Tuesday, May 16, 2006

China Beach

Like almost everyone I know, I babysat when I was younger. I didn't have much experience with kids except my younger sister and kids around the neighborhood, most notably a mildly autistic child named Michelle. We called her Little Michelle to distinguish her from me and also to indicate she was a bit "touched" as we used to say when we didn't have any clinical terms to indicate someone's problem. At any rate, nobody every told me what a natural I was with kids, how good, but babysitting wasn't the art it seems to be now and to have a pulse and be able to dial the phone were enough qualification parents needed to hire you.

Weirdly enough, I enjoyed the work because the kids were very odd and usually revealed lots of things about their lives without any prompting. My favorite kids to babysit were Brad and Blake. As their names indicate, there was a whole world of difference between the two -- Brad wanted to grow up and be a marine and Blake spent most of our time together threatening to kill himself (he was five) because his life was "not right, sad, sad." The first few times this was alarming, until it became par for the course and I'd tell Blake that he would not be going down on my watch, no sir and to watch television like any other babysitter might. Brad, a few years older, didn't want to watch television -- he wanted to play television, most notably China Beach, a show in the style of MASH about the Vietnam War. In Brad's version, I would dance on his parents' dining room table and he would give me money and drink "wine." He assured me we could pull this off with Monopoly money and Welch's Grape Juice. Wouldn't he rather hear a story, I asked. No, he said, I want some excitement! I want China Beach! Finally, he settled down when I told him that I'd tell him a real story, not Goodnight Moon or some lame shit like that. He loved when I cursed (as he did the entire time I was there -- his parents didn't seem to mind the cursing), and I told him a scary story, one with blood and guts and high adventure. After I finished, he agreed that the story had been pretty good, but maybe someday I could dance on the table also. Blake chimed in that he might not kill himself tonight, but he was planning on it, and I couldn't control his thoughts. Finally, the theme of the night.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." James Brown


1 shot Watermelon Pucker
1 shot vodka
1 shot gingerale

Serve chilled.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Sulpher Spring Literary Review

No Half-Measures

Your death was a time-release capsule.
For the first hour, I felt nothing
except the pain of being forced
to swallow something whole. No
half-measures here, no breaking
the pill into pieces, hiding it in ice-
cream. I walk around, seeing
everything and nothing at the same
time, unable to explain where I’ve been
Last things speak for themselves.


Cindy said...


I LOVE the new post! The description of the budding little terrorists and your handling of them is genius! As always --


p.s. what ever happened to poor Little Michelle?

Wichita-Lineman said...

Great job with No Half-Measures, really liked the line "seeing
everything and nothing at the same
time" There is a lot said in those 8 words. You capture quite a bit in this short piece.

Also liked the spell of the day, one I've never heard before. It kind of got me thinking, because I've often heard from people of faith that they'd prefer to be on their knees when they died.

Paul said...

Those foxy legs! I need to get out of bed earlier. The poem is mellow, makes me sad like most good things do after they're done with. Dr. Pepper time.

I could not bring myself to see China Beach. Not even MASH. But that boy was no fool, come to think about it.

John said...

Dear Michelle,

Another brilliant post! Bravo! I'll skip the drink, though. The idea of Pucker is simply too much for my palate. Champagne and Scotch will have to suffice for now.

Great picture, too. A vision of loveliness. . . . .

Michelle's Spell said...


Little Michelle's fate was not a pretty one. That's going to be tomorrow's post -- thanks for asking!

Anonymous said...


My name is Mike Watson. I actually randomly found your website searching through poetry and, upon further review, realized that I had you for one of my English classes at Macomb. I found you quite interesting at that point and was wondering if you were still teaching, how you were doing, and the likes. My e-mail address is mike@miketothesecond.com. It would be nice to hear from you. Have a nice day.

p.s. i'm not sure if you will remember me but here is a picture.