Adventures in Babysitting

On Friday, January 30th, the attendees of the Clark Writes official launch event had the pleasure to experience a drama reading of an original piece by Clark senior, Margo Smith. ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ is an excerpt from a larger series that explores the American obsession with freak shows, and how we treat people with disabilities. In this excerpt, Lars and Mike, twin brothers who are closer than most, deal with their annoying nephew and judgments from the outside world. Read more below.


 Adventures in Babysitting [Excerpt]

Margo Smith

(Mid-afternoon, in a smallish apartment in a medium-sized city in the Midwest. MIKE and LARS enter. Like many twin brothers, they are close. Unlike most twin brothers, they are attached at the head, fused side by side. LARS scurries around, trying to tidy up the living room, while MIKE follows along unhelpingly. Something is clearly bothering them.)

LARS
Some more enthusiastic help would be appreciated.

MIKE
He’s eight years old, why are we cleaning up for him? He’s going to mess it all up anyway.

LARS
It’s about creating habits, ok? If we don’t clean up when Karen brings Ethan over, then we won’t clean up when we have Mom or people from work come to visit.

MIKE
I don’t know why we agreed to this. He’s so fucking weird.

LARS
Yes, but he’s our nephew, and Karen is dealing with a lot right now so we need to help her out. Gary is being a dick and not helping her pay for childcare, so we’re all she’s got this afternoon.

MIKE
I just don’t want this to be a regular thing, if she gets this job. I don’t really mind watching the kid once during the interview, but I can’t have every Wednesday afternoon turn into the Ethan Keller show.

LARS
Look, I know this is annoying, but Karen really needs us to do this. Divorce is really shitty when you’re a kid, man. I’m sure Ethan will stop being so troubled in a couple of months, when everything’s sorted out.

MIKE
He’s not “troubled.” Troubled, I could handle. Setting fires in the bathroom, cussing out teachers, that kind of shit I could deal with. But Ethan… Kid is just weird. You can’t fix weird.

LARS
He’s just really talkative! And he’s really smart- listen to what he says. Maybe you’ll learn something.

MIKE
Whatever. As long as he goes home after two hours and I don’t have to see him again until Easter, I’m happy.

(The doorbell rings, and MIKE and LARS go to answer it. KAREN enters, slightly flustered.)

KAREN
Hey guys! (she hugs them both) Thanks for taking him on such short notice. It means a lot.

LARS
Hey, no problem. What are brothers for?

KAREN
You guys are the best. My interview’s at three, so I should be back around four-thirty or five. Is that ok?

MIKE
There’s a game at five- (LARS elbows him) ow! Five hours. At seven. My game’s at seven. Should be fine.

KAREN
Ok good, I didn’t want to impose on your evening too much. I really can’t thank you enough. I would’ve hired a babysitting, but Gary’s been so tight-fisted with his payments…

LARS
Don’t worry about it. We’ll take Ethan as long as you need us to.

(MIKE snorts.)

MIKE
Uh, where is he, anyway?

KAREN
I left him on the front stoop. He was doing a number puzzle, and he was so quiet I thought I’d leave him in there while we said hi. He has so much trouble transitioning sometimes, y’know? (she yells out the door) Ethan? Ethan! Come inside and say hi to your uncles! (to LARS, digging in her purse) He’s been really into Discovery Channel lately, so I brought a DVD for you guys to play for him. Just pop it in if he gets too irritating (she laughs nervously).

LARS
I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

(ETHAN bursts through the door. He’s a small, pudgy, bespectacled child with an extraordinary amount of energy. )

ETHAN
Hi Uncle Lars! (he grabs LARS’ leg and squeezes, hard.) I missed you! I got in the car after school, and Mom said that we were going to your house, and then we drove to your house, and then we rang the doorbell, and now I’m in your house and I’m SO. EXCITED.

LARS
Good to see you too, buddy.

KAREN
Ethan…

ETHAN
(turning towards MIKE) Oh yeah. Hi, Uncle Mike.

KAREN
Ok Ethan, Mommy’s going to head out to her interview now, and you’re going to spend some time with Uncle Mike and Uncle Lars, just like we talked about in the car. And then I’ll pick you up and we’ll go home and have dinner, alright?

ETHAN
Can we have Marie Calendar individual serving potpies tonight for dinner?

KAREN
I think we have some in the freezer, sure.

ETHAN
Then I am totally good with this plan and it’s schedule. (to LARS) Have you ever had a Marie Calendar individual serving potpie, Uncle Lars?

LARS
I don’t think so.

ETHAN
Well, they are delicious. There are carrots in them. Carrots come from the ground and are good for you. One time I ate carrots in a frozen steamed vegetable mix, and there were not very good. But in the Marie Calendar individual serving potpie, they are wonderful. I suggested to my teacher that we serve them in the lunchroom at school, but she said that it wouldn’t be very practical.

MIKE
That’s a lot of big words for somebody who just turned eight.

ETHAN
I know lots of big words. My favorite is floccinaucinihilipilification. It meas to say something is worthless, when it’s really not.

MIKE
Impressive.

KAREN
(laughing) Alright, sweetheart, I’m glad you’re settling in. I guess that’s my cue to leave. (she kisses ETHAN on the forehead, and heads for the door.) Have fun with your uncles, sweetie. Ok, see you guys at five! Thanks again! (she exits)

ETHAN
Want to hear another big word?

MIKE
Not especially, no.

ETHAN
Want to hear a joke I tell at school?

MIKE
No-

LARS
(quietly) Be nice to him! (to ETHAN) What’s your joke, buddy?

ETHAN
Ok. A piece of string goes into a bar, and he orders a beer. And the bartender says, “We don’t serve your kind here.” And the piece of string gets upset and leaves. And he’s so upset that he squirms around and gets all ugly and picked apart and tangled. And then he goes back in the bar and asks for a beer again. And the bartender says “Hey- aren’t you that guy that just came in here a minute ago?” And the string says “I’m a frayed knot.” (he giggles loudly). Afraid not! Isn’t that funny, Uncle Mike?

MIKE
It was alright.

LARS
It was great!

ETHAN
Want to hear another thing I say at school?

MIKE
Why not?

ETHAN
I say: My two uncles live together. They spend all their time together and work at the same job and go shopping together and go on vacation together and they even sleep in the same bed. And then everybody asks “Are they gay?”

MIKE
How do eight year olds know what gay is?

ETHAN
Because my teacher Mr. Wallace is gay and one time he showed us all a picture of his husband and his dog. And his dog was very interesting because it is a pug and it is ugly but it was wearing a bow tie with polka-dots. But his husband just looked like a man, and forty-nine percent of the population are also men, so I see men a lot and it’s not interesting . Cut the pug was interesting, even though the pug wasn’t gay… and that’s how I know what gay is.

MIKE
Jesus Christ.

ETHAN
Mr. Wallace says that we can’t talk about Jesus in school.

LARS
Wait, so you tell everyone at your school about us?

ETHAN
Oh yeah, right. So I tell them about how you guys live together and sleep in the same bed and everyone asks “Are they gay?” Ask me that. Ask “are they gay.”

(LARS and MIKE are silent, and ETHAN grows impatient.)

ETHAN
Ask so I can finish the story.

LARS
(sighing) Are they gay?

ETHAN
And then I say NO, they are not gay, their faces are fused together and they were born that way.

MIKE
You say that at school?

ETHAN
Yes. And then this girl in my class Laureen didn’t believe me, and she told her mom, and her mom is a secretary at the school, and her mom who is a secretary told the assistant principal and he called me into the office and told me not to lie about medical issues, because they are a very sensitive subject. And then I told him that you guys were real, and the assistant principal called my mom and found out it was true and now the assistant principal has to attend diversity training.

LARS
Wow. Your mom didn’t tell us any of that.

ETHAN
Well, it happened today and she’s very busy thinking about her interview because she’s going to be a nurse technician and then she won’t have to talk to Gary anymore.

LARS
You call your dad Gary? That’s not very polite.

ETHAN
My mom says I have to call him “Dad” but she calls him Gary and I call him Gary cause that’s his name. Except one time I watched “The Godfather” part two at Gary’s house and then I started calling Gary “Il Padrino,” and that’s how my mom found out I watched an R movie at Gary’s house. So now I only call him “Il Padrino” when I’m by myself. (pauses) I’m kind of hungry. Usually I have a snack after school but instead we drove straight here so I didn’t get anything to eat. Do you guys have anything to eat?

LARS
Can you eat oreos? We have some oreos in the bottom shelf in the kitchen if you want some.

ETHAN
Mr. Wallace my teacher says almost everyone can eat oreos. They’re kosher and vegan. But they’re not gluten-free, so Laureen the mom-teller can’t eat them.

LARS
Alright, why don’t you go grab some then.

(ETHAN scurries into the kitchen, leaving the twins to themselves)

MIKE

I told you man, fucking weird.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

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