Because I wanted a new pair of Sasson jeans,
I agreed when my best friend’s mom suggested
I babysit for their new neighbors, my resume
padded with several gigs over my fourteen
years, plus the kids were little, which meant
they’d be asleep before Love Boat started.
On the phone, the neighbor told me to call
her “Deb,” insisted she speak to my mom
to reassure her she wasn’t a psycho, then
scheduled my audition for the next day after
Before I could knock, she opened the door,
barely introducing her two daughters, almost
immediately erasing her smile: “If the TV
blows up, what will you do?”, she asked.
I expected a timer or those three beeps
from Jeopardy to sound if I didn’t answer
in her allotted time frame, so I blurted—
how I’d grab her kids and run out
of the house. I guess I passed, as two days
later, “David,” her husband, picked me
up, and we small talked our way back.
I remember seeing the kids already
in pajamas, wondering if they were going
to miss out on coloring, making Jiffy Pop,
the fun for which I’d been hired.
And, even as I walked to them, wanting
to make friends, Deb pulled me aside—
strange how she grabbed my upper arm—
to say her sister would be coming by, how she
needed to borrow a tennis racquet, but anyone
could come by and say she was my sister. Was this
a new scam, I wondered, people cruising
“nice” neighborhoods, knocking on doors,
and claiming to be siblings? She continued,
“When Linda stops by later, ask her
for the password: ‘hokey pokey’.”
I’m not sure if I said anything, though I can’t
imagine my mouth unopened or my eyes
unrolled. Within moments, she was fastening
her left wrist’s tennis bracelet, reaching
for her clutch, and we three were waving
their sedan down the street.
Two hours later, after I tucked away
the girls, their stomachs free of ice cream
or any “the parents are away” treats, I heard
Linda’s doorbell, requested her password,
and let her in, since, we were, after all,
in collusion. As she walked toward
the dining table housing the snowshoe-
shaped racquet, I asked, “How do I
know not anyone could say hokey pokey?”
Perhaps, she did not hear me or see
my smile or chose to ignore. I just stood
holding the door open as she exited
into the darkness, leaving me to watch
Fantasy Island alone, to keep both feet in.
Amy Lerman was born and raised on Miami Beach, moved to the Midwest for many years, and now lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert, where she is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College. She received her Master’s and Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Kansas, and her poems have appeared in Rattle, Smartish Pace, Common Ground Review, Prime Number Magazine, Solstice, and other publications.