a weekly series of fiction to enjoy with your bowl of cereal
Igor and Spank by Kel Rohlf
Jack called last night. Just to say that the boys really wanted to see me. Would I consider coming to New York for Christmas? He was very matter of fact. I cringed inside when he asked. I was feeling better, had actually been enjoying life a little more, especially since I met Igor and Spank, and Elena and her sweet little Georgie. But I still had days when I didn’t want to get out of bed.
Like today, I didn’t want to get up. I cried most of the night, thinking of how the boys wanted to see me, but deep down I can’t face them. I abandoned them. I’d probably just be another disappointment in a long list of disappointments. What kind of mother doesn’t even talk to her kids on the phone, when they live hundreds of miles away? And why Christmas? Doesn’t Jack know by now that the holidays always put me over the edge? Why do people put so much hope in holidays? I have never been able to live up to the expectations. My mother was the holiday queen, every single month she decorated for the season. Even May Day! Flowers everywhere, craft table filled with paper cones and tissue flowers attached to green pipe cleaners with felt leaves. She would stay up all night on April 30th to finish her masterpieces, and then before the sun rose, she’d wake me and my brother to help her secretly deliver the flower bouquets to the neighbors on our block. It was so embarrassing. The only bonus was that I didn’t have to get dressed in a matching outfit with my brother, like all the other holidays. On May Day, we stayed in our PJs, and if it was chilly, we wore our spring jackets and rain boots.
I would love to stay in my PJs today, but it’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Elena and her boys invited me over for a traditional Bosnian meal tomorrow. Thankfully no traditional American trimmings. I needed to get dressed and be at their house today by 8:00 am to watch Georgie and Igor while Elena works at the salon. I guess people still need their hair cut or styled on the day before Thanksgiving. She has tomorrow off, and says I can help her cook. I may just watch and indulge in a glass of wine.
“Hi Gail!” Igor greets me when I arrive. He seems super excited, which is a lot for him because I have noticed that he runs on high octane most of the time. “Come in, me and Georgie are watching Rugrats! Do you like Rugrats?” I shrug; not really. But he takes me by the hand and pulls me toward their living room couch. Elena hollers from the back of the house that she’ll be out in a minute.
Igor settles me on the couch, and I try to focus on the characters on the screen, and older girl is taunting the babies. Why do they draw cartoons like wacky shapes? I miss Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. I sigh, and Georgie snuggles closer to me with his thumb comfortably resting in his mouth. Igor bounces next to us on his spot. I guess he really likes this show. Elena walks in the room, hair pulled back in a ponytail and a salon jacket slung over her arm, wearing skinny jeans with trendy books topped with a cute flowered blouse. I tell her she looks nice.
“Thank you. I really appreciate you coming here to watch the boys.” Elena smiles at us camped out on the couch. She comes closer to tousle Igor’s hair and to tell Georgie to take his thumb out of his mouth. “Babies suck their thumb, Georgie, not little men.” He resists her, and then she tousles his hair and gives up easily. Georgie scoots closer to me again. I shift to let him settle in next to me.
“We’ll be fine. I have your cell number if we need anything.” I reassure her. Elena nods, and turns to leave. At the door, she turns and reminds Igor to let Spank back in the house.
“Ok, Momma,” he replies eyes glued to the action on the screen, “I will.” She opens the door and leaves. Igor stays on the couch. I start to remind him to let the dog in, but instead wriggle free from Georgie, and go to let Spank in myself.
I get to the back door, and Spank is waiting patiently on the back step for someone to let him in. I open the door and dog quietly ignores me, and heads directly to the couch. By the time I get back, the three of them are on the couch, and Spank curled up in my place. I stood there for a minute a little miffed, but decide to sit in the rocker next to the couch. So much for babysitting, I’m probably going to just sit here all day, until they need lunch. I try to tune into the story on the screen, but the bigger girl is now yelling at the babies. I think about suggesting a board game or something, but it would take too much energy, and why disturb the peace of electronic lullabies. I close my eyes and just rock gently in the rocker, while the trio on the couch remain engrossed in their world.
A commercial comes on, and Igor mutes the television. “Gail, Gail! Are you sleeping on the job?” Igor teases me. I open my eyes.
“No, silly, I was just resting my eyes.”
Igor starts quietly bouncing on the couch again. “I had another dream,” he tells me obviously busting to share it. I venture to find out more, even though a chill comes over me, because the last dream was about Carl banging around this very house, trying to harm Elena and her family.
“What is it a good one?” I ask. He jumps off the couch and comes to my chair.
He leans toward my ear, and in an excited whisper tells me, “I dreamt that my father is alive!” His eyes shine, and he fixes an expectant stare on me. I don’t know what to say, so I readjust my seat. “What do you think of that? Isn’t that amazing?” Igor asks.
“I can hardly believe it,” I reply, “Were there any more details?”
“Oh yeah! He was alive and here. Right in this room. Momma was hugging him in front of the Christmas tree, when Georgie and I came in the room. They heard us, and invited us into a happy group hug. In the dream, I almost felt tears in my eyes, but I didn’t cry, because I wanted Papa to know I was a little man now. Then Georgie peed his pants, and we all had to pay attention to him.” He paused from telling the dream to explain, “You know, Georgie is potty training. Make sure you ask him to go or he might pee on the couch and that would be gross.”
“Of course,” I start to address Georgie, but then think to ask if anything else happened in the dream. “Did anything else happen in the dream?”
“Nope. That’s how it ended, all of us paying attention to Georgie’s accident.”
“Oh, should we check on him now?” I whisper to Igor.
“No, I’ll remind you later. What do you think about the dream?”
I hesitate, “It’s …pretty amazing…but Igor, you know…”
“I know, Papa is dead, but it was still nice to see him in the dream. Don’t worry, Gail, I don’t think this dream will come true. Not all dreams come true, you know. I just thought you’d like to hear about it.” He walked slowly back to the couch, sort of deflated. He unmuted the television, and returned to the Rugrats world. The rest of the day was uneventful. I encouraged Georgie to use the toilet, and he was successful. We ate cereal and milk for lunch, and watched Nickelodeon all afternoon until Elena returned home. She asked how it went, and I told her fine.
On my drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking about Igor’s dream. And I wondered if it was true that not all dreams come true.