How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE

#BlogBattle Week 7 – Theme: Cosmic

32 Comments


#BlogBattle is a weekly short story challenge using a single word for inspiration.

The originator is here.

Cosmic Neglect

Lights blazed through every window, but there was no party. No music blared; no glasses clinked; no voices droned over each other. No car in the driveway and no garage to hide it. Julie’s father had offered to drive her but it was 1963 and the town was small. Julie arrived on her bicycle. She jumped off and leaned it against the house. Crickets asleep; the silence grew.

A boy across the street called out into the balmy June night. “Hey, are you the babysitter?” An eight- or nine-year-old criss-crossed the road and climbed the driveway, copper hair and freckles warmed by the street light overhead.

“Why?”

“I live here.” An impish grin washed over his face. Julie’s mouth dropped. “My name’s David.” He held out his hand.

“Where are your parents?”

“Gone a couple hours ago. Come on. My sister and the baby are inside.”

“It’s after eleven. Where have you been?”

“Went to see my pal for a minute, over there.”

He dashed ahead, up three cement steps, across the veranda, and swung the screen door open with a flourish. “That’s my sister, Karen. She’s six.”

“Nice to meet you. Why aren’t you in bed?”

“I waited for you,” the girl said, eyelids drooping.

Julie kneaded her forehead and surveyed the kitchen. Not too messy. “You said something about a baby?” She shut and locked the wooden front door.

“Come on, I’ll show you.” The three traipsed down the hall to the parents’ bedroom. The reek of stale pee hung to the air like a blinding fog. Julie’s world shifted. The baby’s been drenched for hours. What have I walked into? Everything is wrong here—it’s cosmic neglect. What if I hadn’t shown up?

“Get ready for bed, you two. I’ll check on you in a minute. Where are the diapers and the linen closet?” The baby fussed but didn’t waken as she washed and changed her—an angel of a girl—probably less than a year old. The runny nose might be teething.

The children in bed and fast asleep, Julie called and woke her mother though it was long after midnight. She needed to talk to a rational human being.

***

To think she’d considered not showing up. After all, the Swaines didn’t know her. Claudia had talked her into this. Set. Her. Up. With too many babysitting requests, sometimes two sets of parents begged her to cancel the other. Julie had heard of her bidding wars. Either Claudia had a date tonight or a better paying job.

The desperate phone call had come the night before.

“Wanna make some money this weekend?”

“What day?”

“Friday night to Sunday.”

“I’m going to the high-school dance Friday.”

“You’ll just sit there like a wallflower like you always do. Take the job.”

“No, I’m going.”

“I figured as much. Look, I already asked Mrs. Swaine. How about you babysit after the dance?”

“Really? What time are they leaving?”

“When you get there she said so. They have tickets and a hotel room booked and can’t cancel at the last minute.”

Julie swept her shoulder length hair into a ponytail and bound it with a dime-store elastic band. Meanwhile she blew a giant Double Bubble, which collapsed and deflated on her nose. “Okay after the dance, eleven o’clock. I don’t know how you talk me into these things.”

***

The children behaved better than most. Could they make cookies? Julie said no, but Karen showed her the frozen kind in the freezer you cut and bake. David complained of boredom and begged to visit his friend across the street. The baby coughed now and again and frazzled Julie. She concocted breakfast, lunch and dinner from meagre supplies. The day over at last, the children enjoyed the slumber of innocents. As the previous night, she made her bed on the sofa, but though exhausted, sleep wouldn’t come. What if the Swaines don’t come back tomorrow?

The words ricocheted in her head all day from the moment the baby woke her the next morning. Their pinging blossomed into a headache.

“When are Mommy and Daddy coming home?” Karen asked at lunch, cheeks bruised with color. David glanced at his sister but didn’t comment.

After supper, a new intensity swept through the house. High heels clacked on the kitchen floor. The Swaines had returned. Julie’s heart leapt. She sprang from the sofa where she’d been reading The Velveteen Rabbit to the siblings.

“There you are.” A tall blonde in a knit skirt and sweater set floated in on a cloud of expensive perfume, a hand probing in her purse. She withdrew a twenty dollar bill and thrust it at Julie.

Julie gawked at the money, then at Mrs. Swaine who tapped her high-heeled shoe.

“You slept here didn’t you, and ate my food. I think this is just right.”

Julie backed away, eyes twice their normal size, a horrified howl stuck in her throat. “No thanks.” Her voice came out scratchy as sandpaper.

“Go on. Take it. I guess you earned it—didn’t you?”

Yeah, I showed up—I showed up—and where were you? You were supposed to wait. She stepped back and shook her head. “I don’t want your money.”

“Babysitter will you come again next time?” Karen asked with a lisp.

Julie caressed the little girl’s hot cheek. “The baby’s fed, bathed and asleep for the night. Did you know she has a cold? David and Karen have eaten.” Brother and sister held hands and appeared confused. “Bye kids. Nice meeting you.” With a sharp wave she spun on her heel and rushed for the door colliding with a man toting a bulging suitcase. The last words she heard were Mrs. Swaine’s. “What’s wrong with her?”

 #

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumble
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Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

32 thoughts on “#BlogBattle Week 7 – Theme: Cosmic

  1. I was horrified by this story! I know this is fiction, but it broke my heart … because unfortunately it’s not fiction in the lives of so many children. Cosmic neglect is an understatement 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just kept reading thinking, what, what, what? I just wanted to know more and was mentally casting it as a movie.
    You really know how to make me want to keep reading. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Brilliant! The underlying lesson is stealth and the dignity of refusing the money, righteous!

    Like

  4. Good stuff, Tess. You drew me right in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a new challenge. I’m feeling my way around. I’m used to specific words. These are t.h.e.m.e.s. I noticed after attempting my second one this week. ❤ Thank you, Carrie. your support is important to me.

      Liked by 2 people

      • yep, it’s a theme because we’d like the word to be in the story at least once, but it’s great when it also conveys a condition/element/use of the word, either literally or figuratively. It is a good weekly sort of challenge! 🙂 Love this story, Tess! A situation like this is out of control hard to understand in real life and I think you captured the essence of Julie’s confusion and torn feelings.

        Like

      • Thanks so much, Rachael. I live to learn. ❤
        I remember reading about a woman who went out partying all weekend and left her baby at home alone. All weekend. Thank goodness she was found out. Doesn't bear thinking about, does it?

        Like

  5. I’m glad she showed up. And how sad that unfortunately, this happens all too often – quite a contrast – kid with a cold, kid in long drenched diapers, very little food. Why wouldn’t she sleep there? Were the kids going to sleep alone? Mother all dressed up and exuding expensive perfume. All about them and not the kids. I hope the Babysitter reports them. You drew me right in and right now, I am stewing and would like to slap the adults. Excellent job Tess!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent, Tess. But sadly this is going on far too often – all over the world. Why do these kind of people have children in the first place?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There is no answer or reply to people like this and there are unfortunately too many.. nice read although enlightening and discussion generating…..

    Like

  8. Nicely done Tess. Yes, i get the “theme” idea (after reading the comments). I was focused just on the word. I think you did a great job with using “Cosmic” as a theme. You did it in an unique, interesting, and believable way. As always you drew me right into the story — and plopped me down in the middle of it. In a word — Wow! Well done again. \
    Off to Mordor now… eerrrr i mean the office.
    Hugs! ❤ 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellently written Tess: tense, worrying, tragic, and too true for too many children. But you tell it as it is, which I would expect from you every time ❤

    Like

  10. Very nicely done. This story touched me and nearly made my eyes water!

    Like

  11. Pingback: Cosmic #BlogBattle Week 7 Entries & Voting | Writing Rachael Ritchey

  12. Powerful and heartbreaking, Tess. Great writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That was a great story you had me fuming as I watched the catalogue of neglect come to light. I do hope the babysitter reported them. Great story Tess. ❤

    Like

  14. Babysitting. What memories. I always overpaid in hopes they’d come back.

    Like

  15. Oh dear God, I hate to say it but I can imagine this happening. Thought provoking Tess!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Gilly. A few years ago, I read about a woman who went out partying all weekend and left her baby alone in the crib. All weekend. Doesn’t bear thinking about. What is wrong with people? Don’t recall the end of the story but she did get caught out. XX

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This made me very uncomfortable. I know it is fiction, but what was wrong with those people!? Great writing, Tess.

    Like

  17. Wow. Talk about wanting to shoot some people. This was very disturbing. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m hooked on your stories after the first few words and this was no exception. Great stuff ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Too close to the reality I know of because of work. It’s not fiction there. Those kids are so real. 😦 Great job Tess.

    Like

  20. Wow! Great job with building anticipation. I found myself getting mad at the parents for leaving those young children alone. I kept thinking. It has to be a misunderstanding. I enjoy reading your stories… I don’t blame the girl for not wanting to come back… ❤

    Like

  21. I hated those people as well. I can’t imagine anyone leaving kids behind. I once read about a single mom taking off for the weekend and leaving her baby alone in the crib. Can’t recall how she got caught out but she did.

    Like

  22. Well written, and heartbreaking. Sadly, while this is fiction, it could so easily be reality. I really felt for Julie. Well done. 🙂

    Like

  23. Cosmic neglect is a real thing. This is a well written story, and reminds us to be careful and not neglect the children in our lives. They need their parents’ love and attention.

    Like

  24. A great story Tess. How clever to tie in Cosmic with this sad story of neglect. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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