Short Story Competition 2019 – 3rd place: We Really Need The Babysitter Tonight by Jeremy Bernard

40 min flight, 50 pounds a ticket, 20 pounds for the babysitter, it was about fucking time.

“It’s so nice to have a day to ourselves.” She whispers into his ear. She wanted to nuzzle her head in the crook of his neck but the economy seats were too rigid for any type of comfort, let alone of the cuddling variety.

Each touch of skin against skin, the warmth and connection brought them back to past memories. Bittersweet emotions and the anxiety of a judgemental gaze and a scribbling pen. The pure sweetness of sharing hubba-bubba gum from mouth to mouth in a small practically abandoned arcade.

Her exhausted eyes blinked away the formation of tears. “Everything has just become numbers with us.” A recent report by the UK government had announced that parents needed to allocate a minimum of 30,000 pounds in order to raise a child from its conception till they turn 18. When the morning paper had announced it in flashing headlights, the father of three, felt a thud. Gripping onto his chest for dear life. That was the first in a series of incredibly taxing hospital visits. The beep of a monitor barely able to compete with the calculations going on in the mind of a lower class worker who couldn’t possibly grasp how the world could let him live with so much debt and demand.

“I do feel like I’ve been spending more time holding onto my wallet than to my own wife’s hand.” That was the first major breakthrough in six months of counseling. Those words immediately released the stress building up in her hands, she untucked one hand from the other, and, just as she had done so many times before, gently fit the less sweaty of the two hands into her husbands. Staring into each other’s eyes and for once not having to dart them to the side. No guilt was conjured up, they forgot about what they owed each other and could see that spark of a sweet memory light up in their minds.

“We used to be like a straight line in Tetris.” Her husband and the counselor were taken aback. The husband in awe of how easy that was to understand whilst the counselor was torn by this seemingly random interjection.

“What do you mean?”

“Tetris has always been my wife and I’s favorite game. Whenever we would need to escape our homes we would visit the old arcade down the street and play for as long as our loose change could allow us.”

“Eventually we started realizing that the same two players were always being displayed on the leaderboard so we started sending each other a simple,”

“but effective”

“message.”

The game booted up in their minds, displaying six series of letters attached to an absurdly large number. The clunky machine then slowly had the letters crawl up and revealed a second series of letters with a number so close to the previous one you might mistake the two at first. The longer you would stare at the monitor, the more those exact two series of letters would be stringed together. The scores acted like a countdown as it diminished ever so slightly. The resulting image was like a ballet or spicy samba with two dancers weaving themselves, slipping between each other and yet completing the empty spaces:

  1. IBEATU ………… 569,254
  2. WHORU? …..….. 569,263
  3. IBEATU …………..562,333
  4. WHORU? ……….. 560,121

ETC…

Eventually the taunting and questioning erupted into a passionate romance of mutual escapism. Whenever there was a needle on the floor, a whisper or bottle or belt pelted against the ear, the neverending shouts, the “PUT THE GUN DOWN, MOM!” or the “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, for the lord, FUCK FUCK FUCK, for God’s sake!” you could find the young couple hidden away in their tron-like trance.

“I saw the slow rolling of soulless eyes and decided that those soulless machines couldn’t be much worse.” Avoiding the hurt look and gradual release of her hand.

“Eventually we found each other and decided we would be the one’s to fill in the gap.” As she finished her remark, there was a light squeeze of his hand, accentuating the camaraderie they were so desperately trying to rebuild. In response to this unspoken gesture came a jolt of warmth that passed from her caring heart and transferred itself to the gradual relaxation of his shoulders.

“So that’s why the metaphor came to mind. We might not be the same person, one often becomes a disjointed half of the other.”

“But when we put in the work and effort, we can sometimes combine in the wierdest, most satisfying ways.”

“Even if it means we could just disappear at any second.”

“I think you two should go back to your roots. Disappear once again, forget about the family, the work, the stress, and just work on what you have so beautifully been able to put into words.”

.30 pence for the phone call, 10 digits to a number… “ah fuck it” he thought as he heard the phone ring. When the disgruntled voice of an old lady answered on the other side he immediately began:

“We really need the babysitter tonight.”


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