It was the third week of the hot boring summer. I lay in the grass with the heat bearing down upon me reading the worn torn teen magazine. My sister, baby that she was cuddled her doll. I wasn’t a doll kind of girl. Give me a book a baseball or a pile of sand any day. My little brother the real baby sat in a small metal tub splashing water on Dottie. Dottie, one of the numerous babysitters we went through ignored him as she painted her toes a vibrant shade of red.
“Too flashy, makes a girl look trashy,” were mom’s words.
I believe Dottie needed the ‘too flashy’ pointing to her toes on account of her face was etched with pock marks and crevices. I think her face must have resembled her life. Mom brought her home one day, offered her a room and a job of watching 5 unruly kids. She didn’t seem to mind. She smiled and you kind of overlooked the face. Dottie made us frozen pops and yummy Jell-O salad. As a babysitter she was one of the better ones. None of the babysitters lasted too long at our house.
Dottie was different. She had no place to go. Mom talked about saving her from the streets and bad parents. Dottie didn’t talk much about her family life. She did like to talk about the boys and at times she did more than talk. Those times we were sent outside to play. I was left to watch the two little ones and that did not please me. But I would never tell on Dottie.
Sometimes late at night I would hear Dottie crying herself to sleep. In the morning over a cold cereal breakfast I would study Dottie’s faded blue eyes. There was a sad story behind them but to me said nothing. I heard mom talking about Dottie’s mom being a drunk like Uncle Clarence and amounted to just, “No good.”
Momma told Black Pearl, which was Uncle George’s slut girlfriend, another term I heard from momma: that Dottie had lots of baggage that hindered her self-esteem. Funny thing was I never saw Dottie bring any bags into the house when momma moved her in.
I felt close to Dottie, she could make me laugh and on some rainy nights she would sing to the three of us kids. There was a deep sadness about Dottie but she had plenty of love for us kids.
Before Dottie we had Smitty. He was an old grumpy man who walked with a cane and had a cantankerous little wiener dog. It seemed like we took better care of Smitty than he ever did. Most of the time he sat and watched T.V. and wheezed a lot and bossed me around saying, “Go get me kool-aid, hurry up now you little brat.”
My brothers worked that summer so they were gone most days. It was just me my little sister and Georgie, the baby. Old Smitty never so much as changed his diaper. And his stupid dog used to hump his leg and he would curl his lower lip and let out a laugh.
I thought old Smitty was disgusting and evil. He got his own private room for watching us that summer. And he got me to wait on him whenever he needed anything. That’s the summer I learned how to cook: tomato soup right out of the can, bread and butter sandwiches and red kool-aid.
One morning after mom and dad left Smitty didn’t come out of his room wanting his coffee and toast. I fed the kids cold cereal and bananas. We stayed outside for awhile and waited for my two older brothers to come home. I was so glad when I saw them walking up the road. I picked up Georgie, grabbed Mae by the hand and ran to meet them.
Between my huffing and puffing I blurted out, “Old Smitty has been in his room all day. He never did come out for his coffee. You think he’s dead or something.”
Harry said, “Hope’s the old fart is dead or run away. But how far can an old man limping on his cane with a stupid dog stuck to his leg go?”
“I’m scared Harry. Did you guys do something dreadful to Smitty?”
“We mighta put poison in his red kool-aid,” Harry laughed.
“That’s not funny Harry. What will mom and dad say?”
“They’ll just find another loser to watch after us,” Harry shuffled toward the house.
I stood on the sidewalk holding Georgie and Mae. I had a bad feeling inside my guts.
Harry knocked on the door and yelled, “Hey Smitty, want to come out?”
There was no answer, even the dog didn’t bark. I made canned soup for all of us.
“You don’t put two cans of water to one can of soup,” snapped Harry.
“I’m doing the best I can.”
Before Smitty was the mean old lady and I don’t even remember her name. I do remember she spanked my little brother. She would put him in the room shut the door and let him cry. I started yelling at her calling her names, making idle threats. My two older brothers did stuff to her car. I never told my parents about what she did. My brothers fixed her big time and she went away like most of the sitters and never came back. I remember the cops showing up and speaking quietly to my parents after the old hag left. My brothers hid beneath the kitchen window listening to the cops and laughed real quiet like.
Then, Dottie came to watch us and she let my two older brothers roam the streets but kept close tabs on the rest of us. Sometimes I saw her let the older boys puff on her cigarette. We liked Dottie. I felt bad about her nasty family. Sometimes I would hear her talking to mom about it and she would cry like a whipped puppy.