Jim Bailey turned up in the family room futzing with his tie knot and grumbling something about being under-appreciated and missing Gunsmoke.
Mrs. Bailey coaxed her husband. "Jim honey, of course you remember Janie."
He stopped fiddling with his tie and regarded the babysitter. "Oh . . . yeah . . . hi Janice." He continued adjusting his neckwear.
Neither Janie nor the children reacted. Mrs. Bailey corrected her husband through a forced smile. "You mean Janie." Then she turned to Janie. "You know, Mr. Bailey always was a kidder."
* * *
As the dark green Catalina cruised past the street lamps of a major thoroughfare, its passengers and interior were scanned by concentrated light. A mute Mr. Bailey drove while Mrs. Bailey stared straight ahead and animatedly gossiped.
“That—excuse my language—old bat had the nerve to deny that she was the culprit when just everybody knew it was her. The nerve! Jim honey, can you just imagine?”
Mr. Bailey grunted.
She continued. “I mean honestly, belching with her mouth wide open and her tongue stuck out to receive Holy Communion. In the Lord’s house and all! You’d think she would’ve held it." She turned to her husband. "If you were in church and got in line so the priest could give you the host and you felt a belch coming on, you’d just hold it. Right Jim honey?”
She again faced the front, tugged the hem of her dress and emphatically nodded as if to lend her account credibility. “I was right behind her you know. It was really gross and disgusting—it smelled like bourbon and corn chips. And loud? Good heavens! That awful Craputnick boy—whatever is his name?" After a second she snapped her fingers. "Benji! He just couldn’t stop snickering. So finally his mother Myrna dragged him by his ear into the vestibule. It was right after Communion and everyone was silently praying. Well, you could hear her slapping Benji and calling him names—she’s got a mouth on her like a sailor—and of course he was hollering. It echoed through the entire church!”
Mr. Bailey opened his mouth to speak and lifted his right hand off the steering wheel. But he just sighed and let it flop back down.
His wife kept prattling. "Well, she'll just be shunned at the next pancake breakfast, believe you me!" She turned to her husband and smiled. "So Jim honey, I'm just so excited that we finally get to see Shame-O."
Mr. Bailey managed to wedge a question into his wife's constant blathering. "Why the fuck do we have to waste a perfectly good Wednesday night to see this Shimmy person?"
Mrs. Bailey indignantly responded. "Please! I'm a Christian and my ears aren't trash cans! Well, tonight was the only night that I could get Janie."
"Who the fuck's Janie?"
"Janie is our usual babysitter and has been since the children were babies. Remember? Shame-O's engagement at the Hickory Inn is only until Friday and I saw an ad on the TV that said married people should do things together."
She reached over and lightly brushed his thigh with her hand, then abruptly snapped it back. This was her idea of unbridled passion.
"But what the fu . . . what does this Shimmy person . . ."
"What does this Shame-O guy do anyway?"
She displayed the awe of a child describing a magic trick as she explained. "He's a mind reader. See, he picks a volunteer from the audience and orders them to clear their mind. Then he goes into a trance and uses a real weird voice to tell the audience some embarrassing secret that the volunteer has. Everybody looks at the volunteer and goes like this." She used the bottom of her extended right index finger in a whittling motion to stroke the top of her extended left index finger. "And chants:"
Shame, shame, double-shame!
Everybody knows your name!
Mr. Bailey shook his head and bellowed, "Fuck that! I don't wanna buncha strangers knowing my personal business!"
Mrs. Bailey admonished her husband: "God bless you! All you know how to do is cuss! You don't know how to relax and have a good time!"