Monday, November 27, 2006

Garden and Beach Paths

This weekend, Ty and I got together with my parents, Mr. Lashes, and the future Mrs. Lashes to celebrate my father's birthday (happy birthday, Dad!). One of the discussion topics was "wild or reckless things our friends did when we were young." Having been both miserable and a huge nerd in high school, I remained conspicuously silent, gauging that The Story of When They Served Us the Still-Frozen Cheesecake at a Crappy Chain Restaurant in a Strip Mall That My Friends Dragged Me To, or The Time I Gently Steered My Friend's Mother Away from Ordering from Domino's in Favor of a Local Italian Pizzeria ("But they deliver quickly, and I have a coupon!" "Yes, but Joe's delivers quickly, and it actually tastes good when you put it in your mouth!") would probably pale in comparison to tales of guys drinking too much, flunking out of college, and being sent directly to Vietnam.

Naturally, this was the case, but there are all kinds of ways that one's friends can lead one down the garden path.

When I was about thirteen or fourteen or so, a friend of mine came to me with a proposition.

"This lady wants to offer us a babysitting job! We can do it together!"

"She wants the two of us?"

"Yeah. She's got three kids, and we're young, so she wants two sitters."


My friend set it all up, and, on the night we were to baby-sit, one of our parents drove us into the driveway of a cute little cottage by the beach. We got out of the car and I headed towards the front door.

"No, not there, Arabella. Back here."

Ok, no problem, I thought. The mom probably doesn't want us tracking sand in through the front door.

I followed my friend, and was surprised when she kept on walking past the house, down a treacherous little path, towards what looked like an abandoned houseboat washed up on the shore.

It WAS a houseboat washed up on the shore. Perhaps I'm recalling the details wrong, but I think the story was that it had washed up decades ago, during some hurricane, and had been abandoned, and this hippie family connected plumbing and electric and was living there.

It's an adventure, I told myself. This is a beach community full of good people. No Manson Family-type people will break in and kill us at all. The neighbors will probably look out for us and bring us Nut Loaf. It'll be like The Partridge Family, but a houseboat instead of a van.

We entered through the rickety, barely-lockable screen door and found five tiny faces staring at us. The three hippie children apparently had two hippie friends over, and their hippie mom hadn't bothered to tell us. Nice.

One of the visiting little girls was particularly annoying. She was fussy and bossy and a complete know-it-all, although I realized she was getting less so as the evening progressed. At first, I was pleased at this turn of events. However, I soon realized that she was growing pale and lethargic.

"Are you feeling ok?" I asked her.


I checked her forehead. She seemed to be running a fever, but I was not about to seek out and introduce a mercury-containing glass stick from this environment into the mouth of a child to find out. I could only imagine the other wonders to behold in that medicine cabinet. It was getting late; I wondered how long it would take for my friend to find me on the dark beach if I ran out and bailed, but, instead, I sighed and got to work.

"Where is the--IS there a phone???" I asked the other children. They pointed me towards one with a rotary dial. I was overjoyed to discover AN ACTUAL DIAL TONE.

"What's your mommy's name?" I asked the little girl.

She gave me a name that didn't seem real. It could very well have been real, or it could have been the feverish hallucinations of a sick child, or it could have been the name of a children's book heroine, or it could have been the name of a porn star. For the sake of the story, we'll say the name was Holly Hobbie, which isn't really too far off.

"Is that her real name?"


"And do you know where she is tonight?"

"She's at the ___________."

Somehow, my friend located the number, and called, and screamed over the bar-like din, "Is Holly Hobbie there?"

I watched and waited, thinking, oh, this will go over really well. Hi, I'm a very young babysitter that she doesn't know and has never heard of who is taking care of her child in a rickety box on the beach. It turns out the child is sick, and I wanted to let her know, because I'm sure she'll be very worried and want to rush over immediately.

Miraculously enough, the place put a woman on the phone, and my friend spoke to her, and she arrived about twenty minutes later and picked up the child. The kid even seemed to recognize her and everything!

We spent the rest of the evening trying to keep the other four children occupied and out of harm's way, and then their mother arrived home and paid us (what I think was a little less than we thought we would be getting for watching the three children).

In nickels.

Oh, and she had no plastic bags.


Anonymous wordgirl said...

Uh...yuck? Did she fish those out of the fountain at the casino or what? Good thing she didn't pay you in one dollar bills.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

They lived in an abandoned houseboat?! Girl, you could start a BOOK off that story. I once babysat three french children. I swear they were talking about me all night... But how could I tell?

4:03 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

I'm picturing you guys careening around a tipped-over houseboat with hippie unwashed kids spilling out the little round windows. Wasn't there an old Cary Grant movie like that? Houseboat?

But I still think the Domino's pizza story is good.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Oh man, you have reminded me of my early babysitting days. Except I babysat for Yuppies, not hippies and it wasn't nearly as exciting.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Tits McGee said...

Holy crap.

That's fabulous.

8:52 PM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...

Wordgirl--Hippie Chick sold nickel bags of pot for a living...

Pot was big business in Oklahoma--the climate was perfect for growing it and there were lots of isolated areas where people could plant acres and acres. One of the big stories I covered as a reporter was a bust involving a member of the school board who was dealing. He'd left a bunch of bagged weed in the bathroom tub, his elementary-age daughter discovered it, and called the police on her dad.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

Quite a news story, V-Grrrl!

This lady merely claimed to have spent all her money that evening or something, and literally paid us with the contents of her children's piggy bank. Apparently, we weren't the only ones she took advantage of. I just hope she reimbursed them later!

8:08 AM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

I love this story!!!! Nickels and no plastic bags, too. Priceless.

12:43 PM  
Blogger ptg said...

Surreal. Not as in the anti-capitalist reactionary movement of the 20's and 30's called Surrealism, but surreal in the dictionary sense of a shifted reality. The moment you took the garden path behind the fa├žade cottage marks the beginning of dream-like incongruity. Great story.

Are you sure you didn't eat any of their home-made hippy brownies?

1:23 AM  

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