Chapter Three

Here a Snafu, There a Snafu, Everywhere a Snafu

The Volkswagen kept a steady pace with the flow of traffic. Lottie rarely had the opportunity to drive and wasn’t eager to get to Denny’s anytime soon. As far as she was concerned, her family were little more than acquaintances, except for Denny. She and Denny seemed to have a history of sorts, unlike with the rest. She really didn’t know them all that well. She was reminded of the time that Allen had dropped in unexpectedly at her and Sandy’s Greenwich apartment, which had been so odd to her.

            When she went to her intercom to find out who was buzzing her apartment, she’d said, “Allen who?”

            “Your brother, Allen,” he said with a note of impatience, as if taking umbrage that she hadn’t recognized his voice.

            She turned, staring wide-eyed at Sandy.  Sandy ran over and pushed the buzzer. “Come on up!”

            “He doesn’t know about me,” Lottie said, walking in circles.

            “He’s going to learn fast,” Sandy said.

            “Please don’t say anything,” she said, rushing to grab a long-sleeve shirt, slipping it on over her head. “Let me tell him.”

            Sandy rolled her eyes just as there was a knock at their door. Lottie whispered through clenched teeth: “I mean it, let me tell him.” She opened the door and, with forced exuberance, blurted, “Allen! What brings you here?”

            Allen leaned over her and gave her a hasty hug. “Can’t your big brother drop in? Hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

            “Oh, no. No. Sandy and I were just hanging out.”

            Sandy reached over and shook his hand. “I’m Sandy,” she said.

            Lottie watched as Allen gave Sandy the once over. No longer was she a dark-haired beauty with bright blue eyes. No, now Lottie could only see a hefty dyke and was sure her brother saw it, too

            They all stood in an uncomfortable circle for a moment until Sandy said, “So, this is a surprise.”

            “Yeah,” he said, “I’m actually in town for an interview.”

            Sandy scowled. “What do you do?”

            Allen raised an eyebrow, glancing over at Lottie. He forced a laugh and said, “I’m an actor. I’m sure Lottie told you all about Benny and Crow.”

            Sandy looked at Lottie with a scowl. “Benny and—?”

            Lottie jumped in and said, “Did you want to sit down?” She pointed to a small space off the entranceway with room enough for only a loveseat.

            “Um, sure,” Allen said, walking in and sitting down on the edge.

            “So,” Sandy said, “what’s Benny and…” She sat down next to him.

“Crow,” Lottie interjected, pulling a chair from the small table they used whenever they ate at home and sat down across from them. “Allen was the star of the show in the eighties. He was real famous.”

            Sandy nodded. “Oh, I guess that was before my time. Would I know any of your recent stuff?”

            “He’s a weatherman in Chicago now,” Lottie said. “He’s real good.”

            “Uh,” Allen said, “no. I actually have my own talk show. In Chicago. But that may change. I just may be your neighbor.”

            Lottie’s mouth dropped open. “Really?”

            “We’ll see. Some producer asked me to audition for a talk show here. Being New York, how could I say no?”

            Lottie and Sandy nodded, feigning interest.

            “I would’ve called, but then thought I’d surprise you.”

            Sandy raised her hands in mock surrender and said, “Surprise!”

            “So, will you be going to Long Island?” Lottie said. “To see Mom?”

            Allen hesitated, before saying, “Uh, can’t. My flight leaves right after the interview.”

            Lottie looked down, playing with her pinky. She knew how disappointed her mother had been that Allen not once went to visit her since her prognosis. She said, “She’d really like to see you, Allen.”

            “Yeah, well, that would be good, you know, but my schedule is just crazy.” He glanced around the apartment, and then added, “How is she, anyway?”

            “She has her good days and not so good days. I get there when I can, but with my shop and everything, it’s hard to leave.”

            “Shop?” Allen said.

            “I own a costume shop a couple of blocks away.”

            “Wow, I didn’t know that.” He looked over at Sandy. “Lottie was just a baby when I went off to college so there’s a big gap between us.”

            “I can tell,” Sandy said.

            “Oh!” Lottie said. “Can I get you something to drink? Some water? Coffee?”

            “Brandy?” Sandy threw in.

            “No, no,” Allen said. “Actually, I thought maybe I could take you to lunch.” He hesitated, then added, as if as an afterthought, “And, you, Sandy, you’re welcome to come along.”

            Lottie tried to get Sandy to turn down the invitation by giving her a warning look, but instead, Sandy said, “Great! I’m famished. I know a cheeky little place just a few blocks over. Has the best vegi-burgers ‘round here.”

            “Oh, sure,” he said.

            Sandy jumped up and said, “Well, let’s go then.”

            Allen looked at Sandy in her denim overalls and Lottie, who was dressed in her ripped jeans and oversized shirt. “I guess it’s casual dress.”

            It was apparent Allen attempted to make small talk, but every time he asked Sandy where she was from or what she did for a living, Lottie would interrupt and try to bring the conversation back to his audition. She didn’t mention how she and Sandy had met or fell in love.

            After lunch, Allen kissed Lottie on the cheek and shook Sandy’s hand and then grabbed a cab. The minute he was out of sight, Sandy said, “I’ll pack my things and move out.”


            “If you’re so embarrassed by me,” she said,  down the street with a determined stride, “then I shouldn’t be around you.”

            “Sandy!” Lottie ran after her. “I’m sorry. I love you, I really do.”

            “You have a funny way of showing it.”

            By the time they reached the apartment, Lottie was sputtering with tears rolling down her face, begging Sandy to stay. “It’s just hard for me to tell my family. I don’t think they’d understand.”

            Sandy pulled Lottie into a hug. “I love you, but I don’t think you know what that’s supposed to feel like.”

            Lottie thought Sandy might have a point.

Sandy added, “Promise me that you’ll tell them soon.”

            Lottie nodded. “Just as soon as I know my mom can handle it.” What she figured on was her mother dying and getting Lottie off the hook of having to tell her.

            But then her mother fooled them all and outwitted cancer.

Gail had excused herself to hit the ladies room in the dive of a diner, which was nothing more than a roadside café for truckers. But there were no truckers there at the time. As a matter of fact, the entire place was empty except for Allen, Gail and the waitress. Allen couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes from Denise’s but suggested to Gail that they stop for coffee.

            Gail gave him a quizzical look as they pulled into the wide driveway, the tires crunching over gravel. “Aren’t we almost to your sister’s?”

            “We have a ways to go yet,” he said, knowing he’d have to correct the fabrication later. “I only had two cups so far today. By this time back in Chicago I would’ve finished off a pot.”

            The mere mention of Chicago and the routine he’d become used to—had to become used to when other opportunities failed to come to fruition—made him long to return there, to check up on the substitute host.

            “Wouldn’t your sister make coffee for you?”

            Allen sighed. “I wouldn’t want to upset the agenda.”

Truth was, he wasn’t all too eager to place himself among the Lambs, especially his mother. Ever since he’d let her down by growing up and no longer being the star she could brag about, he felt guilty being around her. Chicago brought him the distance he needed, his talk show the lighthearted banter he welcomed. Other talk shows were more serious, covering topics that dealt with tragedy while his show hosted celebrities who cooked supposed amazing recipes or discussed upcoming movies. Occasionally, someone would reference his early success as Benny, and when there was the question about the wide gap of time of being out of the spotlight that followed, he pretended it had been his decision. He’d say, “I chose education over stardom,” which always got a hearty round of applause from the audience.

            He took a sip of his coffee, so strong he could almost taste the grinds, while Gail was still missing in action. She’d been in the ladies room a good ten minutes. At least that’s how long it felt like. He glanced over to see the waitress studying him with an insolent expression. He turned toward the window, lifting the grimy blind to look outside. He mindlessly tapped the car key on the table, unable to put out of mind what was going on back at the studio. He glanced at his watch. The show should’ve wrapped up by now. He decided to see if his buddy, Gary, had watched in order to give him a full report. Any luck, the substitute bombed. He took his cell phone out from his pocket and found Gary’s name in the address book and activated the number. It rang until Gary’s voicemail picked up. Allen instructed him to call back when he had a moment. Allen’s tone was casual, but he felt a sense of urgency to know.

            Several days earlier back at the studio, he’d heard rumors that the station was looking to replace the talk show with something “on the cutting edge.” If it were true, where would that leave him? He didn’t like to think about that.  Fortunately, he didn’t have to since Gail finally reappeared, her lipstick fresh.

            The waitress strolled over. “Let me warm that up for you,” she said, pouring more coffee in Gail’s cup.

            “Aren’t you kind!” Gail said.

            The waitress smiled, and then said, “You two ain’t from around here, are you?”

            “No,” Gail said. “We’re here for a family reunion.”

            “That right?” the waitress said.

            “I’m Gail Webster,” she said. Even though they were the only ones in the diner, she lowered her voice when she added, “and this is Allen Lamb.”

            “Nice to meet you,” the waitress said, starting to walk away.

            Gail blurted, “He used to be Benny from Benny and Crow.”

            Allen looked over at Gail, glaring at her. He’d only been seeing her for a few weeks. She was a publicist and represented one of the guests that had been on his show. The guest had been a second-rate actor in an Off-Off Broadway play, but Allen agreed to have him on the show after he’d seen who represented him. She could’ve been in front of a camera or even one of Heff’s sexy sidekicks, and Allen was more than ready to get her in his bed. It was clear that she had a mad crush on him, once she found out that he’d been the child star she used to watch religiously; she could barely contain herself. Getting into her pants didn’t take much wining and dining.

            “That right?” the waitress said, looking Allen over. “My kids used to watch that show every week. You certainly have changed.”

            “It was over thirty years ago,” he said, persistently tapping the key on the table.

            “Well, you two make a nice-looking couple,’ she said.

            “We aren’t a couple,” Allen said.

            Gail stiffened, pushing away her cup of coffee.

            “Me, going on twenty-nine years with the same man,” the waitress said. “Twenty-nine years and four of the most beautiful kids you ever seen. Got five grandchildren in the deal.”

            “Beautiful,” Allen muttered, wishing some more patrons would walk in.

            “That’s really nice,” Gail said, her bottom lip quivering.

            “Speaking of celebrities,” the waitress said, “one time Jackie Mason stopped in to use our john.”

            “Wow, did you have the toilet laminated?” Allen replied.

            “Allen,” Gail said, her tone scolding, “be nice.”

            “Well, I’ll leave you two to your coffee, if you don’t want nothing else.”

            “Just the check,” Allen said.

            The waitress slapped it down in front of him then walked away.

            “She was being nice is all, Allen,” Gail said.

            “Why’d you have to be such an asshole?”

            She flushed to a deep red. “I’m the asshole?”

            “Why’d you mention Benny? That’s history! He’s history!” He emptied his cup with one final gulp. “And, don’t get any ideas that we’re a couple.” He stood. “I’m hitting the head, so take care of the bill, will you?” As he walked past the waitress, he said, “Think I’ll check out this sacred Mason spot.”

            She didn’t laugh.

Emily turned up the car stereo to drown out the rattling of what she thought might be a loose pipe or something. She couldn’t be sure what. Apparently, the ramming big ass car did some damage, after all. She’d put in Debussy once the Three Dog Night CD ended. What a contrast. Most of her life she always favored the soothing sounds of classical music and enjoyed teaching it. If people had known about her and Coach, they never would’ve believed it. They, too, were contrasts. When she’d been in school, she practiced the violin, even made it to level six when tested by the New York State School Music Association, an association in which she was now a well-respected member. What Emily had found to be discouraging at the time was that her parents had little idea how impressive it was to reach level six. Not many did.  But while Emily was practicing her violin daily, her mother was focused on Allen, the celebrity in the family. Emily learned not to care and savored being part of a rare few who could actually understand and appreciate classical music.

            Coach didn’t know Chopin from Mozart, but oh how he tried when they first started seeing each other. The memory made her smile until she glanced in her rearview mirror and thought the Caravan creeping up behind her could very well be her sister.

            “Damn!” she muttered, pressing on the gas pedal a little harder. Avoiding Natalie for the last few years had been a constant pastime for Emily. Another glimpse and Emily gasped to see the Caravan was about a car’s length behind her. It would be like her sister to keep a haunting distance from Emily, all the way to Connecticut. Just up ahead was an exit and, without giving any indication with her signal or even slowing down, she veered from the highway and took it. That’s when she saw that it wasn’t Natalie after all but a vehicle filled with the all-American family: a gaggle of children in the back and a mom and dad in the front.

            Even though the gauge was just above the halfway mark, she decided to take advantage of the detour by filling up with some gas. To her relief, when she pulled into the station, they provided a full-service pump. While the attendant was filling it up, Emily noticed that right across the street was a Burger King. She liked their vanilla shakes, so once she handed the attendant the money, she started up the engine and drove across the two-lane highway.

            After she placed her order, remarking how she needed something refreshing for the drive, as if it mattered to whoever was taking her order, the intercom voice said, “Will that be all?”

            It was as though she were being nudged and decided to tack on a whopper and fries. Large. Chances were, she figured, Denise wouldn’t have anything ready when she got there, and this would hold her over.

            Once she got back on the road, her taste buds delighted in the poor man’s feast while she recalled the dinners she used to make for Coach; leg of lamb, roasted potatoes, Brussels sprout, mixed greens and a nice bottle of wine was his favorite meal. Eventually, the dirty dishes would be left on the table, the wine almost finished, as he led her to the bedroom. He refused to let her shy away from him and he made her feel beautiful. No one had ever really succeeded in doing that before.

            Their only fight was Emily wanting to keep their relationship private. Coach didn’t understand, but she felt the students would rag on them while the other teachers would constantly pry for information. What she didn’t say was that she didn’t want Natalie to know and that is when she started to regret getting her sister a job in the same school. For some reason, she just felt Natalie would find a way, intentionally or not, to ruin things for her. However, she almost revealed the truth one day when she and Natalie were grabbing a quick lunch at a diner down the street from the school.

            “Have you seen the new gym teacher?” Natalie had said before biting into her roast beef sandwich.

            “I have,” Emily said. It had been just after Coach had come into her classroom to deal with Sean.

            “I think he’s a little full of himself,” Natalie said.

            “Why do you say that?” Emily stabbed at a radish in her salad.

            Natalie shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s not very chatty.”

            Emily was quite sure that Natalie probably tried to get Coach’s attention, something she tried with every guy she thought attractive. What Emily figured out, thanks to taking some psychology classes in college, was that Natalie was trying to fill a void their father had created in their lives. By then, Emily had long given up caring what her father thought of her. As far as she was concerned, he only showed up when he had no better place to be. Not so with Natalie; she never seemed to give up. It actually had broken Emily’s heart then to see how desperate her sister behaved around men. Now, though, the pity was long gone.

            She licked the salt from her fingers and crumpled the paper that had been wrapped around the burger and shoved it in her overflowing garbage. It wasn’t leg of lamb, to be sure, but without Coach, even leg of lamb wouldn’t be leg of lamb.

            You got that right.

Denise was in the kitchen with her mother. She started the pie crust so that it would be ready when Jeff returned with the apples.

            “Goodness, Denise,” her mother said, “you really shouldn’t bother. Enjoy the day.”

            “Well, I’m just sorry that Emily dropped the ball on this one.”

            Her mother shook her head. “We shouldn’t sweat the small stuff,” she said.

            Ever since she’d been given a clean bill of health, Maggie Lamb had taken to looking at life in entirely different light. Denise wondered if she was the only one who found it annoying; a little too much, far too late.

            “It won’t take long,” Denise said, “as long as Jeff gets back soon.” She glanced up at the clock. “I can’t believe no one else has gotten here yet.”

            “Hi, Grandma!” one of the twins said, running into the kitchen.


            “It’s Elliott, Mom,” Denise said, noticing her mother’s blank expression.

            “Of course it is!” she said. “I knew that.” She gave Elliott a quick kiss on the cheek and patted his arm.

            Just then, the other twin came into the kitchen, his bathing suit dripping all over the floor.

            “Danny!” Denise said, “Please get a towel.”

            Danny strolled through the kitchen without any sense of urgency.

            “And say hello to your grandma.”

            “Hey,” he said, heading toward the bathroom off the kitchen.

            Denny rolled her eyes. Just then, the whole house seemed to shake.

            “What’s that?” Maggie said with a jump.

            “That’s Josh. Actually it’s his stereo.” She turned to Elliott. “Honey, would you please go up and tell him that I said to turn it down. We’re trying to have a conversation  here.”

            Elliott hesitated, then said, “He’s not gonna listen to me.”

            “Tell him I said to turn it down.”

            Elliott headed upstairs. Danny walked out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist.

            “So what grade are you in, Danny?” Maggie said.

            “Duh, school’s out for the summer.”

            “Danny!” Denise shouted. “Apologize to your grandmother.”

            Barely audible, Danny muttered, “Sorry.” He headed toward the family room.

            “The twins are going into seventh,” Denise said. “Josh will be going into ninth.”

            “Soon you’ll have an empty nest,” Maggie said. “Unless, of course—”

            “Mom, please,” Denise said, cutting her off.

            “I’m just saying.”

            Denny heard someone at the back door. She quickly wiped her hands off and grabbed her camera. Her intention was to take a photo of everyone just as they arrived and create a photo album for her mother as a memento of the day. Unfortunately, she’d already missed her mother and father when they’d arrived. She raised the camera, ready to shoot when Jeff walked in carrying a bag of apples. He dropped them on the table.

            “Here you go,” he said.

            “Where’s Dad?”

            “Hooking up the propane tank,” Jeff said.

            A loud screech came from upstairs. Denise knew it was Elliott; seconds later the music got louder; she hadn’t thought it could get any louder than it was. Elliott appeared, running through the kitchen, and headed outside, but not before Denise saw the imprint of a hand mark on his back.

            “Elliott,” she called, “did Josh hit you?” Elliott didn’t answer, but she was sure she heard him sniffling.

            Gerald Lamb, Denise’s father, stuck his head in through the back door. “You got a wrench, Jeff? Can’t seem to get the old tank off.” He looked over at Denise. “Hey, Sweetheart.”

            Just as Jeff started to head back outside, she said, “Would you please go upstairs and tell Josh to turn down that music?”

            “What is it exactly you want me to do first? Get the tank on the grill or talk to Josh? Or is there something else you have in mind? A tap dance?” Jeff then did a mad, sarcastic shuffle with his feet.

            If her parents weren’t there, she would have responded differently. Instead, she forced a laugh and said, “I vote for the tap dance.”

            Jeff didn’t smile and went directly outside with her father following him. She would have to deal with Josh herself.

            “I’ll be right back,” she said to her mother and went out of the kitchen, down the hallway, past the living room and up the stairs, the music getting louder with each footstep she took. Apparently, for Jeff, a propane tank was a lot easier to deal with than a rebellious teenager. Then again, he didn’t see anything particularly wrong with their son’s behavior, having shown Denise an article from the paper a couple of months earlier about a recent malady that had been discovered in children.

            “See,” he’d said, handing Denise the paper, “this is probably what Josh has.”

            She put down the photography book she was perusing and read aloud, “Oppositional Defiant Disorder?”


            She couldn’t help but laugh. “Now they’re saying kids who are nothing but brats can be given the excuse of having a disorder?”

            “Denny—” Jeff implemented his warning tone.

            “No, really, Jeff. This is nonsense.”

            “You haven’t even read the article yet and you’ve already made a conclusion.”

            “All you’re trying to do is justify Josh’s behavior by claiming it’s a disorder.”

            “You’re incredible, Denny! You obviously know more than an entire medical study with backing.”

            “I didn’t say that.” Denise jumped up off the couch. “All I’m saying is that you are always making excuses for him. ‘He’s a boy.’ ‘He’s a teenager.’ ‘He’s a teenage boy.’ Maybe he just needs more discipline!”

            “Fine. I’ll get the baseball bat and beat the shit out of him. Is that what you want?” Jeff had stormed out of the living room, heading toward the kitchen.

            “Jeff!” Denise ran after him. “I’m not saying that. You know that.”

            He went straight to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of Coke, pouring himself a glass. After taking a harsh swill, he said, “I just wanted to show you the article, but you turn it into some fight.”

            “I’m not trying to. All I’m saying—”

            He signaled with his hand to stop her. “Read the article before we discuss it any further. Otherwise, this is all just going in circles.”

            So she went back to the living room and curled up on the couch, tossing the photography book aside and read the article. Once she had finished, her mind had not been changed about her son who was difficult then and difficult now, the music still blasting from his room. She knocked on his door, twice, three times before he finally opened it, his expression annoyed.

            “Josh,” she said, keeping her voice as controlled as possible, “could you please turn that down? I’m trying to visit with your grandmother and we cannot hear ourselves think.” She noticed he still had on the offensive shirt.

            “Fine,” Josh said, starting to slam the door, but she stopped it with her foot. “And did you hit Elliott?”

            “He’s not allowed in my room.”

            “I sent him up here,” Denise said.

            “Well, that was your mistake,” Josh said, pushing his door shut, forcing her to move out of the way.

            Tears came to her eyes. How could she go through all this again? But then, to her relief, suddenly the music stopped. Silence. For now anyway.

“Hey, who is this?” Natalie said into the receiver.

“Who’s this?” said a disgruntled adolescent voice.

“It’s Natalie. Is your mom around?”

“She’s kinda busy.”

“Well, can you get her? I really need to speak to her.”

She heard the clunk of the phone. Eventually, the boy came back on the line. “She’s yelling at Josh and can’t hear me.”

            Natalie was on the public phone, standing right outside the emergency room at St. Paul’s Hospital, which she guessed was about an hour from Denise’s. “Well, could you give her a message for me?”

            “Who’s this?” the boy said again.

            Natalie rolled her eyes. “It’s your Aunt Nat. Who is this?”


            “Danny, please tell your mom I’m going to be late. I’m at the hospital.” She hesitated, expecting Danny’s indifference to turn to instant concern, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, he simply said okay.

            “Uh, Danny, could you tell your mom that Bethany got mixed up with some wasps and we’re at the hospital.”  She could hear Bethany’s hysterical cries for her. She’d left her with a nurse who refused to let her use her cell phone in the emergency room so she had to step outside. She was sure Denise was champing at the bit that she wasn’t there yet.

            “Okay,” Danny replied.

“Soon as the doctor looks at her,” Natalie said, “then we’ll be on our way.” Unless she decided it would be easier just to turn around and head back home.

“Bye.” Danny had hung up.

As difficult as her daughter was at five, Natalie wasn’t sure she’d be able to handle her as a teenager. She rushed back to the emergency room to try and calm Bethany, whose legs were a mass of red swollen stings. The nurse gave Natalie an accusatory look, but it hadn’t been her fault for what occurred.

After having driven for what felt like hours while Bethany’s wiggling and sniffling became more and more panicked, Natalie gave up trying to find a gas station or diner with a bathroom on the main drag and pulled off to the side of the road. She grabbed a handful of tissues.

“Where’s the bafroom?” Bethany said once Natalie slid open the side door of the Caravan.

“You’re looking at it, Babe,” Natalie said, lifting her daughter out of the vehicle and leading her into the thick bushes, hiding from any possible passing cars. She slipped Bethany’s panties down around her ankles. “Crouch down.”

She handed some tissues to Bethany. “Wipe yourself with these when you’re done.”

“This is yucky.”

“It’s no big deal.” Then, feeling the urge to go herself, Natalie pulled her pants and underwear down and crouched. “See. This is the way God intended it to be.”

But as soon as Natalie was in midstream, Bethany began to howl, swatting her legs, attempting to run but falling face down in the bushes. Natalie dribbled on her pants as she rushed to pull them up. As soon as she saw the wasps circling her daughter, she scooped her up and ran back to the road as quickly as possible with Bethany peeing all over her. That’s when she figured it probably would have been wiser to pull off the main drag to find a bona fide bathroom.

Thinking clearly was difficult with Bethany screeching and clawing at her, but eventually she recalled the road sign some ways back with the indicating H and, allowing a hysterical Bethany to sit in the front seat, she raced down the highway, backtracking from where she’d been. The warning light of a police cruiser demanding she pull over was a relief. Not waiting for the cop to come to her, she jumped out and spilled the story to him as quickly as possible. Surveying the little girl who now seemed to be calming into shock, he told Natalie to follow him. Only moments later did they pull up to the hospital’s emergency entrance. He ran around to the passenger side and scooped Bethany up, carrying her inside while repeatedly telling her she’d be all right.

Once paramedics had Bethany on a gurney and a doctor had been called, Natalie turned to see that the officer was still in the room talking to one of the medical technicians. She couldn’t help but notice that the cop was about her age, maybe a couple years younger, but very attractive. It occurred to her that maybe he was hanging around for a reason other than speaking to the technician. She went over to him and thanked him for his help, noticing his eyes were a curious green and there was no tell-tale ring on his finger.

“No problem,” he said.

“Would it be possible to get your precinct number so that I can sing your praises to your boss?”

“Just doing my job, ma’am,” he said, looking her over. That’s when she remembered she was covered in piss.

“Oh, good grief,” she said, “I’m so embarrassed. My daughter got me good.” She pointed at her clothes. “Would you be able to tell me where the closest store is? Like a Target or something?”

“Sure.” A skinny nurse, not the officer spoke up. “Just a mile or so down the road. But it’s a Walmart.”

Natalie turned back to the officer, but, to her disappointment, he was on his way out the door. She went back to Bethany whose tears had exhausted her to a sound sleep.

“Well, at least we know she wasn’t allergic,” the nurse said, brushing the sweaty bangs off Bethany’s face.

“How’d we know that?” Natalie said.

The nurse gave her a serious look. “This many stings, she wouldn’t have survived.”

“Really? Wow.”  She had little idea that children could be so demanding, but seemed to be finding out more and more with each passing day.

At first, Bethany had been Natalie’s trump card years ago when Greg said they were over. She’d had a feeling he was ready to end the relationship so she conveniently forgot to take her birth control. After all, she’d worked too hard to get him. She’d dressed a little nicer, flirted and let him know she was available. It took some time, but finally, he relented. Now, he was gone and she was left alone with a child she had little idea how to raise.

Just then, a woman who introduced herself as the resident doctor appeared. “She got herself in some mess, huh?”

“Where the hell have you been?” cried Natalie. “She could’ve been allergic to those bees!”

“My staff kept me informed,” the doctor said, putting the stethoscope to Bethany’s chest.

“How soon can you get us out of here?” Natalie said. “I’m covered in piss.”