The Devil Wears Red, Black, and Green

This week, Wordsmith.org celebrates sixteen years of Logophile mania by choosing words that are all related to the number 16.

Today, Revelation (16:16) brings forth the word of the day:

Armageddon. noun. a decisive, catastrophic conflict.

The final battle between good and evil.

May we begin this writing exercise with a moment of silence….

*****

Betsy tapped the brass door knocker three times. When the door opened, she stood face to face with Mrs. Anderson – long, brown (hot-rolled) hair, big blue eyes dressed in shimmering eye-shadow and thick mascara, lips of crimson red.

The lips spoke. “Bessie! Great!”

“It’s Betsy.”

“Yes? Right. Come on in. This is Michael.”

Michael peeked out from behind Mrs. Anderson’s legs. Betsy saw only the right side of his face, one blue eye the same color as his mother’s and half a head of brown hair. His timid smile suggested an easy night of babysitting.

“I’m so glad you returned my email. I took a chance on the neighborhood Nanny Service. It’s so hard to find a good sitter. Michael is one of a kind, and I hate to hire just anybody.”

Mrs. Anderson guided Betsy into the front room. She said Mr. Anderson made reservations for a last minute dinner with an important client at a fancy downtown restaurant. She had to meet him in 15 minutes. She hurried through directions for Betsy, while Michael disappeared down the hallway.

“Dinner at 6, bath at 6:45. Books at 7, bed at 7:30. Then, the rest of the night is yours! Here’s some money for pizza. The number for delivery is on the refrigerator.”

With manicured nails, Mrs. Anderson thumbed through a stack of $20’s and gave Betsy three.

“Oh, and if Michael makes a little mess, no worries. He’s four. That’s to be expected!” His mother was all smiles.

Betsy waved good-bye as Mrs. Anderson clicked down the sidewalk in her three inch heels.

The house was quiet, except for the sound of slamming doors and cabinets somewhere in the distance. Betsy followed the noise down the hall, past Michael’s bedroom, a study, and a spare room scattered with scrapbooking supplies. She found him in the master bath. His feet poked out of a cabinet opening underneath the sink. Betsy grabbed his ankles and pulled.

“Michael? What are you doing in there, little buddy?”

He turned around and stood up.

“Whoa,” Betsy whispered.

The right side of his face looked the same as before, but the left side appeared altered. A thick line of red lipstick ran from the corner of his mouth all the way down to his collarbone. Eyeliner shot out from his eyebrow into three directions that resembled a pitchfork. Mascara oozed across his eyelid and down the side of his nose. Half of his hair stood on end, held up with sticky, green goop.

“Digging around in your mother’s make-up, little guy?”

“Mine!” He blew past Betsy, and his feet pounded down the hall.

She traced his path using the destruction he left behind. Scrapbook confetti still hung in the air. Blocks from his room tumbled out into the hall. The desk chair in the study lay on its side like a casualty.

She found him in the kitchen, standing on the counter.

“I want a snack!”

“Okay.” Betsy remained calm.

She walked slowly to the pantry, her ears attune to the sounds behind her. She found goldfish and poured him a big bowl. She saw the number for delivery and called in an order for pizza. In the middle of “no, just cheese,” she smelled smoke. She turned to find Michael standing in front of the stove with a smoldering towel. She hurried through the rest of the order and ran towards Michael.

He looked up at her with red eyes.

“Fire!”

“Jesus.”

Dinner was at 6:45. Bath began at 7:30 and ran until 8. Betsy held him under the stream of the shower, and the warm water calmed Michael. She let him squirt her with a sprayer, until he soaked the middle of her chest with a dark, misshapen circle. Bedtime turned into a wrestling match on the living room couch.

Michael finally crashed at 9.

At 9:30, Betsy woke with a start. She hadn’t realized she fell asleep. She carried Michael into his room and covered him up in bed. She picked up toys and refolded shirts. She swept up confetti and righted the desk chair. She walked back into the living room at the same time the front door opened.

Betsy, Mrs. Anderson, and Mr. Anderson surveyed the remaining damage.

Red lipstick stained the couch. Kool-Aid puddled next to the TV. Plastic arrows formed an undecipherable pattern at the entry of the hallway.

“It looks like a battle ground in here.” Mrs. Anderson’s tone suggested disappointment. “And, how was Michael?”

Before Betsy could answer, Mrs. Anderson was down the hall and in his room.

“Mike! Mike, come in here. He looks like a little angel!”

Mr. Anderson took both of Betsy’s hands. He held them for a moment, and then stuffed them with a $100 bill.

“I only charge $8 an hour, Mr. Anderson. This is too much.”

“Take it,” he said. His eyes welled up. “You’re the first one who didn’t call at 7:30, demanding we come home. You’re a godsend.”

Once outside, Betsy shoved the money into her back pocket, right into Kleenex full of goop.

“Michael,” she muttered.

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4 responses to “The Devil Wears Red, Black, and Green

  1. what a great story! You took something common place and turned it on its ear. The image of Michael as she pulled him from under the sink was so vivid I forgot I was reading a story.

    I like the twist, too.

  2. Thanks, Cathryn. I had to work on that image of Michael. I’m glad it turned out to be as visual on the page as I saw it in my head.

  3. Again, you amazed me with your writing ability.

    I kept expecting this to go to the dark side, but I’m sure that was due to my frame of mind, not your story.

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