The curved handle of the stroller is sticky on my fingers like old honey. I push Molly forward, letting her roll on the sidewalk a few feet ahead of me, I catch up after a few steps and do it again so I don’t have to touch the tacky rubber any longer than necessary.
What the hell am I doing taking Molly to the park anyhow? I know I should probably hold onto the stroller, but just like everything else in Lopez and Reggie’s place, it’s dirty. Dirty and gross and uncared for. I know they aren’t too busy or nothing. Just lazy. I figure the least I can do is get some fresh air, and take the kid Molly with me to get some too.
Barely five minutes into the walk I catch myself whistling. My dad’s mom was a professional whistler if there’s such a thing. During World War II she whistled for troops on the radio. When us kids would whistle she’d show us up, tell us we were doing it all wrong. Her lips would squeeze up like a butthole and out would come a sound nothing like anything I’d ever heard. Gram would say if you’re gonna whistle, gotta do it like this. I never could. Nothing about my whistle was special.
We walked by a woman who asked how old Molly was. I told her I don’t know, that the kid wasn’t mine. It sounded like I was making excuses or something. I could tell my answer made her wonder why I was out with the baby in the first place. Grown ass man like me with someone else’s kid. Sort of thing makes people wonder. And you know, I got sorta weirded out trying to answer her question. I fumbled all around and said like yeah, she’s Molly, and I think she’s just over a year old, but I don’t know how many months she is.
I told the woman that the kid’s my friend’s kid, my friend Lopez and Reggie. That maybe she might know ‘em? But she said she didn’t and I wasn’t all that surprised. Lope and Reg don’t get out much, and when they do it ain’t on a walk. The woman gave me a lame smile and I was sure she’d call the cops as soon as she walked away.
We got to the park and it was filled with kids. I parked the stroller near the sandbox then unstrapped Molly and lifted her out. I set her down in the sand and she kept scooping up handfuls trying to put it in her mouth. No, I kept saying, don’t eat that. It’s sand. When I pulled her hand away from her mouth for like the tenth time she started wailing. She was pissed. Everyone at the park all looking at me like I hit her.
I picked her up and she cried even harder. So I put her back in the stroller and started to leave. Some woman snapped my photo and I was like, what the fuck, lady, while Molly kept on crying. Before long, Molly mellowed out and we were just cruising along the sidewalk again, whistling and all.
We passed the same woman as before, but this time she stopped and introduced herself. Athena. Never met a woman with that name. I was all, I’m Marc, and told her it was nice to meet her and she said, ditto. Seriously, ditto. I haven’t heard anyone say ditto since I was a kid. Cracked me up. She asked what was so funny and I said, nothing really, just hadn’t heard that word ditto in like forever. She shrugged, told me maybe she’d see me around. Then she kneeled down and said goodbye to Molly.
Molly smiled, and the woman pulled a Kleenex out of her purse to wipe sand off her face. She said to me I shouldn’t let the baby eat sand. And I was like, yeah I know, then she said she was messin’ with me. Athena wrote her number on a piece of scrap and gave it to me. She said to call her tomorrow. Told me we can walk the baby together. Then she asked the kid’s name and I said Molly. She thought that was funny because I guess her dog’s named Molly too. Athena told me to call her andI said I would. Then she walked away. For the rest of the way home, Molly chirped like a bird. When we got back to Lopez’s place, the front door was locked and nobody was home.