The spot advertising the Ploughboys on the Shorty Harris Show must have been in last-minute heavy rotation. Roy heavily 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.
The E aggrandized Janie’s enjoyment of My Mother The Car and her feelings of affection toward Roy and Emily, especially those vague maternal instincts that she vehemently denied. She simpered, swiveled her torso and reached for Emily in order to cuddle the youngster and blubber about how much she loved her. Though Janie’s intentions were innocent, the result of her unabashed demonstration would have been disastrous when Mrs. Bailey learned of it. Mrs. Bailey believed that good Christians never indulge in public displays of affection, physical or otherwise—except maybe when they’re married in the eyes of God. She would’ve questioned the working condition of Janie’s moral compass.
Luckily Emily had already slithered from the sofa. Though Roy lie only a few feet away and the TV blared, Emily used unnecessary stealth to stalk him; retribution for slagging Bertie Blaze demanded melodramatic ritual.
Before a blissed-out Janie could comprehend or react, Emily straddled Roy’s waist, her knees pinning his arms. She alternately used the bottom of each clenched fist to beat his head. She seemed unthinking and desperate as she slammed down one fist while raising the other. But Emily didn’t mean to hurt Roy; she just wanted to inflict some character-building pain. Still, each blow ushered an alarming thud.
Roy exaggerated screaming as he had exaggerated laughing. On television a smiling woman winked at the audience after she assured an animated roll of toilet paper that it had proven itself “the softest and most absorbent ever.” Janie would’ve the found the scenario amusing if it weren’t for her chemically induced hyper-sensitivity. In her present condition, witnessing Emily’s attack made her stomach churn as if she rode in an elevator. Fortunately the foray lasted only ten seconds.
Emily rocked from side to side as she rose and hovered over Roy, red-faced and breathing heavily. In her rage, her eyes had become slits and her lips tightly pursed. She stomped to the sofa and threw herself onto the cushion next to Janie. Roy lay silent and motionless on the floor.
Janie regarded Emily and cooed, “Sweetheart, why did you do that to your brother?” She reached to stroke Emily’s head, but the child jerked away from her hand; her arms remained folded across her chest, she scowled while staring straight ahead. She maintained the impersonal glower when, after a few seconds, she spoke:
“He’s always embarrassing me! He’s so immature! He’s just jealous ‘cause I’m practically a grown-up, that’s all.”
Janie again tried to stroke Emily’s head. This time Emily shot the babysitter an astonishingly foul look as she ducked. She surprised herself that she would treat her unwitting mentor so badly, but her bewilderment was tempered by the uncertain feeling that Janie wasn’t quite right this evening.
Emily’s rebuff severely wounded Janie. For a fraction of a second she reflected that Emily’s rejection wouldn’t have seemed even remotely as profound and hurtful had she not ingested E. She ignored her bruised emotions and tried to reassure Emily, “I’m sure he’s very sorry.” Then she turned her head to Roy’s prostrate body on the floor and asked, slightly louder, “Aren’t you, Roy?”
He didn’t answer. Instead Janie and Emily heard a stern male voice touting a certain brand of cigarette. Gray shadows flickered on Roy’s back as the TV screen displayed an animated cutaway diagram of the filter.