“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.
Janie asked louder still. “I said: Aren’t you, Roy?“
Still no reaction.
The E had hijacked Janie’s usual take-charge manner and replaced it with confusion. After a lengthy silence Janie turned to Emily. Her eyes widened and her voice quavered as she whispered, “I think he’s dead.”
Janie leaned to hug Emily, but the upset youngster bowed out of the babysitter’s reach as she leapt off the sofa and ran out of the family room. The dormant tears she’d been harboring all night erupted and as she ran she bellowed, “Now I’m gonna miss Bertie Blaze because of him! He’s so immature and just doesn’t understand and I’m glad he’s dead!”
Janie shot up and trotted after Emily, tearfully admonishing her to “come back and talk this thing out”. The child rushed into a small bathroom off the hallway and locked the door.
The frazzled babysitter gently knocked on the bathroom door. “Emily sweetheart, c’mon out. Please?”
“No! Now I’m going to miss the Ploughboys because of my dumb brother!”
“Who’s more important—Bertie Blaze or your little brother?”
Janie heard tinkling followed by a toilet flushing.
She persevered. “It’s almost time for The Shorty Harris Show. C’mon out, please? I’m sure Roy will be fine.”
“You said yourself that he’s dead!” Emily had stopped crying, but still bitterly hollered. “That makes me a murderer!”
“Emily . . .”
The child’s voice fell. “First the police come. Then they handcuff me and take me to jail for the rest of my life.” After a slight pause Emily began again to holler. “I’m never coming out and you can’t make me!”
Meanwhile, Roy casually skipped into the kitchen where he unsuccessfully tried to reach the wall phone by jumping with his arm outstretched. He remembered a regular phone sitting on a table at the bottom of the stairs and brimmed with confidence that he could reach it.
On his way to the reachable phone he skipped past Janie but she was too busy pleading and panicking to notice.
He fumbled with the adult-sized handset as he used his five-year-old hand to lift it from the cradle. Then he reached with the other hand and dialed O like he’d seen countless people do on TV. When Roy brought the earpiece to his ear, the mouthpiece hovered a few inches from his pie-hole.
After two rings, a female identified herself: “Operator.”
Roy used both hands to hike the phone up so he could speak into the mouthpiece. “There’s been a moedoe an’ Janies all hopped up on goofballs.”