II. A raspy baritone I didn’t recognize called.
Daria: I need a big favor.
Tata: WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU NEED?
Daria: Shut up, it’s me.
Tata: Oh. Whaddya need?
Daria: I have strep, an ear infection, and two pink eyes. My sons are sick, my husband is sick. I am crawling around my house with rubber gloves and a spray bottle of bleach.
Tata: Crap! What could you need from me?
Daria: Fifi was with Mom last night but she went to New York. Fifi’s with the babysitter and she’s out of food.
Tata: …and the babysitter doesn’t drive or speak English, got it. Let my wash the olive oil off my hands and make a grocery list.
Daria called at an intriguing moment. Twenty minutes later and I probably would’ve been gone. I’d showered and laid out clothes. I was as primped for Dom’s dinner party as I was going to get. The yogurt was ready, the fruit was packed. I was seasoning vegetables and roasting them briefly so they wouldn’t turn into babyfood in transit to Dom’s house. I made a grocery list, looked around and realized I wasn’t wearing any pants. With my friends, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. I’ve spent a lot of time nekkid in public as an artist and a model, and every last one of my friends has seen my birthday suit, with and without body makeup, but Stop & Shop would not view my arriving sans pantalons with the same sang-froid. So I put on a pair of khakis I used to paint my bedroom and drove to the grocery store in my hometown, where I was immediately lost in the store’s gigantic yuppie splendor.
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.
Miss Sasha is 23, so it’s been awhile since I shopped for baby stuff. In that time, all kinds of crap has changed. Now: diapers come in sizes and genders. When Miss Sasha was a baby, they came in relative baby weights. Now: babies must eat designer chicken nuggets in amusing shapes. When Miss Sasha was a baby, we cooked chicken and cut it up into little hunks she could pick up with her little paws. Now: babies must have macaroni and cheese with every meal and nobody calls DYFS. When Miss Sasha was a baby, you felt underdressed without a caseworker. It was the eighties. I didn’t wear the shoulder pad styles, either. So I stood in the diaper aisle trying to figure out how the small packages could possibly contain 35 or 52 of these twenty-first century, super-absorbent, garbage-dump clogging, engineering wonders that would be the right size, shape, color and tensile strength to keep the indefatigable and relentless Miss Fifi from a lifetime of out-patient therapy, and while I was standing there, I started laughing. Suddenly, this was as funny as life gets. A man graying at the temples and teenaged boy stood next to me, staring at baby foods. The man was on the phone. This baby stuff has become so complicated nobody can do it without consulting other interested parties.
Tata: I haven’t shopped for diapers in twenty years! Did you know there are now six sizes of babies – and that’s it?
Man: Bffft! I can’t pick oatmeal!
In the next aisle, they passed me.
Tata: Did you know there are chlorine-free diapers?
Man: Is this your baby?
Tata: She’s my niece!
The organic yogurt brands were the only ones Daria specifically warned me Fifi wouldn’t eat. I circled the store, reading the overhead signs and bashing into canned goods displays.
Good thing I was wearing pants.
I walked up and down the pasta aisle in a naive attempt to find macaroni and cheese. No, no, it was in the next aisle with Prepared Dinners, where I found the man and the boy.
Tata: Did you know every child must eat this crap? Some sort of local ordinance.
Man: What some parents feed their kids!
Tata: And I’m enabling!
I don’t even want to talk about the sugar-filled nonsense that is yogurt for kids in colors and flavors. Even my skull is too soft to bash against that rock. In the produce section, I found Trout waiting to get her deli order filled. I picked melon, bananas and apples. She picked ham. The man took a number and Trout will talk to anybody so I know know the boy was his nephew and he prefers turkey. I paid someone quite a lot of money to let me leave without an arrest record and drove to the babysitter’s house. I handed her bags of groceries. The TV blared news in Spanish. I looked around for the vivacious Miss Fifi and found her reclining in the living room. I patted her hand. We had a whole sub-verbal conversation.
Tata: Hey, Pumpkinpuss. What’s shakin’?
Miss Fifi: Oh. It’s you. I won’t get up.
Tata: I’ll…be going, then…
So I drove to Dom’s house.