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The One Armed Babysitter
By Barbara Rushkoff

"You two look exactly alike. Which one is older?"

I tried not to move too much, because no matter how strange this dream had gotten, I still wanted more of it. However, Jordan's hand had lost all interest in my noggin and now both of his mitts were on Rosarella.

"Want to go to a party with me?" Too bad he was talking to the doll.

I looked over at my sister, who was sound asleep and snoring. Still inert, with a mound of hair gel piled on my head, I saw Jordan trudge out of my room. I resumed the fetal position and tried to get back to a deep sleep. I tried to get back to the place in the dream where my love-boy embroiders my jeans for me -- with gimp.

The next sound I heard came from my mother a few hours later. It was pitch black in my room. My bed sheets were totally off and the room smelled faintly of burnt tires anguish. I looked at the clock and it was almost 2:00 am. Mom was yelling something about "goop being all over the place."

Goop was this slimy liquid kind of toy that came in many vibrant colors. It was in bottles with a pouring spout for easy access. You could pour the goop into readymade molds of your choice. Then you drop the molds into boiling hot water and thirty seconds later peel out the newly formed goop work of art. It was evident that Stacey got a little curious about the whole goop factory. In a way, I couldn't blame her. Goop was so thrilling!

My mother started yelling for my father as he came in the door from dropping Stacey home.

"Look at this! Goop everywhere." She led my father into the hall bathroom, muttering something about "Helter Skelter." The walls were covered in the stuff. Stacey hadn't even bothered to heat the goop up. She just drew on the walls with it right from the bottle. I was secretly impressed.

Mom started scrubbing the place right then and there, still dressed in her gold lamé pants-suit. When the stink of Ajax hit my nostrils, I knew it was safe to go to sleep again. I must have slept like a rock because the next morning, my head felt very heavy. I didn't have a headache but something was wrong. When I tried to put my hands through my hair I found that it wasn't glued to the pillow at all. It was glued to my scalp. Screaming, I ran to the mirror. Coated on the top of my head was thick film of green guck.

"Did Stacey touch your head? I'll kill her!" My mother often threatened death, but I had never seen her actually do it.

This obviously called for a call to the Sisterhood. Mom dialed on the kitchen wall phone and delivered her battle cry.

"This is war!"

I heard my mother say to her friend Mona Baum-something on the telephone. When she hung up, Mom pulled on her ankle boots, grabbed me, and together we went to pay Stacey a house call. It was war, after all.

Stacey's mom, Vonnie, was almost tranquil as my mom explained "the wild LSD party" Stacey threw at our house the night before. I sat there, trying not to scratch my hair, which was hotter than jock itch in August.

"Feel the head," my mother was screaming at Vonnie. "The head is hard. Feel her hard head. This is my child's head!"

Vonnie weakly smiled at me and with one finger gently patted the mound of gel that formed into a molten layer.

"Where is Stacey anyway? Sleeping off the dope?" Vonnie still didn't seem upset as Mom got more and more agitated. "Go get her. I want her to see Barbara's head."

I'd heard bits and pieces of what was said to have happened at my house. From what I gathered, Stacey threw a full on drug party at our house the night before. I really didn't understand what that really meant at the time. All I had to go on were commercials of young girls jumping out of windows because they thought they could fly.

My mother made Stacey touch my head. I wanted to die but she giggled, then broke off a piece and started to examine it. Maybe she would make a bracelet out of it for me. My mother was waiting for some kind of gargantuan apology but it didn't happen. Anyway, this would no doubt be a much more interesting story to tell the Sisterhood.

Ten minutes later we were back at home. Mom bypassed the kitchen telephone and went straight for the goop factory in my brother's room. She tore it apart as best she could. Then she took every bottle of goop and poured them down the sink.

My brother and I openly cried. He did so for the goop, and I did so because my head was seriously beginning to feel like my hair was cracking off.

"Mom, can I wash my hair yet?" I was starting to leave a trail of green flakes wherever I went.

Mom ran me over to the kitchen sink and pulled out the hot water attachment to burn off the remaining sludge still perched on my head. The water was way too hot, but I didn't even feel it. I had a coating on my head as thick as three layers of Play-Doh. I was well on my way to using the whole bottle of Gee You Hair Smells Terrific conditioner before I felt my hair re-emerge.

I went back to my room, feeling ten pounds lighter. Although my bed was already made up, I forced my way in. I was dizzy from keeping my head in a downright sink position for so long. Maybe a little nap would help me figure out a way to get Stacey back into my mother's good graces. I reached around to have an imaginary conversation with Rosarella, but she wasn't there. Weird.

I had other things on my mind though. Like, looking for Stacey to tell her that I didn't blame her. But she didn't seem to be around anymore. Maybe her mom had sent her away to one of those teenage get-off-dope camps where they make you sit around for hours and make stupid things like ashtrays. For you know, your pot.

However, I did see Jordan a few months later. He was alone sitting in the corner of the schoolyard, eating a bomb pop. I wanted to run over and talk to him, so I could show him how long my hair had grown (from the Dippity-Do?) Maybe we could have a nice talk and he could tell me where Stacey was hiding. I positioned myself behind some bushes and peeked at him for a little while. He was talking out loud, but I didn't see anybody. I glared hard at him, secretly wishing that he'd walk over to where I was and pluck me up onto his shoulders and carry me away. We could go to Ham the Man and he could buy me an orange soda. I tried to put a trance onto him by scorching him with ESP. I had watched The Amazing Kreskin on The Merv Griffin Show, so I thought this was possible. I kept saying his name over and over in my head, summoning him to me.

"No one understands me, but you," wailed Jordan.

Oh. My. God. He had heard my silent wish after all! I started to make my way to him, gliding like those girls with the flowing hair in the Breck commercial, almost knocking over my bike in the process.

The noise must have unclouded Jordan's secret thoughts because he quickly scooped up Rosarella and sped off in the opposite direction. In about two seconds flat he was out my view entirely.

He never even saw me.



A few years ago my mother spotted Stacey at a friend's swim-club. When I asked her how she knew it was indeed Stacey, my mother replied, very seriously, "Well, she is STILL missing her arm." As if it should've grown back by now! What freaks me out most is that Stacey was at a swim-club. She must've gone suburban.

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