by RE Katz
Jana’s the worst mom. Whenever I get there the kid’s always wandering out the sliding door already toeing the pool or trying to stick his head in the George Foreman grill or something. He climbed a bookshelf once in the basement and the whole thing—all two-hundred pounds of it—fell on top of him and he was purple by the time they found him. I’ve only met the dad a few times over the years, but he’s some kind of lunatic inventor who sleeps in the pool house. At least this time when I get there and the front door’s open and the kid is watching TV sitting in a puddle of something that I hope is not his own urine, Jana calls down that she’s in the bathroom.
“Be out in a minute,” she says and she goes back to singing Joni Mitchell.
“What is it?” I say to the kid, pointing to the puddle.
“Lemonade,” he says, pressing his fingers together and pulling them apart so I can see the sticky seal. The kid has a special relationship with juice.
I trot up to the linen closet for a washcloth.
“I met a redneck on a gray-shit isle,” sings Jana. I can see her through a crack in the door humming and bouncing lightly and wiping her ass.
“I think it’s Grecian,” I say.
“Either way,” she says, “have you ever been to Greece?”
“I just got back from New Jersey,” I say.
“It’s so humid out today,” Jana says, pulling up her pants. “Right now Walter is working on this tiny eco-friendly air-conditioner that you can wear in your jeans. It’s completely brilliant.”
“Maybe we should swim while you’re gone,” I say.
“No he already knows he can’t go in the pool today,” she says. “They just put in those toxic chemicals. He’s pretty upset about it.”
“Ah,” I say, “did you make lemonade?”
“Yeah,” she says, “help yourself. So this little air-conditioner, it’s the size of a dollhouse window. It’s a miniature window-unit. It’s like a normal air-conditioner, just smaller.”
“That’s great,” I say.
“People are going to go crazy for it,” she says.”
“But I don’t understand: if it’s made to put in your pants, then why make it like a normal air-conditioner shape?”
“What?” she says, shaking her head and fanning herself. “I’m sorry,” she says, “I can’t really pay attention right now. I’m melting.”
“Yeah, it’s hot,” I say. Walter is not a very good inventor.
We hear a splash outside, and I am running down the stairs and out the sliding door and I am shouting the kid’s name, and I am still shouting, expecting to be shouting along with her, but she is just now coming down. I know because I am shouting and I can still hear her somewhere singing Joni Mitchell. I’m pulling the kid out of the water and she strolls over.
“Ow,” he says, and I am checking him frantically to make sure he isn’t turning green or glowing or going blind or anything from the chemicals. “Ow,” he says, pointing down. He scraped his foot getting out.
“Natural consequences,” she says to me, smirking.
There’s a group of mean thirteen-year-olds who have the babysitting market in this neighborhood cornered, and they won’t even go near this place because there’s too much liability involved. Thirteen-year-olds would make really good lawyers, and I would make a terrible lawyer, which is why I’m now a two-time dropout.
“Come on,” I say to the kid, “let’s make another batch of lemonade.”
When I started sitting for the kid eight years ago, he was a difficult baby. He couldn’t fall asleep unless he was watching the old VHS tape that came with Jana’s juicer, which explained the juicer’s functions in thirty methodical episodes. It started with citrus, and then the root stuff, and then he was out like a light every time.
There is something intangibly dangerous about summer. There is something innocuous about summer. There is summerthing about juice and juicing and misheard lyrics. I grew up in North Georgia covered in pool chemicals. One summer we had mice and our central AC broke. I drew a barncat on my ceiling fan. I joined a cult. I washed other people's feet. Sometimes moms and kids are dumb in different ways and you're the babysitter. Sometimes moms and kids are perfectly grand in different ways and you're the babysitter.
RE Katz works as a teaching artist at Just Buffalo Literary Center and develops writing workshops for at-risk populations and kids with language-based learning disabilities in Western New York. Her work has recently appeared in Wag’s Revue, Gigantic Sequins, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Any Berry You Like is forthcoming from iO Books in Spring of 2014.