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Adventures In Babysitting

I never had any children, for much the same reason that I never kept rabid weasels: I do not require the presence of small, toxic, hyperactive biters destroying a house to fulfill me, and if I did I would acquire some for whose education I was not responsible. I neither understand nor condone the mystifying desire to procreate and raise children which is why I've been scrupulously cautious in all my sexual sporting by never revealing my true name or address.

I look at it this way. Would I stand idly by as my mate increased both her weight and her natural feminine craziness by 25%, throw all my money into a garbage disposal, and devote every moment of spare time to the care and feeding of something which would almost surely wind up disappointing me? No, no, and hell no. It's not that I don't like children, it's just that they — No, I guess it is. I don't like them and I find them irritating in the extreme. Oh, I suppose conceptually they're fine, as long as they remain in the abstract. I mean, worthless humans have got to come from somewhere. It's when they achieve flesh and blood proximity that I have a problem. Perhaps if I'd been raised in an earlier, saner age when children were given a sense of purpose and responsibility by going off to work in the mills and factories at the age of 10, I could get behind fatherhood — who's going to say no to an extra pay envelope coming into the house every week? — but in the current childcentric climate of youth empowerment, it seems a losing proposition. You can neither farm them out to work nor sell them into slavery in order to recoup your investment of time, shelter and food which seems unfair to the maker. You would think creating something would give you the right to dispose of it as you saw fit, but apparently children have rights now. Rights! Ha! Who's next, animals? Women? I suppose we will be giving dogs the vote and sending our cats off to university now. Where does it end, I ask you? It's getting so a man hardly feels as if he has dominion over the beasts and women anymore.

The generally curmudgeonly stance is of antipathy toward the current generation of youth with their (insert list of confusing modern diversions/conveniences here), but I say kids have always been obnoxious, deceitful, smart asses. I know I was, and perhaps if I'd been enlisted into a program of regular beatings and productive labor I would have grown out of it, but look at me now.

The solution should be simple: steer clear of the little buggers. It's not as if you can't hear them coming from miles away. I've made my home in Fort Bragg, though, where if you haven't had your first child by the age of 16 you're brought before a panel of concerned citizens to determine your fitness and sexual orientation. "You haven't been fooling with those condoms, have you? Not happy with the local lads? Don't you want to go clubbing with your grandkids? Now get out there and make some babies!"

Pretty much every female I know has got several ankle-biter's grazing around the premises which makes them difficult to avoid completely. I will ignore them if at all possible, but if they persist in attempting to engage me I find that diverting them with a Chinese throwing star or firecrackers usually does the trick. My backpack generally contains items dangerous enough to capture the fancy of your average five-year-old.

It's not as if I'd never considered reproducing, if only to continue a family line that includes Elihu B. Washburne, Ambassador to Paris and hero of the Siege and Commune, and Joseph 'Country' Washburne, noted songwriter and the first man to incorporate the tuba into jazz. If I did, though, there are certain elements of the process I feel I might have difficulty getting behind. The actual making of the baby, that crucial first step, I am totally on board with. No hesitation there, and I would even happily augment the little zygote with a view bolstering incursions to shore up his position in the womb.

Now, pregnancy, that's a whole 'nother species of mollusk. As I understand it, the female becomes quite surly and unattractive during the gestation period, and I can't be expected to put up with that. Nine months is a perfect span of time in which to enjoy a classic continental tour. On my return, I would be happy to pop in and inspect the little blighter, after all participants had been wiped clean of offending fluids and rendered presentable, of course. If I found him satisfactory, I would then engage the services of a professional to perform the actual raising of the mite. I have little enough patience with humans who can speak the mother tongue and properly dispose of their excreta; helplessness is not a selling point with me. As the child grew into boyhood and adolescence, I would occasionally send photographs and even pop in from time to time to celebrate certain milestones. When he reached an age where he felt confident to engage me in single combat, I would meet him on the field of honor in a rite of manhood as old as time itself.

My friend Daphne has a fairly impressive brood and unlike her mythological namesake, who as you recall so feared for her virtue from the advances of the handsome Apollo that she had Peneus turn her into a tree, I don't know if she's ever said no, at least not while ovulating. She has a few living at home with her, a couple out on their own, several with their various daddies, and one or two relocated by the authorities. She lives out in the Cleone area on an hereditary patch with a flock of guinea fowl and a very cantankerous goat who usually entangles me in a bovid dominance battle whenever I visit. Daphne says I'm just stooping to his level by strapping on a motorcycle helmet and dropping to all floors in the dooryard, but I'm damned if I'll get let a goat get the better of me.

Daphne also grows a particularly virile strain of indica under whose influence I was one evening watching an old Nick and Nora movie on TCM at her house, convulsed with laughter and marveling at the personal habits of the Charleses. "Man, a martini is the answer to everything for these guys," I said.

"What? Whatever. Listen, I have to go into town for a couple of hours and I need you to watch my kids," Daphne said.

I chuckled politely, always appreciative of a good jest. "Good one," I said.

"I'm totally serious. You'll be fine. They will just be in their room playing video games. Do this for me and I will make it worth your while."

"But— but— Maury Povich said a single guy should never but never allow himself to be alone with someone else's kids," I sputtered.

“Go ahead and molest ’em, then. I don’t care.”

I must have looked shocked because Daphne burst out laughing. "I'm kidding. Anybody who tries anything with those two deserves what he gets. Come on, you don't even have to talk to them. I just need an adult in the house. I learned that one the hard way." She shook her head ruefully.

"All right, all right. Bring me back some ice cream and try to hurry."

Daphne went back to inform the boys of the situation. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but her tone sounded dire and threatening. "Okay, they know you're here. Just let me know if they give you any shit. Call me if anyone dies, otherwise don't. See ya."

And there I was, trapped in a house with two fatherless, free-range pre-teens. God only knew what mischief they were cooking up in there. I know when I was that age I was already a significant threat to the general populace and that was in a kinder and gentler era when smiley faces adorned everything and Coke wanted to teach the world to sing. In perfect harmony! I could hear gangster rap coming through the door. With influences like that and no smiley faces around to keep things cheerful, there is no telling what these little thugs might be capable of.

Daphne had not been gone five minutes when the boys came out of the bedroom in full homeboy regalia, obviously ready for action of some sort. "Got any money, old man?" The younger one asked.

"Uh, not really," I said.

"C'mon, let me hold ten bucks."

"I don't think I even have 10, besides—"

"Fine then. I know you got five, fool."

"Um, I don't think you guys are supposed to go anywhere."

"Shut up, fool," the elder chimed in. "Give us five or I'll tell moms you was sniffin' her panties."

The younger one cackled and high-fived his brother. "Yeah, dog!" he said.

I excavated a fin from my pocket and surrendered it to the little thieves. "Look, whatever you're doing, just get back before your mom gets home, okay? Please?"

"Aright, dog," they said, laughing as they went out the door.

Well, there you go. My mellow was officially harshed. This is why children are a mistake. They don't listen, they rob you, they are impertinant, they dress funny— Oh, screw it. I went back to Nick, Nora, and little Asta, solving cases with gin and sparkling repartee, You will notice they did not have any little crumbsnatchers running around spoiling their lovely Oriental floor coverings.

The boys showed back up about an hour later, clearly stoned and giggling madly. "What's up, dog?" they chimed, giving me a fist bump. "Moms locks up her stash now so we had to go get some dank from our homie down the road." One of them looked at me menacingly. "This all on the DL, right? You ain't going to say shit to our moms?"

"It's all good, lil' homie. You do yours, I'm just chillin'."

"Aright then." They locked it down with another fist bump and repaired back to their bedroom, therein no doubt to gloat over their mastery of me. Did I feel any regret or shame at allowing the little fiends to bully me thuswise? None whatever. Children, like mutating viruses and badgers are unpredictable and should be avoided at all costs. Five dollars was a small price to pay for peace, and perhaps later in life when they were armed, mobile and infinitely more dangerous, they would look at that fin as the fabled lion to the thorn extracted from his paw by the humble mouse. That's the kind of goodwill you want to bank.

Daphne rolled up shortly after and tossed me a pint of Chunky Monkey. "How were they? Any problems?"

"Haven't heard a peep out of them."

"Good. Hold onto your hat, we're about to get juiced," she said, extracting the impetus behind her mission from her jacket pocket. "Hel-lo, Kitty," I said.

That was my adventure in babysitting. Not only did it go pretty smoothly, all things considered, but my position on procreation was fully solidified and supported. If my story prevents just one of you from foisting more of the little beggars on the planet, I will consider it a worthwhile day's work.

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