“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.
But Janie heard the ensuing commotion and it vaguely disturbed her. In the background surprised and distressed screaming gave way to an unsettling interplay of angry yelling and maniacal laughter.
Emily regressed from a sophisticated young adult into a frightened little girl; she trembled and struggled to hold off bawling.
She gawked up at Janie and used a quavering voice to ask, “What’s wrong? Is mommy—I mean Mom alright?”
Flustered and somewhat confused, Janie unnecessarily cupped the mouthpiece and admitted, “I really don’t know.”
For a second she reflected that a responsible babysitter would have lied in order not to trouble her young charges. But she just as quickly concluded that she didn’t so much care about their well-being as she wanted to keep this cushy gig.
“I don’t think we should tell Roy about this.” Janie was about to give Emily some song-and-dance about them being the only grownups in the house when suddenly Mrs. Bailey was back on the line.
“Hello? Janie are you there?” She didn’t sound the least bit shook up.
Janie shot up straight as if being graded on her posture. “Mrs. Bailey? Thank God! For a minute . . .”
“Please don’t cuss.”
“Sorry Mrs. Bailey.”
Emily smirked. She knew exactly what her mother had said.
Janie asked, “Are you okay? What happened?”
Mrs. Bailey cheerfully explained, “One of those zany drunken Shriners drove a car right through the plate glass front of the lobby. My goodness, you should see the mess.”
The explanation left Janie incredulous. “You’re kidding! A car?”
“Well, one of those miniature cars. Y’know, like the ones they ride in parades? Like a little boy’s peddle car except they have engines?”
“Oh yeah. I saw some Shriners driving those cute little cars on TV once.”
“There’s broken glass all over the place. Some of the Shriner’s daughters are pointing and laughing. Back in my day we respected our parents.”
Janie pounced on the opportunity to score points with Mrs. Bailey. “Nowadays parents just don’t teach their children manners.”
“That’s so true. Anyway there’s broken glass all over the place and some man—I guess the manager—is hollering and cussing out the Shriner that was driving. My gosh, that Shriner is so drunk he can barely stand. What a great example to set for those poor ill-bred girls.”
Janie could easily have made a sarcastic remark but remained mute.
Mrs. Bailey continued to describe the situation: Behind her the angry bald manager waved his arms, hopped up and down, promised a tremendous lawsuit, and loudly admitted his poor judgment for hosting a bunch of goddamn Masons. The Shriner kept laughing like getting drunk and driving a Thalidomide car through a plate glass window was a big joke. He repeatedly thrust his extended middle finger in the manager’s direction.
“I’ve got to go,” Mrs. Bailey excused herself after giving the report. “Shame-O should be on any minute.”
Janie heard sirens on Mrs. Bailey’s end. “Sounds like things there are pretty exciting even without Shame-O.”
That remark rendered Mrs. Bailey aghast but she remembered Janie’s youthful naiveté and maintained an even tone: “Well Janie, Mr. Bailey surprised me with the tickets weeks ago. He’s so romantic! Besides, we prefer classy entertainment and not some low-browed ruffians showing off even if they do look sharp wearing those fezzes. Remember, Emily goes to bed right after the Ploughboys are through.”
Janie regarded Emily trying to imagine her mother’s half of the conversation. She remembered her earlier resolution and just answered, “Sure Mrs. Bailey. By the way, what happened to the awful Shriner who was bothering you?”
Mrs. Bailey sounded detached after the excitement. “Oh him. He stumbled out front and is getting sick on the lawn. I don’t think he even noticed when that one Shriner crashed through the window. Can you just imagine? Wait . . . The manager just saw him . . . He’s marching through where the window used to be . . . Now he’s out there yelling at the Shriner. I don’t think the Shriner is listening because he’s too busy vomiting. But I really have to go. I don’t want to miss Shame-O.”
Janie responded, “Okay . . . Yes, the phone numbers are right here on the fridge . . . Well at least it’s not a real gun . . . Enjoy yourselves. Bye.”