I shoulda knowed it was a bad idea. At night when Frank was workin’, and the moon was new, I’d slip out in my house dress, sit on top of the portico where it was cool, and have a smoke with my Gin Rickey. I found out all kinds of interestin’ stuff that way. Who knew the baker and the seamstress were steppin’ out—me. And, what was that thing with the Fitzgeralds last year? Wooee. That was some donnybrook. I was the first on the block with that scoop. No one noticed me sittin’ there with my back against the brick or the warm glow of my cigarette.
Anyhow, the baby was howlin’ this morning,’ and Frank wanted his eggs sunny-side up. I cursed because it was hard to get them outta the pan in one piece. A yoke broke, and he laid into me somethin’ fierce. I tossed my apron on the chair, grabbed my hat, and slammed the door. A soft breeze wafted through the open hall window. I hadn’t ever climbed through in the daylight. I looked right and then left. “Just a quick cig, no one will notice.”
Well, it sure didn’t work out that way. Some nosy parker musta called the police. Next thing I know, sirens were blarin’, nets strung, and all other kinds of other folderol. Then this dolt tried to grab me, yelling, “Don’t jump, lady.” Like I was gonna. All I wanted was a moment of peace and quiet; just one single second to myself. Besides, what would Frank and the tyke do without me? They’d never make it, not even a week.
I beat the guy back with my favorite hat, straightened my dress, and pushed another copper to the side so I could climb back in the window. The crowd cheered, and I took a little bow—it sure wasn’t my usual Monday.
The metal BB pinged off a locker down the hall. “Holy smokes. Those rats are fast.”
“Just remember to exhale before you pull the trigger,” Linda whispered. “It’ll help your aim.”
Delores lined the air rifle on a chubby dun-colored female spinning in circles next to the water fountain. Damn budget cuts. School lunches had been reduced to watered down milk and day-old bread, with a smear of spaghetti sauce and parmesan, laughably termed “pizza Napolitana.” Teachers were then instructed to hand out caffeinated gummies to keep the kids awake in the afternoon. Which led to an illicit black market of the brightly colored gelatin bears. The more entrepreneurial students hid them under their tongues and spit them out when the home room teacher wasn’t looking, then sold them for a buck apiece to the others. And kids bought them, despite the fact that those same bears had been recently hibernating in the mouths of the sellers. The school nurse said it would’ve been more hygienic to lick a public restroom doorknob. Soon, Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows Academy was filled with children swapping germs and bouncing off their bedroom walls at night. The parents were, understandably, furious.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, rats had broken into the storeroom and eaten half the gummy supply. Wired right down to their little pink feet, they had become utterly fearless. So at the end of the day teachers were “encouraged” to take two-hour, two-person shifts, one to spot and one to shoot. All volunteer, of course. We have to tighten our belts in these hard times, Principle Sister Hester Lacrosse had thundered in her gray flannel habit and matching wimple. The unspoken message: Those of you without tenure…. welcome to rat patrol.
Delores exhaled and imagined Lacrosse in her sights, then pulled the trigger. The rifle jumped in her hands, and the chubby female squeaked once, then dropped to the terrazzo floor.