching the kids so just . . . thanks.”
The grand total of two sentences I had planned out completely vaporized.
I couldn’t find any more words for a few seconds, then finally managed to stammer out an answer. “U-um . . . yeah. Sure thing.”
“Anyway, on that front. Everything going okay with the kids? They behaving themselves? Got any questions or anything? You’ve maintained some pretty impressive radio silence here.”
I just sat there, trying to revise my pitch a little. “I . . . yeah, just . . . can you . . .?”
I closed my eyes for a few seconds. “Just wondering how . . . much longer you think you guys are gonna be gone?”
Henry hummed thoughtfully. “About a week, probably. The kids are okay, right?”
In a week. That was past school getting out. Past the party.
I dug my fingernails into the steering wheel, staring at the house.
This was what was holding my parents together. I was still standing. I had learned from my mistakes so far.
I took in a breath against the tight feeling of panic closing around my chest.
I can make it another week, right?
Carefully, I let out a shaky breath. “Yeah, they’re fine. Can you just ask Cecily about any . . . Memorial Day decorations she has planned? Also . . . some of the stuff in that yellow notepad. If she could maybe like . . . email me. That would be awesome.”
He said he could. We traded our goodbyes and I hung up.
I just stared out the windshield for another minute before I actually got out. Barely lifting up my feet as I scuffed back up towards the door. I just wanted to get in there to the couch and crash out for the next year.
I stopped in my trudge to the front door and turned to focus my tired eyes on Alice, over in the yard next door. She sat back on her heels in the garden bed in their front yard, a floppy hat hiding her face in shade. She pushed it back on her head and squinted at me.
“You look like you got mugged. Where were you?”
I sighed and waved one hand in a tired gesture as I mounted the front steps. “I was at a PTA meeting.”
What treasures will next part hold? Come back next week to see.