Friday, May 7, 2010
"Adventures in Babysit...editing"
...I'm a writer.
...my wife runs a daycare out of our finished basement.
I'm currently trudging through revisions with my editor. A tedious necessity demanding of one's utmost attention.
At any random time of day, there can be as many as ten or twelve children, babies to pubescent foulmouths, conducting various forms of havoc upon my sagging homestead.
Writing and children. Writing with children. Writing...despite children. Confused? Okay...here's a taste.
Mid-morning. My office. Face pushed up against the monitor, analyzing dialogue in chapter 5...in the zone.
I never heard him sneak up behind me, but lurched in my seat when I felt my shirt-tail being yanked through the back of my chair. Three steady tugs, as if reigning in a horse.
I turned with a start, mind reeling, and stared down into the face of a young chap no taller than a yard stick. Thin blonde hair piled atop his head like hay in need of baling. Legs belonging to a munchkin straight out of Oz. Eyes like blue saucers, I couldn't decide whether he was scared out of his wits, or too curious to control his actions.
Troublesome Riley. He'd snuck out of the basement, wandered about through the house, and discovered me sitting at the computer.
Irritated and fighting the urge to show it, I asked, "Why are you up here, Riley?"
He answered by placing a hand over the crotch of his pants, as if prepairing to unzip his fly.
"Hey!" I exclaimed, scooting my chair several inches in the opposite direction. "What the..."
"Mommy says I can call it a pee-wee, or a dingle, but never a wiener."
"Uhhh..." I quickly leaned toward the wall next to my desk, and hollered into the heat register. "Honey! Need some help up here! We got toilet talk!"
The air duct was a direct line into our basement, carrying sound better than the latest and greatest cell phone achievements Verizon could offer.
I waited, eyes on the vented register, envisioning my wife counting tiny heads. Then from out of the square cut into the wall, "Riley? Get down here this instant!"
The youngster's shoulders slumped. He offered me a half-hearted wave, turned and left the room.
I breathed a sigh, returned to my manuscript, started fading back into the drama when the phone rang. I recognized the number on the caller I.D., sighed again, and picked it up.
"Morning Elliot...working on those revisions we talked about?"
"Tough day for it, so nice outside and all." I glanced out the window and spotted two kids tossing a large rubber ball back and forth. Byron and Eddie. Two more munchkins giggling about in the sunshine.
"Yeah right," my editor countered. "You're looking at it right now. What chapter you on?"
I glanced at my screen and frowned. "Five."
"Five? Geez, man. Think you can get through ten by Friday?"
I shook my head as I answered, "Probably. If I work on it after my shift."
"You still got the day job?" he asked, incredulous.
"Uhh...if you guys woulda signed me for a little more...I've got three kids to feed, you know."
"Sorry El, but you're new to the show. Best we could do was a high royalty deal, we talked about this..."
Just then the back door flew open, Riley stumbling over the threshold, large rubber ball hugged to his chest, towing Byron upon his back. Byron had one arm wrapped around Riley's throat, another clutching a handful of Riley's scalp, a pair of screams, one in pain, the other a maddening howl, as the pair plummeted onto the floor in a heap of miniature legs and grimy fingernails bent like claws.
"Was that a cat?" David asked, concern in his voice.
"No, fighting kids," I answered. "Hang on a minute."
I turned to the pair of lightweight combatants. "What's going on?"
"He took my ball!" Byron screamed. "I'm gonna pound him!"
Back to the register. "Honey!"
A minute passed, then, "Boys, get down here! Outside time is over!"
More shoulder slumping. Alone again. I turned back to my phone. "Sorry David."
"Do you need me to call somebody? EMS or something?"
"No. We're good. Listen, I'll get through ten this week. Ten chapters a week...four weeks and on to the galley. Won't be a problem."
From around the corner stumbled baby Emily. Eleven months old, still teetering on legs with confidence issues. A red-head in piggy-tails. A trailing booger peeking out of one nostril. She looked at me and showed off a toothy grin. I smiled back, and she waddled over, hands outstretched.
I lifted her into my lap as David said, "Okay El. Good to hear. And oh, by the way. Sounds like they're going with the baseball theme for the cover. The one with the kid."
"Excellent," I said. "That one's my favorite."
I felt something warm on my thigh, like a bowl of hot soup had just been placed upon my lap. I was fairly certain it wasn't soup though. A moment later, a sound similar to that of a massive zipper being worked on, ripped through the air.
David paused in mid-sentence, hesitated, then quietly asked, "Hey El, did you just fart?"
Another sigh. "No David. I got this kid on my lap and she..." The smell floated to my nostrils, began clearing my sinuses, watering my eyes. "Hang on."
A leaned toward the register, throat feeling raw. "Honey! Got major poo!"
A moment later, "Awww man. Okay, I'll be up."
Fearing nausea, I gingerly placed Emily onto the floor, returned the phone to my ear. "David, still there?"
Through the receiver I could hear a collection of giggles, someone hollering in the background, something about a stressed out writer with gas. Then David said, "Hey El, sounds like all's well over there. Give me a ring when you're through ten, okay?"
I hung up, tried to ignore the lingering stench of infant sewage, turned back to the monitor, stared at words on a screen.
Writing and children. Writing with children. Laugh all laugh at Elliot's woes:)