Roy still giggled as he bent over and pressed STOP. He examined Janie’s face hoping to find approval. Instead he found the stern expression of a grownup intent on lecturing him. Janie effortlessly assumed the guise of role model complete with condescending tone of voice. “You really shouldn’t record people’s private conversations without their permission. Who’s that on the tape?”
Roy tittered as he answered, “Mrs. God and Mrs. Doody-head.”
He took off trotting, again firing his cap pistol at the ceiling and sing/yelling la-la-la.
On the verge of tears Emily sputtered: “That—child—always embarrasses me in front of my friends.
Both Emily and Janie jumped when the phone rang.
Like Pavlov’s dog, Janie quickly strode to the kitchen at the behest of the ringing phone. Emily trailed her. The eight-year-old fantasized that one of her girlfriends was calling to gossip about the new boy at their school. Her mother forbade her to take calls after seven-thirty but Janie would understand and allow her to indulge in an evening blether.
The babysitter grabbed the receiver off of the wall-mounted phone. “Hello. Bailey residence . . . Oh hi Mrs. Bailey.”
Emily’s shoulders dropped and her smile melted.
“Yes everything’s fine . . . They’re fine . . .Well yeah, I guess he did sing and shoot at the ceiling but it’s no problem.”
Emily rolled her eyes, sighed and imagined that she’d been adopted and her real parents were rich movie stars.
Mrs. Bailey stood in the lobby of the Hickory Inn and spoke into the mouthpiece of a payphone. “I meant to tell you earlier: the Ploughboys are going to sing 'Fateful Day' on the Shorty Harris Show tonight. It’ll be past Emily’s bedtime but she’s allowed to stay up and watch. But she goes to bed right after they’re done.”
“Of course Mrs. Bailey.” Janie decided not to tell Emily of her mother’s sudden permissiveness. She reasoned that it would be better to let Emily think of her as a cool babysitter.
“And I’ll just bet you’re pretty excited too. The Ploughboys are popular with all the youngsters, right?”
“You bet.” Janie immediately changed the subject. “So did Shame-O perform already?”
“No, he’s supposed to come on in about twenty minutes. Anyway I hope so because this place is positively crawling with drunken Shriners. There must be a convention in town. Those fezzes are simply adorable!”
Janie interjected: “I always loved a man in uniform.”
“Me too. But men get—what’s the word—rambunctious after they’ve had a few dr . . . uh-oh here comes that Shriner again. There’s this Shriner that’s been bothering me ever since Mr. Bailey and I got here and went into the main room where they have shows. Real nice big room too—plastic plants, a bunch of tables with linen tablecloths and those candles in the red glass thingys . . . Anyway this liquored-up Shriner stumbles up to me and leers and mumbles something and starts squeezing my, er, bosoms right in front of Mr. Bailey. Can you just imagine?”
“Oh my! What did Mr. Bailey do?”
“Well the Shriner was bigger than Mr. Bailey but he was potted—falling all over the place. And Mr. Bailey is pretty strong—he used to play football in high school. So he—Mr. Bailey—stood up and threatened to punch the Shriner in the mouth. He shouted, ‘Keep your filthy hands off my woman or I’ll bust you in the chops!’ Isn’t that romantic?”
Janie tried to humor Mrs. Bailey but a deadpan delivery betrayed disinterest. “I guess.”
Mrs. Bailey chuckled. “Well, you’re young and don’t understand true romance yet. Anyway Mr. Bailey threatened the Shriner so he went away but he kept staring at me from across the room and wiggling his eyebrows. Mr. Bailey wanted to go up to him and fix his wagon but I told him it wasn’t worth it and just pray for that poor Shriner. Now he’s coming over here and my husband isn’t here to protect me.”
“Isn’t anybody else there?”
“Just a bunch of stewed Shriners coming and going. Some of them even have their daughters with them. Can you just imagine? Letting your children see you stumbling drunk?”
Janie figured the young women that accompanied the Shriners weren’t their daughters, but were prostitutes. She didn’t comment. Then she heard a racket and asked, “What’s that?’
“Oh a group of them just passed on their way from the bar out to the parking lot. They were playing ‘Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah’ on kazoos. My goodness those fezzes are handsome!”
Janie feigned concern. “But what about the Shriner who’s bothering you?”
“Well he’s very drunk and . . . I don’t believe it! Oh my gosh!”
Then Janie heard glass breaking and screaming.
Janie yelled, “Mrs. Bailey? Mrs. Bailey are you there?”
There was no answer.