For five months I’m a Park Ranger. The other seven, I struggle.
This winter, I work a Daycare/Preschool/Lumber Store.
The American-measurement at 63̊ North this morning.
“Dry Cabin” sounds better than “3rd World.” So, that’s where I tell people I live. Two heat sources. No running water.
Five minutes getting into enough clothes to look like a spaceman. I walk to the outhouse.
App where someone comes to your house and does everything for you and you stay in bed.
During seven months of winter, it rarely, if ever, breaches freezing. Snow continuously accumulates.
So does shit.
When the shitlagmite becomes visible opening the door, adding means shitting on my ass. Pooping outside at this temperature can get worse.
Wield a firewood-shit-sword.
Delicately fish it in, avoiding the frozen dung pile, so I can hopefully battle a few feet from the top.
Good, I think whapping four times, felling it like a champion, for bidness.
Alaskans are in a competition naming kids. In the baby-room—Ranger, Waylon, Briar, Lark. The most-recent parents named theirs Hunter.
Lilli is the only normal one.
I’m on late. The babies are eating lunch.
Hunter’s a fat-baby. At five months bigger than most two-year-olds. And, has already graduated to whole foods.
“Yesterday his mom brought pork roast,” Sammie says when I’m aghast at the mound on his highchair. She says it the way you would, “Jack Daniels.”
Lilli tiptoes against the kiddie-door, “Cuhlew. Cuhlew.”
Our thing this week is coloring. She initiates. Maybe saying, “Coco.” That’s her horse. I then draw an animal I’ve never met in crayon. Then, she says it eleven or twelve times, pointing at my shitty horse before demanding I draw another member of her family.
We chase toddlers, dressing them for the playground. It warmed to -8. The cutoff for infants to “safely” go out is -10.
You thought you were tough.
Hold Briar to my spaceman chest. She sobs, quietly. Hating the wind.
It blows constantly.
Sammie’s unlucky not to have gotten her. As she runs, every child attempts some form of self-mutilation. Each toy is something to pummel with your forehead. Ice makes the probable a near guarantee.
I laugh at her efforts, patting Briar’s back. Her crying stops. Breathing deep.
Back inside. Nap-time.
Getting babies asleep is an art. The whole staff at some point has praised my knack. Meaning, they hate me. Most likely a hot-topic of complaint when I’m not around.
Sure, she’d sleep if Tyler were here.
Remember, everything’s opposite.
“Good luck,” Sammie hands me Lilli, “yesterday, it took Bethany thirty minutes getting Waylon down.”
Bethany’s the longest-tenured staff. A certified baby-wizard.
Lilli’s my obvious first. Stubborn, but once out, sleeps long and hard.
In six minutes she’s dead-weight. I transfer her to a crib. Extricate my arms like they’re a tablecloth ripped from under fragile Indian artifacts.
Patting hands, I move toward Waylon, unsuspectedly playing with a red truck.
“Alright, Bubba. It’s naptime.”
Sammie rocks Briar, watching from a corner of her eye.
It took a while cracking Waylon’s code. “Big trrrk.” He points at the truck. I roll it beneath the crib with my foot.
His eyes shift, “Lala sweep?”
“Yep, she’s sleeping.”
I whisper, “He’s not coming.”
He panics, out of sayable words. Bears his namesake at max volume.
“Wayon no sweep!”
In one movement, he’s face down in the crib. Hand between shoulder blades. Gently, I scratch his sparse hair with the other.
He has dad-strength for a one-year-old. Like holding a panther. But louder.
“I don’t think that’s gonna work.”
Be strong, Sammie-san.
Transformation—in two minutes he’s asleep. Dare I say, like a baby?
The last step is making Hunter guzzle a fifth of warm milk till he passes out.
Piece of cake.
Fifteen minutes after the playground, the room’s silent. All join hands in prayer.
Always hated Christians for their little show of dominance. But, love when they squeeze your hand at the Amen.
Sitting cross-legged. Sammie joins. Making sure our knees touch.
Though I’ve resigned pursuing her, because of recent-breakup-malaise, I imagine the arc of our relationship: Jerry-Springer-style sex, chronic walking-on-eggshells-irritation, hatred, the End.
Draw a map of Kauai, dotting with places of interest. Circling text. Beside, saying what they mean—“Good camping/4-wheel-drive” next to Polihale Beach, “Hiking,” Waimea Canyon, “Boner-inducing coffee/crepes,” next to Hanalei Bread Co., etc.
Allow knees the game, sure my prowess getting babies to sleep has her ovaries swollen.
Don’t want her irritable my last day on the job.
I hand her the map and she imagines all the sex her and her boyfriend will have there.
Tweet I have a novel coming out. Get two faves. Lose four followers.
Good for bidness.
Culture teaches if you need to accept minimum-wage work, you should accept not getting an atmosphere conducive to thought.
Tired-faced parents show up. Receive reports of what two-thirds their wage afforded in childcare, speed home, slave over dinner, and resist blowing their brains out before the sun rises.
Despite millions of diapers changed, and all the vomit my clothes absorbed—in three months, none of these kids will recognize me.
Succeed in reminding no one this is my last day.
Maybe, I learned something.
Tyler Dempsey is re-entering the sad-bastard phase violently. Find him not funny @tylercdempsey.
image: “Secluded:”Andrea Damic lives in Sydney, Australia. She has been published in 50-Word Stories and Friday Flash Fiction with her photographs occasionally featuring in Rejection Letters. You can find her on Twitter @DamicAndrea. One day she hopes to finish and publish her novel.