Mrs. Bailey continued, “Well it was so obvious. Can you just imagine? That—God bless me—harlot winked at you!”
This piqued Mr. Bailey’s interest. “Really?” He beamed, sat up straight and adjusted his tie knot.
Mrs. Bailey started to speak but the dimming lights reminded her that she had come to the Hickory Inn to bond with her husband, not bicker with him. She quickly decided to put her scorn on hold and devote her attention to her marriage and a great entertainer.
* * *
Janie had hung the phone up and explained the situation at the Hickory Inn to Emily. The eight-year-old visibly relaxed when she learned of her mother’s safety.
By the time they started for the family room, Emily had sufficiently recovered from the scare to start nagging Janie about allowing her to stay up to see the Ploughboys on the Shorty Harris Show. Still intent on portraying herself as a “cool” babysitter, Janie answered as always, “We’ll see.”
They found Roy lying on the family room floor. He blurted a loud and phony laugh at an unfunny scene in My Mother the Car where Jerry Van Dyke’s character Dave Crabtree closes the hood of the Porter and then wipes his hands on his soiled sweatshirt. Emily and Janie looked down at Roy, then exchanged a glance. Emily misinterpreted this eye contact as mutual adult congratulations for weathering a potential crisis without worrying the little one. Actually Janie thought: My Mother the Car really sucks out loud but what do I expect? It‘s written for children like Emily and Roy. Wait a minute—I feel sort of funny. The ecstasy I ate before I came here must be kicking in. Maybe My Mother The Car won’t seem so bad. She and Emily sat on the couch.
Janie had never been interested in drugs and had never done ecstasy, but she had the hots for a girl at school that regularly gobbled E by the handful. A week prior she bought the two Nike logo-branded tablets that she swallowed before reporting to Mrs. Bailey. In her heart of hearts Janie realized that a popular good-looking young woman wouldn’t so much as notice a quiet dowdy honor student, so she rationalized that she would gain insight into the world of her more-popular peers by rolling.
Janie and Emily watched TV in silence. A crass parody of a chortle erupted from Roy every fifteen seconds regardless of whether or not anything funny happened. After two minutes Emily looked like she might cry but Janie advised her to “just ignore him.” One scene portrayed Dave Crabtree as a hapless guest at a ritzy cocktail party. In an attempt to bolster his confidence he grabbed a martini from a tray balanced by passing waiter and downed the cocktail in a single gulp. He grimaced and immediately exchanged the empty glass for a full one on the tray of another passing waiter. On cue Roy belched. Emily glared at her little brother lying on the floor and mumbled an epithet.
A brief commercial for the Ploughboys’ appearance on the Shorty Harris Show followed a scene in which Dave’s wife angrily informed him that he had just drunkenly insulted his estranged father-in-law. The coming attraction featured highlights of the Ploughboys’ performance while a good-natured male voice ordered viewers to “Stay tuned for the Shorty Harris Show next on most of these stations.” Emily swiveled and eyeballed Janie but didn’t say anything. Though Mrs. Bailey had already made a decision, Janie pretended that she was still struggling with the question of Emily’s bedtime. The babysitter examined the ceiling and scrunched her mouth from side to side. She finally spoke: “Well, I suppose you can stay up and watch the Ploughboys, but you go straight to bed when they’re finished, alright?”
“Gosh Janie, you’re the best!” Emily gushed.
Janie reminded Emily: “You really don’t need to tell your mother.”
Roy, still lying on the floor, turned his head toward Janie. “Can I stay up too?”
Janie answered, ”Not this time.”
Roy let loose an exaggerated whine: “But Emily gets to stay up.”
“Well, she’s older than you.”
Janie’s time-tested brand of logic caused Emily to grin but really pissed Roy off. He threatened Janie: “If you don’t let me stay up I’m tellin’ my mom that you didn’t listen to hoe and you let Emily stay up past hoe bedtime and you touched me in my special place.”
Janie countered: ”That sounded a lot like your mother on that tape you played earlier.”
Roy didn’t answer but turned his attention once again to the TV and resumed the frequent uncalled-for cackling routine.
The spot advertising the Ploughboys on the Shorty Harris Show must have been in last-minute heavy rotation. Roy loudly sighed when the station repeated it during the next commercial break. “I don’t want to stay up for the stinky ol’ Ploughboys anyway. And Boatie Blaze is a boogoh-bwain.”
Under no circumstances did Emily tolerate anybody speaking disparagingly of her idol. She urgently crept off the sofa, clenched her fists and tiptoed in tight-lipped silence toward her brother.