by Erin Pringle
Father takes us to work because baby-sitter won't play with us anymore. She never liked our games. He says, Don't disturb me and when I'm done we'll have ice cream.
Will we each get a cone?
He says, We'll share. We must learn how to share. Now go play in the break room until I come find you.
We say, Hide and seek?
He doesn't answer. He's not very good at that game, but he is better than baby-sitter. We had to show her where to hide and then her arm dangled out.
There is cherry kool-aid in the break room. We ask whose it is. No one appears to claim it. We can't read yet so no one's name is on the pitcher. When we drink it, our heads hit the ceiling. When we drink the rest, we fall to the ground and are as small as guinea pigs so we can't reach the pitcher on the table. We leave the break room. It is better not to have a baby-sitter who says sugar eats your tongue out which is why it turns very red.
We find stairs and run up and down them. Our apartment doesn't have stairs. Cement blocks donít count. When we are out of breath and holding our sides, we slide down the railing to the bottom. There's a door. It is black and has a word. We say, Whereís this door lead? We say, Let's find out.
But we can't reach the doorknob so we stick our fingers to the back of our mouths. Then we go back to normal. The doorknob wonít budge. It takes both hands to turn it. We make a creaking sound as it opens.
The room is bigger than our apartment. It's as big as baby-sitter's church. We weren't allowed to run and yell in there. So we do.
Father would love this room because there are filing cabinets on every wall. When Father gets a raise, we will move into a house with room for his filing cabinets. Then he won't have to keep his filing cabinets in the bedroom. Father says it's no fun to mix work and play. Maybe that's why baby-sitter didn't want to hide in Father's bed. Since he was her boss and bosses don't give raises.
Father says he will get a new filing cabinet with locks so we canít climb in and scare him when he finds us. That's too bad because his face makes us laugh when we raise up and say hello. If his drawers were as big as these, he wouldn't need milk crates for extra papers. But he would not appreciate that these donít have locks. We are not allowed in his anymore.
We ask if Father will be mad if we open one. We say remember we are earning his trust. He will trust us if we pull the handle at the same time because we are sharing and that would make him happy. He needs happy more than trust. The drawer slides nicely. We donít have to tug at all.
Inside is a person. She has red hair and no clothes. Sheís alone. We say, You must be lonely. We know how that is. We shiver. It is very cold in here not to have a blanket. We look in other drawers but there are only people. Maybe these cabinets have heaters since they donít hold papers or folders.
We shut her drawer.
We open it.
We say Peekaboo.
We say, You are like baby-sitter. Not a child or adult. And you don't laugh at our games.
We say, Whatís your name? Is it Eileen like baby-sitter?
We say, Cat got your tongue?
We open her mouth and look. Her tongue is the wrong color. Too bad we drank all the kool-aid or we could have shared. Then we see the stars in her chest.
We say, The kool-aid would squirt out anyway. That is a funny picture in our head so we laugh.
We touch the stars. Her belly. Her rib. Her breast.
We say, You look like baby-sitter, but her stars were red.
Her skin is soft like Grandmother's. Grandmother lives in New York and visited when baby-sitter first stopped working.
We ask the girl where she's from.
We say, New York. How's the weather? Cloudy. That must be why you don't smile.
We say, How'd you get those stars?
We say, Don't play with guns or you'll learn a bad lesson. Eileen, look at our gun.
Our finger points at her breast her rib her belly.
Boom boom boom.
We cover our ears then climb into the filing cabinet.
Who turned out the lights, Eileen?
Will Father find us? He's no good at this game.
I say, This time he'll look for us. This time, he'll say Gottchya! Not, Where's the baby-sitter?
Erin Pringle is originally from Illinois and now lives in San Marcos, Texas. Her work has appeared in Quarter After Eight, Adirondack Review, Pagitica in Toronto, Downstate Story, and Whistling Shade, among others. She is in her final work of graduate study on Rose Fellowship in Texas State University's MFA program. She smokes menthol lights and ties her hair