She’s gonna do it! Alise from next door is coming over to babysit Dora.

I don’t need no babysitter. I ain’t no baby. Yes you are, you baby brat, Alise says.

INSCREWABLE BY BEN UMAYAM 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 82


Face it, your car is on its last legs, her mechanic Jordan tells her. What you are going to pay to get it fixed will cost you a lot. You might as well spend a little more and buy a new secondhand car. You bought the car from your cousin, yes? Must have been 10 years ago. I remember you saying the cousin wanted to buy an SUV. Say, maybe that cousin will sell you that old SUV for cheap now.

Nope, not me. You won’t catch me buying a gas guzzler, Alise says. She frowns, ending the phone call without saying goodbye, not what she meant to do.

Next she calls her niece Jenny to tell her what a bad day it is turning out to be. “First the Medicare people call me, Jen. They said there were all sorts of changes. They told me I had not applied for Part A B C D E F G, whatever, in time. And now my premium has gone up, my meds will cost more. I know, it is easy to fix but it requires being on the phone for so long. Imagine, I was on the phone for two hours!”

And now her neighbor wants her to watch the kid. She tells Jenny the kid lacks manners. The neighbor, Julie of Julie and Mark, says she is in a real pickle. Jenny tells her Aunt Alise to help out, that it is the Christian thing to do. Jenny reminds Auntie Alise how her neighbors always invite her to their holiday parties, like she is family. The correct thing to do is to babysit for them, that is Jenny’s advice. Frowning again, Alise ends the call without saying goodbye, again not what she meant to do.

But anyway Alise calls up Julie.

“You don’t know, Alise, this is really helping out. I am forever indebted to you.”

Julie yells to Mark in the bathroom. “She’s gonna do it! Alise from next door is coming over to babysit Dora.”

Mark talks through a face full of shaving cream, “You mean the mousey nurse, the one who is a gazillion years old?”

“She isn’t so old! She retired just a month ago.”

“Is she gonna be able to handle Dora? I feel like all Dora  has to do is say boo and the nurse will run into the closet and hide.”

“Don’t be silly Mark. She’s a nurse from an Emergency Room. She’ll be able to handle Dora.”

Dora is Chinese, adopted by Julie and Mark when it seemed every adopted kid in the West Village was Chinese and a girl. Dora was brought up an American brat. Dora was short for Pandora, already a can of worms with that name. The parents thought Panda for a nickname would be so cute. By first grade, Panda rebelled against the ribbing from her classmates. “Call me Dora from now on,” she said standing her ground, ready to fight. Dora grew up tough. Now in third grade she was tougher. Her parents let her get away with anything, everything.

The parents are in a whirlwind leaving for the gala. Alise, in a white cardigan and pearls, shows up promptly. Dora, elbows on the table, plays with a slice of blueberry pie. “What were they thinking, they got you to babysit,” Dora says.

“Yes Dora, your mommy asked me a favor. To babysit for you tonight”

“I don’t know why. I don’t need no babysitter. I ain’t no baby”

“Yes you are, you baby brat,” Alise says.

The kid flips blueberry pie in Alise’s face. It splats on her glasses and drips down onto her white cardigan. Alice grabs a paper towel. Oh mine! she says to no one. This blueberry is going to stain my sweater! The car and the Medicare, and now blueberry on her face and cardigan. And she hates blueberries!

Alise goes into Emergency Room overdrive. “You need to learn some lessons about your heritage, brat.”

“Like what? Honor thy elders, some shit like that?”

Alice does what Asian grandmas do to their grandkids when they misbehave. She pinches Dora on the arm so hard it hurts.

Dora kicks. Dora screams. “Stop pinching me! It hurts. Screw you, screw you. Bitch, bitch , bitch!”

“Thirty years as an Emergency Room nurse. Think I can’t handle you? Now, child, stop using the word bitch.”

Alise pulls out an insulin syringe from her old lady bag. “I was a nurse, a crazy nurse. You behave or I will pump you up with some terrible drug.”

Dora is scared. “You are some crazy Asian lady.” Dora does something she hasn’t done in a long time. She starts crying like a little child.

“Screw you, screw you,” she sobs.

“Not going to work on me, Dora. Us Asians, we are inscrewable.”

BEN UMAYAM

I am retired. When I use a retired ticket on public transport I always get carded. I look young for my age, a problem for chunky Asians. No wrinkles. I get carded buying liquor too, even though I am over 60. I was working, disillusioned, with political consultants. Seemed if you had the money to pay for technology that convinced the electorate to vote for you, well, you got in. Nothing to do with what you believed in. Went to cooking school at 40, night classes. Turned out the cooking school in New York City was one of the best. After school, became a chef. Started small, then big, The Rainbow Room. Then worked in a fancy hotel. Got to play with the fanciest ingredients. Cooking is like construction work, physical. Injured my body, feet, and rotator cuffs, and became a private chef, fewer hours, easy gig. Worked for high-powered priests in the West Village of New York for eight years, and when I could, I quit, took the social security. I came to the US from the Philippines in the late 70s to write. I came out in NYC in The Village. Got lost in the disco era and sobered up during the AIDS crisis. Writing for me is storytelling. I have a lot of stories to tell. Some stories have been published in Maudlin House, Digging Through the Fat, The Insignia Anthology of South East Asian Drabbles. Home Planet News, Ethel Zine.