1987: The Babysitter

Dad throws a hundred pound bag of flour over one shoulder. He carries it from the stock room to the gigantic floor mixer in the kitchen.

The mixer is painted steel grey. The silver bowl is large enough for me to fit inside. I watch the paddle spin round over and over. When the dough reaches the perfect consistency, Dad trades the paddle for a giant hook.

A little more flour, then some water.

I fidget with my hands because I have a big secret. Good girls don’t keep secrets. But what if Daddy gets mad at you?

“Daddy I have to tell you a story, but I don’t want you to get mad.”

“What is it, baby girl? You can tell your Father anything.”

I hesitate. Oh no! Now you have to tell him. Be brave.

I stammer at first, “Well, I think someone might have tried to do something bad. Like something you taught me about.”

“What do you mean something bad? Something bad to you?”

He looks straight at me now while the dough spins out of control—gumming up the paddle.

I continue, “Umm do you remember my babysitter at the lake?”

“Yeah of course! I met them through the motel when we lived there that one winter.”

“Umm, well one time when the husband was home, I had to go to the bathroom. But when I walked in, he was already there going pee. I got really scared and said ‘I’m sorry.’ I turned around to leave, but he said ‘wait!’”

Dad’s face grows hot. “That son of a bitch. This better not be the kind of story I think it is. I’ll kill the son of a bitch.”

Oh no. You shouldn’t have told him. What if the cops come again like they did last month at the Laundromat?

 “No Dad, it’s not really bad.”

“So what happened, then?”

I point down with my index finger, “Well, he told me to come and feel his pee pee down there.”

“That’s it! I’ll fucking kill that motherfucker!”

“No, Dad. Wait! Nothing happened. I just ran out of the bathroom with my head down.”

“Jenny, my God, that was almost two years ago! Why didn’t you tell Daddy before now?”

“I’m sorry, Daddy. I was scared. I knew how mad you would be.”

“Well I’m not mad at you. But you’re a very strange child. Telling your Father about this so late. What if he tried to hurt you? No more of these crazy babysitters ever again! Never ever trust anybody—like you Father always tells you. And I fucking disregarded my own rule!”

Dad finishes attending to the dough quietly—adding more water to correct the earlier mistake. Then his voice softens, “I guess in a way, you saved your Father, Jenny. If you told me that story two years ago, he would be dead, and I’d be in jail now. You did the right thing to leave, but I want you to come to Daddy right away from now on. You can always talk to me about anything.”

I nod to promise, but I know better.

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1988: Wads of Dough

“Jenny, you know that money that Daddy’s been having you hide from me since last year?

My eyes grow wide. “Well I need it now. You must have a couple hundred saved up!”

Excited, I reply “Yes Daddy! It’s all in my closet on the shelf.”

Impatiently, I wait for Dad to retrieve the money but he returns empty handed.

“Jenny, I thought you said you hid the money on your top shelf.”

“I did, Daddy. I put it all in tissues.” Dad looks bewildered.

“I wrapped the money in tiny tissue envelopes so you wouldn’t find it. Just like you wanted me to.”

“Wait a minute! Jenny, you put the money in tissues? How? You’re scaring Poppa.”

“Well each time you gave me five or ten dollars I wrapped each one in a tissue.”

Dad puts his hands up to his face and shakes his head. “Motherfucker!”

Why is Daddy mad? Is he mad at me?

 Shaking his head in disgust, Dad boils over, “Jenny, I threw the fucking money in the garbage! All of it! Why the fuck would you put real money in tissues? You know Daddy doesn’t trust the goddamn banks. That’s why I gave it to you.”

I gaze down, blankly. Why did he throw the money away? Isn’t this what I was supposed to do? Wasn’t he saving it?

 Blaring, he explains, “Jesus Christ! I was cleaning last month and I found all those tissues in your closet. I thought you were nuts saving used tissues. So I threw them all in the trash. My fucking luck!”

My heart sinks. Oh no!

 I run to the closet. Way in the back, I find two tissues that Dad has overlooked.

“See Dad, just like this.” I unwrap two five-dollar bills, and hand them to him.

“Yes those were it! Fucking shit. Not even enough to bet the late double. But what can Daddy do except laugh, right? I guess we’re going to starve again this month, baby girl.”