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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 17: Takano 18
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Hastings 191
They played in the yard for a couple hours, and Tommy met three of the neighbor children but did not learn their names. After all, she did not expect to see them again.
For supper Mrs. Billings made hamburgers on sliced bread, with canned corn and French fries which had been frozen and heated in the oven. Tammy thought this a treat, putting ketchup on the burger and the fries and, Tommy thought, the corn. They were good burgers, probably better than most you would get at fast food outlets, but somehow Tammy seemed more to enjoy the fact that you ate them with your hands than anything about the flavor. After they had eaten and Mrs. Billings had removed ketchup from Tammy’s face, hands, and arms, plus several environmental surfaces, there was a rush to get the girl bathed and dressed for bed before Mr. Billings got home, and Tommy retired to her room. Tonight she took out that English Literature book she had brought and began perusing it seriously.
She had read the first story and was trying to decide whether to start another when there was a knock on her door. “Can I come in?” a voice, decidedly Mrs. Billings, said.
“Sure,” Tommy answered, setting down the book.
The door opened and Mrs. Billings stood in the doorway. “We want to thank you for taking care of Tammy today. Mr. Billings wants to pay you, and talk with you.”
Uh-oh, Tommy thought; what did I do wrong? But she decided there wasn’t any way to avoid this, made sure she was as well dressed as shorts and a T-shirt could be, slipped her feet into her flip-flops, and followed Mrs. Billings with as much of a smile as she could muster.
“Have a seat,” Mr. Billings said as she entered the room. He was at the head of the table, and she dutifully took the chair in which she usually sat at meals.
“First,” he said, “Thank you for coming to our rescue today. I know that the arrangements were a bit vague, but minimum wage is a dollar, and babysitters don’t usually get that much. You worked from probably just before nine to sometime after five, so here’s ten dollars. I hope you find that reasonable.”
Ten dollars was barely an hour’s wage in the world she left, but she had no idea what anything might cost in this world, and really she had not had any expectations. If the minimum wage really was a dollar, she should be able to buy something with ten.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m sure that’s generous.”
“Now,” he said, “we have another problem.”
Here it comes, she thought.
“Mrs. Wilson’s daughter called. Her mother, who usually watches Tammy during the day, has been hospitalized, and it is not clear when she will be released or whether she will be able to return to work. That leaves us without anyone to watch Tammy. I’m sure we could find someone, but you’re looking for experience and you’re very good with our daughter. If you’re interested, we’ll give you fifty dollars a week--that’s ten dollars a day--to watch her from breakfast until supper Monday through Friday. You’ll also get room and board. It might sometimes require that you cover an occasional evening, but we’ll pay extra for that; sometimes you might have to feed her breakfast or supper, bathe or dress her, that sort of thing. You’ll have to learn your way around the neighborhood so you can take her to the park, and depending on how things go in the fall you might have to walk her to and from school. Anyway, that’s the job as I see it right now. Are you interested?”
Tommy shrugged. Weekends free, usually; money in her pocket; a relatively easy job. “Let me agree to do tomorrow and the next day so you’re not left hanging, and I’ll talk with Tammy about it and let you know by suppertime tomorrow night. Today is Monday, right?” Mr. Billings nodded. “Give me a day to decide.”
Mr. Billings nodded again. “That’s reasonable. I’ll look for an alternative, but I won’t offer the job to anyone else until then.”
Having come to what Tommy thought was an agreeable close, she excused herself and returned to her room. She wondered why she hesitated. After all, she really had nowhere to go, and her story about hiking the country to get experience was not more than a story. She was unlikely to get a better job, and this guaranteed her food and shelter. She wondered why she hesitated, but saw two reasons. One was that she didn’t want to appear too eager; that might be suspicious. The other was she really did want to know what Tammy thought about it before she took over as the girl’s permanent babysitter.
Tomorrow would be soon enough, and unless she thought of something between now and then, this was a good job.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #357: Characters Connect. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: