Andrea and Shannon

For my evening gig, I knocked on the door, and waited long enough to think nobody might answer, before the door opened. Andrea was almost wearing a sleek, red, full-length dress, and she looked good enough to eat. She twirled around and asked me to zip her up, so zip I did, and then she led me into the living room to meet her daughter, Shannon.

The kid is 9 years old, all cornrows and overalls. She paid me little to no attention, just laid on the floor watching some insipid cartoon. Andrea told her to turn it off, and she obeyed instantly (on the second telling), then came over as instructed, and shook my hand. After hello, the kid's next words were, "Mom says if you touch me, I call the cops."

"Great," I replied, only barely annoyed. "You can sit on your butt all night and watch TV, and I'll stay in the kitchen and read."

"Shannon," her mom said, in a tone that said she wasn't supposed to have told me quite so plainly what she'd told me. To me, Andrea said, "Doug, I know that sounded horrible, but she's my baby and we have to be careful."

"Absolutely I understand," I said, and did. Andrea doesn't know me well. Her daughter doesn't know me at all. It was an awkward moment, but Andrea disappeared down a hall to finish with her makeup or whatever, and Shannon looked at me for a moment, then turned the TV on again and flopped onto the floor.

This'll sound nuts, but in that moment, I saw something in the girl's eyes. Sometimes you can see the spawn of Satan in a child's prematurely pinched face, and you get a glimpse at the kind of vile, closed-minded, cruel, unthinking adult that kid will be in twenty years. And once in an even greater while, you might see in a particular kid's eyes or face the chance that he or she might might evolve into a worthwhile human instead.

Or it might have been wishful thinking. What do I know about 'reading' people, let alone half-people? In a flash of eye contact with that kid, though, I saw a smartass, maybe; a troublemaker; a brat — a kid like I was at her age. Maybe she won't drive me to suicide tonight, I thought.

Andrea, meanwhile, floated into and out of the living room, getting herself fully assembled for a night on the town with some lucky bastard, and I paid more attention to her than to her daughter. See, kids mostly just annoy me. It's Andrea that I've had daydreams about. She is a fine-looking woman.

And as I was thinking that thought, a horn honked, and Andres kissed her daughter goodbye and darted out the door. As it latched shut, the kid looked at me, so I said, "You stay way, way, way over there, so I can be safe," and then I comically hid behind a wall where she couldn't see me.

She giggled, and pretty soon I was sprawled across the sofa, reading some zines I'd brought, and occasionally glancing at her to make sure she wasn't playing with explosives or otherwise in need of adult supervision.

During the commercials she talked a little, about the show and about glittery shoes, but she didn't get on my nerves. The TV sure did, though, and as whatever dreck she was watching ended, I said, "Any chance you'd turn that off that damned noise? Wanna play chess or checkers or hangman or something?"

"No swearing," she said, but not snotty. It sounded like a rule she'd heard and memorized, but she didn't much care.

"Did I swear?" Honestly, I wasn't sure, but I said I'd try to watch my language.

She said she wanted to watch the next show, but maybe hangman afterwards. We talked a little more during the commercials, and when it was over, she turned the TV down but not off. She found a tablet to write on, and we played hangman while she watched some other televised idiocy, but I accidentally said damn a second time, and she told me again about the rule.

"I don't want to get either of us in trouble," I explained, "so can you tell me which words I'm not allowed to say while I'm here?"

"No — I'd have to say 'em."

"Well, if you don't tell me which words I can't say, I might say the wrong words, on accident. We don't have a rule about that at my house, and I don't live with my mother, so I'm used to saying whatever I damn well please."

"That's one of the words you can't say," she said, and gave me a long looking-over, deciding whether I was to be trusted. Then she said, "You're not supposed to say damn, fuck, shit, or piss," and giggled.

"Damn, fuck, shit, and piss," I repeated. "Got it. For the rest of the night I'll try really hard not to say damn, fuck, shit, or piss."

"Or asshole," she said.

"Right," I said, kinda scratching my head. "No damn, fuck, shit, piss, or asshole." If you think of any other words we're not allowed to say, be sure to let me know." And I'll be damned if she didn't think of a few others.

She was a little obnoxious, but she's a kid and that's to be expected. I didn't give any orders, so she had nothing to disobey, and we got along fine. When she got tired of hangman, I let her read a couple of my zines, and she particularly liked Thrift Score and Dishwasher. Since I'd already read them, I said they were hers, and left them on the coffee table.

She also talked about some kid at school who's been bothering her. Sounds like he has a crush on her, but doesn't know how to express it, so he keeps slugging her on the arm. Giving her the benefit of my sorta growed-up wisdom, I told her she shouldn’t let any boy or man get away with slugging her. I suggested she should tell the teacher, but she said the teacher's "a dickwad."

I never asked, but as we talked about other things it turned out that Shannon was knowledgeable and talkative about her mother. She sometimes complains, says Shannon, about having no man in her life since the divorce, and tonight was her mother's first date in months. I feigned interest, just to be polite.

For dinner we baked a frozen pizza that wasn't very good, but wherever I am, no leftovers remain. When her bedtime came, 9:00, she said, "Aw," and that was protest enough. I hated bedtime when I was a kid, so I said I sure as shit — oops — wouldn't enforce that rule. Instead we watched Terminator 2 on the VCR, or actually 'we' watched half of the movie, and then I watched the rest of it while Shannon slept on the easy chair. 

When Arnold Schwarzenegger had saved the world, I put the cassette away and washed the dishes we'd dirtied. Then I fell asleep on the couch until about half past midnight, when a key turned in the lock, and Andrea was home. We chatted very briefly — her date had included "no sparks," she said (Hooray, I didn't say) — and then she roused Shannon from the chair. 

"Hey, honey," she said. "You ought to be in bed."

Shannon came wide awake like toast pops up when it's done, and she said, "Oh, Mom, Doug was the coolest babysitter."

"Why, thank you," I said, surprised to hear it. "And Shannon was perfectly behaved as well." 

Mom and daughter talked about what we'd done all evening, and Shannon didn't mention watching T2, so I suspect something R-rated was as forbidden as the cussing.

When Andrea said again, "To bed, kiddo," Shannon sprinted across the room and hugged my big belly, said good night to me, and then she was gone. That hug was, I think, the only time we'd touched since shaking hands hello.

With the kid gone, I grabbed my jacket and backpack to leave, but saw that our hangman sheets were visible under the zines, with S H I T H E A D on top. Hurriedly I picked up the pages while Andrea's back was turned, folded the papers tiny and slipped them into my pocket.

The whole evening was a pleasant surprise, and the biggest and best was that despite having my jacket on and zipped, Andrea was in no hurry to nudge me out the door.

We talked for another ten minutes, mostly about me, damn it, when I'd rather have talked about her. She paid me $30, which is probably more than she pays her regular sitter, and then I had the great personal honor of unzipping her dress, before she thanked me and closed and locked the door.

From Pathetic Life #19
Monday, Dec. 4, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. I won't spoil it for others, and it's a completely irrelevant point, but I have a vivid memory of the next time you babysit, and play Scrabble.

  2. hello. glad to find diary of a fat slob tonight. i'm about an inch and a hlf from suicide and it cheered me up. well not really but yeah. maybe you get it. and if not, that's ok but you seem like a friend because seems like you've been here before. anyway, i was a fan of pathetic life back in the day and just wanted to say hi.

    1. If you're seriously thinking about suicide, I'm supposed to say don't,
      and offer a hug, and suggest that you please talk to someone, even me.

      Or if it was just a wisecrack, my apologies. I *hate* it when I make a
      crack like that and get a response like what I just responded.

      The key to enjoying life is lowering your expectations. Mine are
      pretty low, and I'm enjoying it, but expecting to lower my
      expectations and standards further, as necessary.

      Thanks for the kind words. Stay alive.

    2. I would be flattered and honored if you wrote from time to time! The few people I've connected with because of the zine or the blog are the saviors of my own sanity, and some of them are the very best friends I have. Connecting with worthwhile people like you is what makes writing a zine or blog worth the trouble. PLEASE write to me again.

      And I assure you that I am real. Have a driver's license and everything, though I seem to no longer drive.

      You may if you wish bounce your miseries off me via these comments. You may also *not*, if you'd prefer not. I don't push. Bear in mind that I routinely publish incoming emails, so if you want to keep things more confidential please say so.


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