Prize Winning Story by Jane St. Clair : One for My Baby

“One for My Baby” by Jane St. Clair is a prize winning story first published in Thematic Magazine.

One for My Baby

It was just my luck to spend my summer babysitting Franklin Myron Pink.

He was the son of the big boss who owned Pinkie’s Bar and Pins where I cashiered. Franklin’s job was to staple discount coupons to the bowlers’ scorecards and then hand them to me. It was all BS because we did not need Franklin there, but his father was practicing to see if Franklin could enroll in a sheltered workshop and live an independent life.

Franklin was over fifty but he was like a little kid. He had a potbelly and a way of putting his hands on it and swaying back and forth, as if he would roll over any minute, a roly-poly baby toy on a round bottom.

I showed Franklin where to staple coupons, about a quarter-inch from the top. Any little thing would throw him off. He couldn’t get the difference between the Yellow Pages coupon or the Entertainment Book one. He had to show me each one to make sure he did it right.

“Franklin, it’s fine,” I would say.

“Is it a quarter-inch from the top?”

“It’s fine,” I’d say.

“I have to staple each one a quarter-inch from the top,” he would tell every customer. “Then I give it to Cherry.”

“Chad, not Cherry,” I’d correct him.

“I have to staple each one –“

“Yeah, all right, just shut up.” I would only say that when he made me crazy.

He’d look as if he were going to cry and then he’d hum, “Jesus loves you.”

“Jesus loves you no matter what. Is this one fine?”

“It’s fine.”

“I got this one too slanted. If I do this job right, I can live an independent life. I got this one too slanted.”

“They don’t have to be perfect.”

Actually, perfect turned out to be a good thing. Once he figured out how to staple each one perfect, his anxiety left him. My life got easier when he figured out how to make them perfect. The only problem came when somebody had an expired or new kind of coupon. They threw him off completely. He’d grow upset and cry.

Once I made the mistake of saying, “Just calm down, Franklin, and someday I’ll buy you a beer after work.”

“Do you mean that, Cherry? You really mean that?”

From that day on, all he talked about was that beer. He stopped talking about the quarter-inch thing and turned his mind to the beer we’d have someday. He told every customer about the beer.

“You know what, Cherry? I have sex drives toward Catherine. Do you have sex drives toward Catherine?”

“Yes.”

Everybody had sex drives toward the alley’s bartender, Catherine the Gorgeous, Catherine the Great, who was way out of my league.

“Will we buy our beer from Catherine?”

“Yes.”

“We’ll say to Catherine, ‘One for my baby and one more for the road,’ right?”

“Right.”

Every day I shot out of there as fast as I could to get as far away from Franklin as possible. I did not want to be seen with him. Yet if I was honest with myself, I was fond of him. I tried to improve his image by taking off the toilet paper stuck to his shoe, tucking in his shirt, and not letting him put his tongue out when he stapled. We worked on the swaying thing.

I was fond of Franklin. He loved me.

“This is my best friend and he and I go for beers sometime,” he told people. “I love you, man.”

I waited until the last day of summer to take Franklin into the bar. I didn’t really want to be seen with him so we sat in the darkest corner of the room.

“It’s the best night of my life,” Franklin said.

“That’s good.”

“You’re my best friend. I love you, man.”

Catherine the Great brought the beers to our table.

“We have sex drives toward you,” Franklin said.

“That’s sweet,” she answered.

“We’re out for a beer,” Franklin said.

“That’s very sweet.”

The summer ended on a high note when Catherine phoned me. She wanted to get to know the guy who was so nice to Franklin. That says something about a guy: that he could be nice to someone like Franklin.

I went back to Pinkie’s the following summer, but things weren’t the same. I had Catherine of course, but Franklin made it to his sheltered workshop. Things weren’t the same that second summer. Franklin made all the difference.