Daddy says we have to go meet Mommy at the restaurant. He says don’t be sad, Melly – we’ll see each other ‘gain soon. He’s holding my hand and it is warm and strong. My daddy can do anything. He’s like a superhero, and once I’m big enough, I’ll be his sidekick. He says I already am, but I don’t know. I still need my stool to reach the cupboards where the cereal is in his new ‘partment. Daddy says it’s “tempo-RAREEE” which I think means he’s going to find a better one soon, when he gets his job back. I don’t want him to find a better one – I want him to come home. Then he wouldn’t be sad anymore and we wouldn’t have to keep talking about “GETTING THROUGH THIS” and “BEING OK.” It was all ok before – let’s just go back to how it was before and it will “BE OK.” And we won’t need to “GET THROUGH THIS.” I want to say this to Daddy but don’t think it would be a good sidekick thing to say.
Daddy’s pulling my hand, saying hurry Melly, we can’t be late and my legs are getting tired from this walk but I can’t stop. I can see the restaurant up the block – I can see the big red door with the old metal handles that I am not strong enough to open by myself. I think about eating all of the vegetables Mommy will order me for dinner, and building big muscles – sidekicks need to be strong. I just hope it’s not spinach. That works for Popeye, but I hate spinach.
The restaurant doors are so tall – they’re like the skyscrapers we saw in the summer in “the city.” Daddy, Mommy and I went there for a picnic in Central Park. She was wearing her red scarf and we laughed and they kissed and held hands. That was before we had to “GET THROUGH THIS.”
Daddy is pulling on my hand again, and the big doors. Then Mommy walks out – she’s wearing her “I’m waiting” frown and a pretty dress. And her red scarf. She starts to talk to Daddy, in her quiet mad voice. She says “LATE” and “paperwork” and “FINALLY done!” Mommy gives Daddy some papers and takes my hand. I wish they’d smile – I wish they’d laugh and kiss and hold hands again. They keep talking, but they’re not smiling. Daddy reaches down and hugs me, too tight and then turns around and walks away. They both still have mad faces. I don’t feel like a good sidekick. I’m sad – then Mommy takes my hand again and gives it a little squeeze. She’s smiling at me, with her mouth, but not her eyes. But she’s wearing the red scarf and that makes me a little happy. That makes me think that maybe we will “GET THROUGH THIS” together and have a picnic again soon. And Mommy will be the sidekick again, and I won’t have to eat vegetables.
Chantel Sandbach’s job is a prison, literally. She’s a parole officer in a federal penitentiary by day, out of necessity, and a writer by night (and day, and on weekends and holidays and anytime the inspiration strikes her), also out of necessity; the soul-fulfilling kind of necessity. This is her first publication, and she still doesn’t know what she really wants to write when she grows up.