Palo Alto Weekly 30th Annual Short Story Contest
Third Place Adult

You've Gone and Done It, Ivy

By Patricia Fewer

About Patricia Fewer

The oldest of six kids, I was born in San Francisco. After high school, I wandered around, tried different jobs and took college courses. I worked on some political campaigns (presidential race, attorney general race), was a Cinerama usherette in Minnesota and a school bus driver in Redwood City. I volunteered for the Peace Corps as a secretary and served first in the Philippines and then in Liberia. Between the Philippines and Liberia, I traveled around the world -- dirt poor but happy. At a St. Patrick's Day party in San Francisco, I met my future husband, asking him, "Which way do you go home?" I got my B.A. and did M.A. work in creative writing at San Francisco State University. We have lived in Palo Alto for many years, raising our daughters. I worked for textbook publishers at different levels -- proofreader, copy editor, project editor. My husband and I are now retired, and life is good for us. My very own three daughters were the foundation for this story. Sitting on the floor surrounded by babies was where I was for a few years. Feeding, changing, hugging, singing, playing, reading. And never a radio contest in the mix.

 

Judge's comments

Ivy is desperate to win an extra buck or two from a radio contest that requires intense non-stop listening for clues. But she's feeding her three little children, changing diapers, doing the laundry, fixing dinner for her husband, talking to her mother, entertaining her brother, so of course she misses the clues. Quite a few readers, male and female, will sigh and laugh as they remember back then.
-- Nancy Packer

Listen to the story read by the author, Patricia Fewer:

Ivy stood barefoot in the kitchen, watching her tea brew in the pot. The radio was on low. She wrote down on a yellow tablet a line from the last song played and waited with pencil for the next song. "All you K-RAZ lovers out there, stay by your radio today," the disc jockey said. Ivy wore a loose chambray jumper with buttons down the front and her hair was in braids. Her three babies were busy around her: Rosie in the highchair eating dry Cheerios, Maudie and Darjeeling on a quilt on the kitchen floor, playing with toes and rubber chew toys.

Ivy poured tea into a tall mug. She spooned in honey and poured in milk. Robins were flitting by, pausing on the fence. Ivy watched them through the window while stirring her tea. "We must win," she said and touched her sore breast. Cheerios fell on the floor. A baby gurgled. Ivy opened a drawer and jotted down on a pad of paper: bird seed. On the sinkboard was a pad of paper with notes for the day: Thursday -- diaper day, stay tuned, make grocery list, call re infection, start spaghetti sauce 4:00.

She glanced at the laundry in a pile on the floor and at an overflowing hamper by the washing machine. She wrote down a familiar line from the song playing. Clean laundry waited to be folded on the kitchen table. Breakfast dishes were in the sink.

"What should we do first, kids?" All three looked at her when she spoke and then went back to what they were doing, putting things in their mouths. Ivy sat down on the floor with her tea. The disc jockey said, "If you're not a K-RAZ lover, there's no way you can be a winner. I've called three unlucky people in the last half hour. They moaned; they begged; they screamed. But they were unlucky. They didn't answer the phone the right way; they didn't know the songs I had been playing; and the jackpot continues to grow. Ten thousand big ones." Maudie blew raspberries. "Call me, call me. I'm a K-RAZ lover," said Ivy, and she wiped the baby's wet chin with her jumper hem. Darjeeling started hiccupping. "I think someone is stinky," said Ivy, rubbing both their tummies and bending to kiss them.

"More cheer-chose," said Rosie from the highchair. She was stretching out over the front of the tray to see down on the floor.

"Coming up," said Ivy. She pushed herself up from the floor and the babies squealed and flapped their arms.

"No baby have cheer-chose," said Rosie.

"You are right, Rosie. Too little," said Ivy, taking a handful of Cheerios out of the box and putting them on the tray. "Can mommy have one?" She leaned forward while Rosie put one in her mouth. "Listen to the song, Rosie. What is it?" Ivy listened and kissed Rosie on the back of her warm neck.

"I wonder what your daddy is doing," Ivy said, looking back at the window. "He better have his radio on down in the grease pit." She reached down for her tea mug and drank until it was empty. "Now we have to get something done, girls." She turned the volume up on the radio. "Your daddy will say, 'So what have you been doing all day?' when he walks in tonight." She opened the dishwasher, rinsed toast plates and cereal bowls, orange juice glasses and flatware, and put them in. Then she rinsed out the sink and wiped off the stovetop, stopping to add to her song list.

"Let's take a ride, Rosie." Ivy pulled the highchair around to face the washing machine on the side porch. "Now watch how it's done 'cause you're my helper." Ivy sorted whites from colors and then colors into light or bright piles. She closed zippers and checked pockets. In Rosie's Osh-Kosh overalls, she found a rubber figure of Grover.

"Does Grover want to go in the washing machine, Rosie?" Ivy asked, handing the toy to Rosie.

"No, mommy," laughed Rosie.

"OK. Now we start the water and put in the soap, not too much soap and only cold water." Ivy arranged the brights in the machine and called to the babbling babies, "I'm right here, darlins. No fussing." She paused to listen to the radio. Then she closed the lid, jotted down a song title and pulled the knob out.

"We're moving right along, Rosie." Ivy lifted Rosie out of the highchair and smelled her pajamas as she put her down. "Rosie is a good girl. Let's take you to the bathroom."

"No, no go," said Rosie, and she walked over to Maudie and Darjeeling who had rolled over to their tummies.

"Oh, the stinky one," Ivy said as she picked up Maudie, walked across the hall to the room with three cribs, and put Maudie in one. Then she turned around and got Darjeeling and put her on the changing table. Rosie followed along back and forth. Maudie cried, waiting her turn. Darjeeling kicked and stretched and tried to roll over. "Careful, don't kick your sore mommy." Ivy held Darjeeling with her left hand, tossed the wet diaper in the diaper pail with her right hand, and reached in the basket for a dry diaper and daytime clothes. She blew on Darjeeling's tummy. "We're hurrying, Maudie. Aren't we, Darjeeling? Rosie, can you talk to Maudie. Tell her mommy can't hear the radio."

"Baby, no cry," Rosie said, looking between the bars of the crib and pushing stuffed animals closer.

The load in the washing machine started thumping and pounding. "Oh, no, we're out of balance again." Ivy picked up Darjeeling and rushed through the kitchen to the porch with Rosie close behind her. She opened the lid and adjusted soggy clothes. Darjeeling grabbed her braid.

"We have to be quiet now, babies." Ivy paused and listened to the radio. "Money time is coming up." Ivy put Darjeeling in her crib and jiggled a bird mobile. Lightweight birds in bright colors floated overhead. Ivy picked up Maudie and went to the kitchen to make a note on the yellow pad and to turn the volume higher on the radio. Rosie followed her. Then they all turned around and went back to the changing table.

Ivy gave Maudie a toy frog to hold while she cleaned her and changed her.

Rosie complained, "Smell, mommy."

"I know, honey. It will be gone soon." Ivy kissed Maudie and put her back in the crib.

"Bad, baby," Rosie scolded.

"She's a good baby, Rosie. Everyone has to poo." Ivy rinsed the diaper in the toilet, flushing during a song, and squeezed it out. She put the diaper in the diaper pail and went back to the bathroom to wash her hands. Then she lifted Rosie to the changing table and stripped off her pajamas and diaper and dressed her for the day.

"You're so good, Rosie. Mommy's hurrying because of the radio. I have to listen so we can win."

"Big noise, mommy," Rosie said, holding a book, while Ivy combed her hair.

Ivy pushed the cribs together and both mobiles started bouncing. "I can't miss what the radio says, Rosie." The babies kicked their legs and squealed. Ivy smelled a dirty diaper.

"Darjeeling, honey, this is the wrong time." She hurriedly picked up the baby and took her to the changing table. The phone rang. Ivy and Rosie looked at each other, and Ivy took a deep breath. She carried Darjeeling over her arm and picked up the receiver in the kitchen, grimacing when the baby pushed back on her breast. "I am crazy in love with K-RAZ," she said, while looking at the same line posted at the top of the phone.

"Well, sorry I'm not K-RAZ, Ivy," said her brother, Eddie, laughing. "What's your quick-way-to-make-a-buck-idea today?"

"I have to get off, Eddie."

"Can I come for lunch? I'm hungry."

"If I don't get a call because you're on my line, I'll be really mad at you. This is serious."

"OK, OK. I'm hanging up right now. But make me a sandwich about 11:30," and he clicked off.

Ivy looked at the phone and concentrated on the radio voice. She thought the disc jockey would say, "Sorry for that unlucky person with the busy line," but he didn't. She changed Darjeeling and turned the babies over in their cribs for a morning nap. She tiptoed out of the room with the dirty diaper and Rosie, closed the door, turned the radio volume down, and rinsed and cleaned up.

She cut up a banana into bite-size pieces and sat with Rosie on the kitchen floor quilt and ate.

"If K-RAZ calls us, Rosie, we'll get a lot of money." Ivy looked at Rosie. "Your mouth is too full, honey." Ivy got up and washed and cut up a red apple. She sat down again with Rosie. "We can pay our bills and get rid of those headaches. We can buy pretty shoes for Rosie. And a new TV. And, what else? Maybe I'll get my hair curled. Wouldn't that be fun?" She chewed and looked out the window above the sink. "Eddie gets none of it. And I know he'll try." Ivy looked at the phone. She got up, picked up the receiver to listen and quickly replaced it. "I feel so nervous, Rosie, and I have to call the doctor but I can't use the phone." Rosie's eyes followed her mommy as she chewed.

Ivy sat listening to the next song. "I wish I knew all the titles. That's a jackpot with a bonus. Sometimes I can only put down a line from the song. But that shows I've been listening and K-RAZ accepts lines."

The phone rang. Ivy jumped up and shrieked and knocked into the highchair. The babies were disturbed and started crying. Ivy concentrated on the note above the phone and answered, "I am crazy in love with K-RAZ."

"Ivy, for heaven's sake. This is your mother, and I want to talk to you."

"Can't now, Mom. Have to have a free line," and she hung up.

She turned and told Rosie not to eat Cheerios off the floor. She looked at the closed door and listened to the babies crying in a slow and tired kind of way.

Again, "I am crazy in love with K-RAZ." Her palms were moist.

"Don't hang up, Ivy. I want to know how my grandbabies are. I want to know how you are."

"I'll call you later," and Ivy put back the receiver, keeping her hand on it.

When she said, "I am crazy in love with K-RAZ," and her mother said, "I am worried about you. Are you taking care of my grandbabies?" Ivy screamed, "You're going to ruin my chances."

She looked at Rosie, who was being quiet as a mouse. "I think I missed the last song. I think I'm behind!" Ivy muttered to herself as she dialed the garage and asked for David.

"What was the last song," Ivy asked.

"Not even a hello, how are you?" David said. "Ivy, turn that radio off and get out with the kids."

"You are my backup! My mother interrupted me, I've lost track, my brother is coming over, my breast is hot and sore, and I am not up to the minute."

"Don't feed him."

"That's the last song?"

"No, Eddie."

"He's my brother."

"Ivy, I don't know the song. I've been under a hood."

Ivy hung up. "Rosie, we're done for."

- - -

Ivy opened the front door for Eddie. She had tears on her face, and he had daisies he had picked in Ivy's yard.

"Flowers for my sister," he said, smiling.

"I don't have a sandwich for you or anything else," Ivy said, standing back while Eddie came in. Maudie was on Ivy's hip and Rosie was hiding behind Ivy's legs. "I have babies to feed and I don't feel well and I can't be a winner. It's all mom's fault!"

"Of course, it's mom's fault. That's what I always say happened to me, too, but you never agree." Eddie looked at the kids and around the room. "Don't you have more?"

Ivy looked at her brother's bushy hair and his tattered jeans. "I had all the songs for the whole morning. K-RAZ could have asked me anything. Then mom called and I lost track and I got mad at David." Ivy sat in the rocker and nursed Maudie on her good side. She cried a little. Rosie stayed at her side.

"Don't cry, Ivy. I'll make sandwiches for both of us, and, hey, how about you, Rosie? Want an Uncle Eddie Deluxe?" Rosie gave him a steady stare.

"K-RAZ said they were about to call someone in the outlying area and I just knew they were looking at one of my postcards, so I took the phone off the hook. I did. I didn't want anyone to hear me blunder."

"You've gone and done it, Ivy. You have completely flipped." Eddie held a bag of sliced bread and started eating some. "You really ought to get out more."

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