Fiction: Waiting on Randy to Pee
By M.C. Schmidt
Amber was sitting in the service truck, waiting on Randy to come back from the park’s Porta Johns, when she spotted a mother playing with her two children, a boy and a girl. As she watched them, she thought, Not a mother, a babysitter. Then, A nanny with a plan to steal the husband and family of the woman who hired her.
She wasn’t particularly pretty, this woman, not that the cunning ones needed to be. She was fit, though, for a real-life thirty-something, shapely enough that her leggings weren’t making a fool of her.
Even with the driver’s side window down, Amber was too far away to hear what the woman was calling to the children. Affections to win them over, she assumed, specific germs to poison them against their mother. How far would such a woman go to get what she wanted? Deceit and betrayal? Naturally. Murder to get the lady of the house out of her way? Well… one never knew.
It was Netflix, of course, that caused her suspicions to run in this direction, the fault of all those crime dramas she’d been streaming now that the apartment was empty. Still, she had to stop herself from snapping a pic of the scene with her phone just in case.
She was imagining herself in a Dateline-style interview about this seemingly innocent scene when reflux tightened a fist in her chest, and she felt suddenly desperate for a burp. Amber abandoned the woman for a search through the pockets of her reflective yellow vest for a stray acid pill from when she was pregnant with Gianna. There were two it turned out: one pristine in its blister pack square and one roaming loose in the alley of material of the pocket’s shoddy seam. “Randy,” she sighed after swallowing both pills with what remained of her soda to scold him for his choice of the burger chain that was now biting back at her.
She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the headrest and waited for the pills to do their work.
God, she’d have killed for a smoke. She’d have sodomized a priest for a single drag. It had been almost a year now since she’d quit, but the cravings still came. In movies, it was always after sex that people needed a cigarette. In real life, it was immediately after lunch that the urge was strongest, at least for Amber. Or, maybe she’d just been off sex long enough that she couldn’t remember.
She sucked in a deep breath through her nose, doing that Bewitched waggle to open each nostril, pulling trickles of moisture back up into her head. Speaking of sexy, she thought of the hoovering sound her nose made.
She opened her eyes and gave her nostrils the all-clear in the rearview mirror. If she pulled her head toward her window, Amber realized, she could just bring the Porta Johns into the mirror’s site. There were two of the filthy things standing side by side. The doors of both Johns were closed, and she didn’t see Randy headed back yet. “Animal,” she said of him and smirked. She didn’t see how anyone could use the nasty things, but Randy made the pilgrimage at the end of their lunch break almost every day.
Before he’d gone, he’d shoved his trash into the paper fast food bag. Amber snatched the bag from the passenger floorboard and added her own balled sandwich wrapper and half-empty fry box to it before compressing the bag itself as much as she could. The waste can was one space down from where she’d parked, but she thought she could make it. She waited on a man with a leashed dog to pass on the sidewalk in front of the truck before hanging out the driver’s window and throwing the package, granny-style, at the waste can. The bag hit the rim of the can’s donut-shaped lid, and she raised her fist, triumphant, thinking she had it, but then it didn’t tumble into the hole. It held on the rim. On the waste can, but not in it.
While she was debating whether to get out and properly throw the trash away, her attention was caught by something colorful in the sky. She looked to see three kites of a boxy shape that couldn’t be further from the classic diamond she thought of as kite shaped. They were being flown by a trio of old men in the field at the far end of the park. The men gazed heavenward, holding rigs that, even from this distance, looked professional and complicated. Was there such a thing as professional kite flyers? Kite pilots? Kiters? Amber didn’t know; she’d never seen anything like this before. It seemed like a strange hobby for grown men, but also kind of a white hobby for reasons she couldn’t fully articulate, which is why she was surprised to see that two of the old men were Black. Was she being racist? Could you be racist about kites?
She watched the colorful boxes tug hopelessly against their restraints and imagined a scenario where the men were brothers, the white man’s birth mother having been judged unfit by the authorities of her day, authorities who were probably even more rigid and unempathetic as the people who held that power today, if that was even possible. So, the boy version of the old white man was taken in by the kind mother of the two old Black men, a woman who raised him as her own and encouraged her sons to take up this very white hobby all those decades ago so the transplanted child wouldn’t feel so terribly out of place. It made Amber smile to see these men so closely bonded despite such hardship. It was nice to know, as painful as it must have been for the birth mother to have her child ripped away for her addictions and a few bad nights that weren’t representative of the person she was or the kind of mother she wanted to be, that her child could find a good foster family and turn out to be a well-balanced, retired old kite hobbyist.
She was deep into the men’s story when the passenger door abruptly pulled open. Amber was embarrassed by how much it startled her.
Randy didn’t notice. “Goddamn latch is still busted on that shitter,” he said, rocking the cab when he dropped his body into his seat. It was obvious from the smell of him that he’d hidden behind the Johns to have a cigarette after peeing. It was sweet of him. He knew how hard she was trying.
“Anyone walk in on you?”
His laugh was a poorly covered cough, a sound whose timbre is peculiar to the rusty mechanics of aging men. “Nah, I always hold the thing closed. I don’t need no little kids walking in on me with my peter in my hand. It’d scar him for life.” His craggy skin looked good when he smiled, not the least bit handsome, but comforting, nevertheless. “Hey, look at that,” he said, pointing to the field ahead of them.
Amber looked to see the woman and two children she’d been watching earlier. The woman was taking turns with each of the children, kicking a soccer ball to the girl, then turning to toss a softball to the boy. She’d then shift between them to receive the returns from the children, shouting encouragements or instructions to them before repeating the exchanges. It was awkward and ludicrous and touching. She looked to Amber like one of the women in the audiobooks she’d been falling asleep to on the library app, a woman in the first third of those books when she’s single and struggling and headed for the major event that will look at first like a tragedy, but which ends up being the catalyst to inner strength and romantic love and, most important, to a closeness to the children who’d up until then been pulling away from her.
“I don’t know how much that’s going to help them get better,” Randy said, watching them. “She’s trying, though. That something, I guess.” Then to Amber, he said, “You ready to hit it? It’s about that time.”
Amber didn’t answer, only started the engine. The phone number for the utility company’s HQ was posted on the truck’s bumper below an entreaty to the public to report safety violations, so they both buckled their seatbelts.
“Do you remember Morris the Cat?” Amber asked as she was backing out of the space.
“Morris the Cat?” He thought for a moment before asking, “That big orange cat from TV? The cat litter cat?”
“It was cat food. 9Lives.”
“9Lives, that’s it,” Randy said with an exuberance that seemed greater than the reminder of an advertising mascot warranted.
“When I was a kid, we had a cat that looked just like that. And one time my mom bought a bag of 9Lives at Dillman, and they were having a promotion where you got a free kite with Morris on it when you bought a bag, so they gave me one. It was just a paper kite with, like, a balsawood cross supporting it, you know?” She was pulling to a stop at the light that led them out of the park and onto the busy city street. “I thought it was great, though, because it was like they put our cat on a kite. I was only five or six.”
“That’d be cool for a little kid. What made you think about that?”
“It just crossed my mind,” Amber said, “I never even flew it, I don’t think. I wonder why.”
“Sounds like because it was shitty, maybe.”
Amber nodded and kept her eyes on the red light.
“You ought to buy one for Gianna when she comes home,” Randy said, reading her mind, “fly it with her.” He punctuated the thought by hocking and swallowing and staring away from her out his window.
“She’s just a baby,” she reminded him.
“She won’t always be a baby. You can count on that.”
The light turned green and Amber rolled through the intersection. “That’s true,” she agreed, privately delighted by the thought that change was a thing you could count on.
M.C. Schmidt's fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in X-R-A-Y, Quarter(ly) Journal, New Pop Lit, BULL, New World Writing, Litro, Spectrum, and elsewhere. His darkly comedic novel, The Decadents, is now available from Library Tales Publishing.