Babysitters came and babysitters went and if we needed one babysitter to go away faster than another we showed them the butter fridge.
Our parents were gourmet bakers and cookbook authors and maddened hoarders and so quite naturally they overstocked our basement fridges with sticks of butter:
Irish Butter, Minnesotan Butter, Belgian Butters, Salted, Unsalted, Enriched, Garlic and Herb—lots of butter, too many to count, uncountable, unbreachable battlements of butters, butters amassed in shiny solidarity, in butterhood.
And when babysitters took long phone calls or smoked thin cigarettes by the kidney-shaped pool or monitored our TV watching for violent content or made perfunctory sandwiches indifferent to our specifications (no jam meant no jelly, too, and no edges meant NO EDGES), we’d wait until our observers weren’t looking and switch out the food in the kitchen fridge for all the sticks of butter we could haul. Then we’d scream and cry out hangerily for butteritos, butter soups, butterstick sandwiches with peanut butter and butter. We’d say our butter levels were dropping rapidly and make the beeping noises of missile-stricken submarines and slap our sweaty palms against our faces. And when, annoyed enough to call our bluff, the babysitter opened the fridge and saw the oleaginous yellow blocks, a goldening presence in the altar of our fridge, we’d stand back and watch the butter of terror spread across their breadwhite faces.
If they took the joke too gently, or failed to see the threat behind it, we buttered the floor when they went to the bathroom, sheltered in the crawl space and listened as they fell, slipping deliciously upon the hardwood, greasing their elbows and staining jumpers. Their babysitting duties would end after that.
“The victims of our buttering earned themselves a fair spread, as it were: $200 tips for damages, $100 payouts for silence, their names in the acknowledgments of our parents’ cookbooks, and so on. Mostly the babysitters settled for such enticements and left us for good, but there were rare, unfortunate occasions when a plain, tired girl who stupidly counted with her fingers and whom no one seemed keen to miss, fell harder than her peers and earned herself a place beneath a mound of dirt in the yard, a gentle rise on our estate on which we played and sat and ate our edgeless buttered toasts, taking care to keep the crumbs from falling on our dresses.
Samuel J Adams was born in Tokyo and grew up in northern California, where he presently works for a hauling company. His stories appear in Ruminate, New World Writing, Spork, BULL, and Beecher’s, and others are forthcoming in Atticus Review and DIAGRAM. He is a 2018 writing resident at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter at @fib_zone.