Monday, January 24, 2005

Note to self: Buy rat poison

"What's wrong, Steve?"

"I gotta go to work."

"Who's calling you? Dom?"

"No, it's the alarm company. Alarms are tripping all over the place at work."

She rolls up her window. "Can I watch Toby? Just until Linda's sister comes back?"

"Steph, she's just gonna keep taking advantage of us-"

"If I don't want to do it next time, I'll say no!"



"I can't believe I'm considering this."

"Steve, I used to babysit triplets, you know. If I can handle three, I think I can handle one."

"This kid ain't right though."

"I can do it."

"You sure?"

"Trust me."

"OK. He stays in the family room. No kitchen, no dining room, no living room. And as soon as the chimney guys are done, he goes home and you watch him there."

"And when her sister calls, she takes over."

"I'll be back shortly," I say. Steph gets out of the car; I take off.


"Did you trip the alarm?" I ask the cleaning lady at my office.

Blank stare. She's quite attractive, really: She's maybe 23, tops, and she always wears tight jeans, exposing that mouth-watering gap between the tops of her thighs.

Her mouth moves silently. She's got no clue what the hell I am saying.

"The ALARM," I say, punching imaginary keys with my right index finger.

"Ohhhhh, ohh," she says. "Yes."

"So the alarm went off?"


Oh, for Christ's fucking sake. I wish I could speak her language. I speak some Italian, but I basically know no Spanish at all. Maybe there's someone around here who could translate....

I got it! "Is Pablo here today?"

"Pablo, Pablo yeah!" she says, smiling.

"Where is he?"

"Where?" she repeats, with a narrow-eyed look.

"Never mind."

I run to the stairwell, hop down one flight and open the door. Dead silence.

Another floor. I hear the sound of vacuuming. I open the door, and there is Pablo, his "vacuum pack" on his back.

"Pablo, did someone trip the alarm upstairs?"

He turns off the vacuum. "Yeah, Consuelo did. I guess she put the wrong code in. I hear the alarm going off; so I go up there and put in the code," he says in a thick Hispanic accent.

The cops come. I explain to them what happened, and they question Consuelo at length. Apparently, she had not worked for a while and forgot the code. The code she was putting in was one digit off, and that immediately notifies the alarm company.

I've gotta get out of here. That little bastard is probably trashing my house as we speak.

I race home.


It's very quiet at my house. I'm almost afraid to open the door, but I do.

Steph is sitting on the family room floor. She looks up at me with puppy-dog eyes, her face pale.

"Steve. I'll clean it up," she says. She is hugging Toby, their faces pressed tightly together. He is eyeing me without a word.

My family room is trashed.

Shredded magazine pages everywhere. Couch cushions askew. Milk splashed across my TV screen and the wall next to it. There's a ring ding on the floor, part of it squashed into the carpet.

I walk slowly towards the front of the room. A basket of folded clothes is turned over; shirts, pants and boxers are strewn on the couch, the floor, the coffee table.

Something catches my eye and I walk over to it.

My $200 Lenox vase is smashed to bits.

I pick it up. Half the vase has been pulverized into tiny shards, but the other half is intact. It's jagged-edged, like the Phantom of the Opera's mask.

I look to Steph and Toby. My head turns slowly, as if underwater.

"I'll pay for it, Steve."

My heart races. My palms sweat, and my hands shake. I can feel my breathing quicken as I open my mouth to speak.

"I want him....OUT of here."

"NOOO!" Toby shreiks. It's a shrill, high-pitched cry that makes me jump.

"Toby, you broke Mr. Steve's vase. He's very upset about that."

"Very upset"? No, that's not quite getting it for me. How about, "Mr. Steve wants to rip your spine out and use it for a back scratcher?"

"Toby, get your shoes on," I say quietly.

"No! I wanna stay here!"

I look down. There's another ring ding, ground into the carpet. I fling the unbroken part of the vase against the wall. It smashes loudly into pieces. I can feel my face harden as I grind my teeth at the two of them.


"Toby, we're gonna go back to your house now," Steph says.

"NOOOOOOO!" he shreiks again. He breaks free of her grip, knocking her down, and bolts towards the living room.

I grab him as he runs by and lift him in the air, his feet flailing wildly.

"Get his shoes."

"Put me down! Put me DOOWWWWN!"

I sit down on the couch, laying him down flat with his legs across my lap. I hold his shins down as he thrashes and squirms, and Steph rushes over to put his shoes on. I turn to Toby just in time to see his mouth open hugely, sharp teeth exposed, like a Tyrannasaurus Rex.

He grabs my forearm and bites down savagely. Needles of pain shoot fiercely into my skin. He pulls his mouth away and he has torn my flesh. I am bleeding.

"JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!" I yell. I know I shouldn't be swearing in front of a kid. Maybe I'll apologize later. If Toby is still alive.

I put my hand under his jaw and force it closed; his teeth clack faintly together. Steph crams his shoes onto his feet and grabs his coat.

"Stand him up," she says.

I grab him and stand him upright, my arms around his waist. She positions his arms out in front of him.

"Hold his arms." I do.

She flips his coat upside-down and slides the sleeves over his arms, then lifts them up over his head. Just like that, his coat is on.

Wow, nice trick! Now, just clean up my family room and I'll be REALLY impressed!

She puts a hand on Toby's shoulder and guides him out the door.

"You forgot your coat," I say, throwing it to her. Our eyes meet.

"I'm sorry, Steve."

I turn away in disgust.