Episode 060

Melinda’s Journal

Friday, November 24

My family moved to my neighborhood a little over three years ago, just before I started middle school. After all the movers brought our boxes into the house and were heading back down the street, our doorbell rang. My mother, assuming she had forgotten to sign some paperwork, answered the door to discover a woman a few years younger than herself. She had a large pan in one hand and behind her sat a double stroller, in which slept two little girls.

Our new neighbor from across the street, Mrs. Dyson, did not stay very long, explaining that she was heading out for her daily jog while her daughters took their afternoon nap. However, she wanted to drop off a casserole she had brought us, assuming we would be so busy unpacking that we would not want to make our own supper. It was a pretty good baked ziti, although I will admit her sauce was not quite as good as my mother’s.

The following week, once we had become a little more settled, my mother invited Mrs. Dyson to visit. I was charged with babysitting the young girls in our family room, which was still a large empty room. I must have done a pretty good job, since the following summer, Mrs. Dyson asked me to be her mother’s helper, watching four-year-old Callie and two-year-old Beth while their mother did housework or made dinner. At the end of the summer, Mrs. Dyson would have me come over after school every so often, to continue to help her. She even had me babysit while she ran to the grocery store or bank every once in a while.

I’ve only been home from school one day, but I’m starting to realize that I missed little things when I was away. I didn’t even realize I missed them until I got home. I missed my mother’s home cooking. I missed my dad’s corny jokes. I think I also missed babysitting my neighbors. 

Melinda’s Story

I was eating breakfast Friday morning when the house phone rang. My mother answered and held a short conversation before holding the phone against her body and turning to me.

“The Dysons would like to know if you’re available to babysit tonight. From about six to ten, maybe a little later. Mrs. Dyson will feed them, but you need to put them to bed.”

I didn’t answer immediately. I enjoyed babysitting the girls across the street, but this was the first time the Dysons had ever asked me to put the children to bed. It made me a little nervous. But, I had sat for them many times before. I would be fine.

I nodded. “Um, yeah. If it’s okay with you.”

My mother smiled as she resumed her phone conversation. “Yes, she can watch the girls.”


After an afternoon of texting my friends from school, I ate an early supper and walked across the street. I rang the bell a few minutes before six and the door was opened by an enthusiastic Callie.

“Hi! Hi! Hi!” The six-year-old bounced up and down as she pulled me into the house and closed the door. Her damp golden hair was in pigtails, which oscillated as she guided me down the hallway. “I lost a tooth!” She pointed to the gap at the bottom of her mouth. “The tooth fairy gave me two quarters! That’s fifty cents. And, a toothbrush.”

“Wow! That’s so cool!” I followed the little girl into the kitchen, where four-year-old Beth was sitting at the table with a bowl of meatballs. Her long blonde hair was tied back in a braid halfway down her back, presumably to keep it out of the sauce as she ate. I patted her damp head.

“Hey Beth. That looks yummy.”

“It’s my favorite. Mommy made it special for me.”

“Mommy didn’t feel like cooking,” Mrs. Dyson whispered. “So she microwaved some frozen meatballs and dumped on some jarred sauce. Meanwhile, Mr. Dyson and I are going to get the real stuff at Christopher’s.”

I smiled. The small Italian restaurant was in the same strip mall as the movie theater. “That’s my brother’s favorite restaurant.”

“Mine too.” Mr. Dyson entered the kitchen behind me.

Mrs. Dyson clapped her hands together once to get her daughters’ attention. “Okay, girls. Melinda’s going to play with you so Mommy and Daddy can go out for a little while.”

Both girls jumped up and down. “Yay!”

“When you’re done eating, you need to brush your teeth. Then, you can play for a little while until bedtime. Maybe you can even watch a movie, okay?”

Both girls climbed back into their seats as Mrs. Dyson pointed to the sheet of paper she had affixed to the refrigerator with both their phone numbers. She gave me some more instructions about putting the girls to bed before her husband ushered her out the door.

 After their parents had left, Callie and Beth both declared they were finished with their meals. Since they had very little left on their plates, I let them each have two cookies, as their mother had instructed, then suggested we play a game.

Beth wanted to play a cupcake matching game.  I placed twenty picture cards face down. The girls were supposed to match pairs to collect them. Callie went first, turning over one card to reveal a pink cupcake with purple frosting, rainbow sprinkles, and a cherry. She turned over the one next to it, a blue cupcake with chocolate frosting and a cherry. She turned the cards back over and looked at me.

“Why haven’t you never babysitted for us in forever?”

“Well, I went away to school.”

“What does that mean?” Beth frowned at me. “It’s your turn.”

I turned over a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and a cherry.

“Oh. Um . . . Hmm . . . What’s your favorite show to watch?” I turned over a vanilla cupcake with purple frosting.

They replied in unison. “C.I.Amy!” 

“I haven’t seen that show. But, my school is really far away. If I left the house right now, you would be able to watch four or five C.I.Amys before I got to my school. Because it’s so far away, I live there.”

Beth looked at me with wide eyes. “You don’t live across the street anymore?” 

I turned my cards back over, but Beth seemed to have lost interest in her turn.

I sighed. “Well, my mommy and daddy and brother still live there. And when I’m not in school, I live there. Like now. I’m home for a whole week.”

Callie turned over a card. “What’s it like? Do you get lots of recess? I like recess.” 

“Well, we have lots of time to play with our friends, so yeah. I guess it’s like recess. My best friend and I play games and watch tv together. My other best friend and I go shopping together.”

“Do you have homework? I have homework. My math is easy, but my spelling is hard. Do you have spelling tests?”

I thought for a moment how to explain. “Kinda. You know how Isabel down the street speaks French?”

Beth sent me an excited smile. “She’s in my class! She taught me to count. Ooon. Durr. Two-wha.”

“That’s really cool! Well, I’m learning another language, too.  It’s called Latin. It’s kind of like French. And, I have to learn how to spell all those words.”

Callie cocked her head slightly. “Is your math hard?” 

“Not for me. But, I have friends who think it’s hard.”

“I wanna know about your friends.” Beth turned over the same two cards she had before.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” Callie sent me a knowing smile. “Suzi, our other babysitter, she has a boyfriend. Hey, it’s my turn!” 

Beth had begun to turn over more cards. “But, I’m trying to find the other purple cupcake. It’s my favorite one.”

“But, that’s not how you play!” Callie reached over to turn all the cards back around. Beth tried to hit her sister, but missed.

“Hey!” I spoke a little forcefully, trying to get their attention before a war broke out. “Who wants to watch a movie?”

“I do!” They both jumped to their feet, their argument forgotten.

“What should we watch?” The girls scrambled to the couch as I returned the cards to their box. 

“Ponies!” shouted Beth.

“C.I.Amy!” shouted Callie.

“Amy!” agreed Beth.

I checked the time. “Why don’t you girls brush your teeth, and then we can watch the show until bedtime.”

The girls were excited to do as I asked, anxious to watch their favorite television show. As soon as their teeth were brushed, I settled them onto the couch and found the show using the television’s on demand menu.

The cartoon aired on one of the educational cable channels and was about a little girl who was a secret agent spy. Her best friend was Sammy McSmartyPants, who helped her solve problems from his headquarters in the public library. 

The girls and I watched Amy escort a Chinese diplomat while Sammy helped her understand some customs. I found the show a little silly, but could see how it might appeal to preschoolers. Meanwhile, the girls were fixated on the television and didn’t even notice when I left the room to use the bathroom.

As I returned to the room, I heard Walter reminding me not to whistle.  Eyebrows raised, I walked into the room in time to hear Amy on the television ask why she shouldn’t whistle. The character was having a conversation with her friend, Sammy McSmartyPants. I watched the scene, listening carefully. If I closed my eyes, I could hear Walter’s voice as Sammy.

Settling myself on the couch between the girls, I searched my phone for information on the show. Sammy McSmartyPants was voiced by Wally McGregor. That was the name of Walter’s grandfather. But, the voice sounded much too young to be him.

I did a search for Wally McGregor, which took a little time since it appeared to be a fairly common name. After ruling out Walter’s grandfather, who was a famous Broadway producer, I eventually found a Wally McGregor who was a voice actor with over a hundred animated film and movie credits to his name, as well as a handful of children’s audiobooks. A short biography identified his father as Adam Evans, lead guitarist for CAVEmen and his mother as the actress Kara McGregor.

“I wanna watch another one!” Beth tried to stifle a yawn. I looked up from my phone to find the episode had ended.

“Me too!” declared Callie.

I checked the time. “It’s getting kind of late. I think you girls should go to bed.”

“One more?” whined Beth

“Please?” added Callie.

I shook my head. “I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I’m not going to bed!” Beth crossed her arms in front of her chest.

I resisted the urge to laugh at the cuteness of the tantrum. How could I get the girls upstairs to their rooms?

“Will you go to bed if I give you a piggy back ride?” 

“Yay! Uppies!” Beth quickly stood on the couch with her arms open as if she were offering a hug.

“I want one!” Callie stood up just so she could stamp her feet.

“You’re next,” I promised. “Wait here on the couch. I’ll be right back.”

I turned around so Beth could climb on my back, grabbing her legs as her arms circled my neck. I carried her up the stairs to the purple room at the end of the hall. After depositing her on the bed, I returned to the living room, finding the television had been turned back on.

I put my hands on my hips. “I thought I said it was time for bed.”

Callie shrugged. “I was bored waiting for you.”

“I was only gone, for literally, like a minute!” I rolled my eyes as I turned off the television.

“But that was my favorite one. I’ve never seen it in forever.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I figured Callie was trying to say she had not seen the episode in a long time. Since the show had only debuted a couple of months ago, I wasn’t sure what counted as a long time for a first grader, but I decided not to find out.

“Come on. Piggy back train is going to leave the station. If you miss it, you’ll have to walk all the way to your bed by yourself.”

Callie quickly scrambled to stand on the couch and climb on my back. “Weeee,” she exclaimed as we headed up the stairs.

I carried Callie to the green room next to her sister’s, dropping her onto a ball of blankets the bed.

“Ouch!”

I looked at the lump. “Beth?”

“Mmm. That hurt.”

“Why aren’t you in your bed?” 

“Not tired. I want a story.”

“Story!” said Callie.

“Okay. Get under the covers.” I waited for the girls to do as I said. “Once upon a time, there was a girl named Melinda. She had to move far away to go to school.”

The girls settled into the bed, closing their eyes, as I told them about my life in boarding school.

“Melinda met a girl named Sarah. They share a bedroom.”

“Ooh. Like a sleepover,” said Beth.

“Sometimes, I have a sleepover in Beth’s room or she has a sleepover in here,” Callie explained.

I nodded. “Yes, like a sleepover. Melinda and Sarah became best friends and they like to go to the mall together. A little while later, Melinda met a boy named Walter and they became best friends, too. They like to watch television together.”

“Do you watch C.I.Amy?” Beth asked.

I had to laugh at the irony. “No, they watch a grownup show. But, Walter was very smart like Sammy McSmartyPants and helped Melinda with her homework.”

“Is he your boyfriend?” Callie asked sleepily. “Our other sitter has a boyfriend.”

I shook my head with a smile. “No. He’s kind of like my brother at school, since Joey lives here. What else? One day, Melinda and her friends went to the park to rake leaves. They made a big leaf pile and took turns jumping into it.”

“We don’t have any leaves,” Beth said.

“But we went to Grammy’s house and jumped in her leaf pile,” explained Callie.

“Well, one of Melinda’s friends, a boy named Andy? He accidentally pushed the dean into the leaf pile. The dean is like the principal at your school.”

“He pushed Mrs. Hughes into the leaves?” Callie asked with wide eyes.

“Not Mrs. Hughes. Ms. Hunter. She’s my principal.”

“Did he get in a lot of trouble?”

“Melinda and her friends all thought they were gonna be in trouble. But, Ms. Hunter? She just laughed.”

Beth yawned, closing her eyes and keeping them closed as Callie again asked, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“One day, Melinda met Walter’s brother Pat. Pat liked Melinda and Melinda liked Pat, so she became his girlfriend.”

“Is he nice?” Beth mumbled.

I smiled. “Very.”

Callie closed her eyes. “Do you kiss him?” 

“Sometimes.”

“Eeww,” Callie murmured, joining her sister in sleep.

I sat with the girls a few moments until I was certain they were both asleep. I carried Beth to her room and tucked her in. When I went back downstairs to the living room, I realized I had more than two hours before the Dysons were due home.

I settled myself on the couch and texted Walter. Sammy McSmartyPants. A moment later, Pat’s laughing face filled my screen. 

“Walter’s getting the popcorn. He’ll be back in a minute. I saw your text.”

I gave him a curious look. “Popcorn?” 

Pat shrugged. “It’s Friday night. We’re getting ready to watch NeoGenesis. Watch it with us. Then it’ll feel like we’re at Smith’s apartment.”

“I dunno. I’m babysitting.”

“I don’t hear anyone.”

“They’re sleeping.”

“Aren’t you allowed to watch television if they’re sleeping?” Walter asked from off screen.

“Probably. Actually, I just watched this really interesting show with them. It’s got this kid in it named Sammy McSmartyPants. It’s voiced by a Wally McGregor.”

Pat angled his phone so I could see Walter. I was pretty sure he was turning red, although it was hard to tell, since they boys were sitting in a dark room. 

Walter shrugged. “Pat found out about the show last year. Thought the role would be perfect for me. Did you like it?”

“I’m not five. I thought it was silly. But, the girls I’m babysitting love it. I think my cousin mentioned it, too.”

“Apparently, it’s been a great success, because we’ve been picked up for another season. But, don’t tell anyone about Sammy, okay?”

“Where’d the name come from? Not Sammy. Wally?”

“Oh. When I was a baby, my family called me Wally, like Pop-Pop. I was in a couple of movies as a baby and was billed as Wally McGregor. When I started voice acting, I kept the name.”

“Walter, you never cease to surprise me.”

Walter smiled. “Please?”

“You know I won’t say anything. This time, I get it. If I were Sammy McSmartyPants, I wouldn’t want anyone to know, either.”

I could hear Pat laughing with me as Walter made a face. Pat turned the phone back to him.

“Hey, the show’s starting. You in?” 

“I dunno. I don’t wanna wake up the girls.”

“So, keep it low. Come on,” he nearly whined. “It’s more fun watching it with you.”

“Yeah,” agreed Walter. “I need you to explain the parts I missed.”

I sighed. “Fine. But, I’m gonna go check on the girls really quick, make sure they’re okay.”

I turned on the television, tuning it to NeoGenesis and making sure the volume was low enough that it wouldn’t disturb the girls.

I had left both bedroom doors open a crack and the hall light on, in case one of the girls woke looking for me. I quietly crept into Beth’s doorway and peeked in. She was laying spread eagle with her blankets thrown off. Smiling, I tucked her back in and checked on Callie, who was snoring lightly. 

I returned downstairs just in time to see the last of the clips from previous episodes. Although everyone was quiet during the show itself, I enjoyed watching it with the boys. On every commercial break, I muted my phone and ran upstairs to check on the girls before returning to the couch and talking with Walter and Pat.

During one of the last few commercial breaks, I unmuted the phone in time to hear Walter complaining.

“Why do you keep muting us? I was trying to ask you a question and instead I’m getting sea sick looking at the stairs.”

I smiled. “Sorry.”

“Why do you spend more time in the purple room than the green one?” Pat asked.

I thought a moment. “I think that’s Beth’s room. She keeps throwing off her covers, so I keep putting them back on. Callie doesn’t do that, so I don’t need to spend as much time in the room. What was your question, Walter?”

“I forgot.” His mouth was full of food, but I had no trouble understanding him.

Instead, I rolled my eyes. “What are you eating now?” 

Walter mumbled something even I couldn’t understand, despite being fluent in Walter’s food-in-mouth language.

“Huh?” 

Pat angled the phone away from his brother. “He said that he’s a pig and has no manners.”

“That’s not what I said!” Walter shouted from off screen.

“He’s eating leftover pumpkin pie. Half of a pie.”

I giggled. “You have a problem.”

“I know,” Walter admitted sheepishly.

As the show resumed, Walter must have suddenly remembered his question, because I received a text during the first scene. I waited until I had checked on the girls again before responding.

“It’s not really Luna.” I was still surprised that I always caught plot twists before my friends.

“Huh?” asked both boys.

“Walter asked me why Luna was acting strange. It’s not really Luna. It’s Stella.”

Walter looked unconvinced. “Her twin?” 

Pat shook his head. “No way.” 

“I’m telling you. It’s Stella. She was eating with her left hand. And, she . . . oh, what’s the word? Doc said something and she made a face at him like she considered him beneath her, almost like she hated him. It was just a flash, but she had that look. Sneer! She was sneering at him.”

I could see the boys were skeptical as the show resumed.

“See, there!” I pointed to the screen during the final scene. A woman had her back to the camera as she was removing her uniform. On her left shoulder was a tattoo of a star. “Stella!” 

Pat swore. “I still don’t get how you see all this the first time around.”

I shrugged. “It’s a gift, I guess.”

“I’m gonna watch it again,” Walter announced.

“Have fun.” Pat’s image began jerking in a way that suggested he was leaving the room. “So, how late are you babysitting?” 


I stayed on the phone with Pat, muting him every fifteen minutes or so to check on the girls, until the Dysons returned home. I was tucking in Beth for the umpteenth time when I heard the garage door opening. I ended the call without saying goodbye, hoping Pat would understand.

I entered the kitchen the same time as Mr. and Mrs. Dyson. “Hey. How was the movie?”

“It was fantastic,” Mrs. Dyson replied. “We went to see Romeo and Juliet. Have you seen it?”

Mr. Dyson answered before I could. “It just came out. She’s been at school. How could she have seen it?”

I smiled. “Actually, there’s a mall shuttle on Sundays. I went with a bunch of friends. It was a good movie.” I didn’t think I should mention that my boyfriend played Benvolio. 

The thought brought back a sinking feeling in my stomach. I had forgotten about the rumor my cousin and brother had told me yesterday. But, the mention of the movie, in which Poppy Sommers starred as Juliet, brought back all those doubts about my relationship that I had managed to suppress all day.

“How were the girls?” Mrs. Dyson broke me out of my thoughts as Mr. Dyson handed me some money.

“They were fantastic. They went to bed no problem. I checked on them a few times. Beth keeps kicking off her covers. I just tucked her in again, but—”

Mrs. Dyson laughed. “Oh, she does that all night long. I gave up tucking her in. She doesn’t seem to notice.”

“Would you like me to walk you home?” Mr. Dyson offered.

I shook my head. “Thanks, but I’ll be okay.” I removed my coat and hat from the hall closet, shoving my hands in my pockets to keep warm. I waved goodbye to Mr. Dyson, who watched from the open doorway as I crossed the sleepy street to my own house, where my mother had left the light on.

Pat’s Story

Pat’s story will return in Episode 62. 

Attention Hammerheads

Melinda is always trying to build her vocabulary. What were some words in this episode that were new to you? She will add them to her vocabulary journal.