Read “The Babysitter,” a short story by Robert Coover

“The Babysitter”


Robert Coover

She arrives at 7:40, ten minutes late, but the children, Jimmy and Bitsy, are still eating supper, and their parents are not ready to go yet. From other rooms come the sounds of a baby screaming, water running, a television musical (no words: probably a dance number — patterns of gliding figures come to mind). Mrs Tucker sweeps into the kitchen, fussing with her hair, and snatches a baby bottle full of milk out of a pan of warm water, rushes out again. ‘Harry!’ she calls. ‘The babysitter’s here already!’


That’s My Desire? I’ll Be Around? He smiles toothily, beckons faintly with his head, rubs his fast balding pate. Bewitched, maybe? Or, What’s the Reason? He pulls on his shorts, gives his hips a slap. The baby goes silent in mid-scream. Isn’t this the one who used their tub last time? Who’s Sorry Now, that’s it.


Jack is wandering around town, not knowing what to do. His girlfriend is babysitting at the Tuckers’, and later, when she’s got the kids in bed, maybe he’ll drop over there. Sometimes he watches TV with her when she’s babysitting, it’s about the only chance he gets to make out a little since he doesn’t own wheels, but they have to be careful because most people don’t like their sitters to have boyfriends over. Just kissing her makes her nervous. She won’t close her eyes because she has to be watching the door all the time. Married people really have it good, he thinks.


‘Hi,’ the babysitter says to the children, and puts her books on top of the refrigerator. ‘What’s for supper?’

The little girl, Bitsy, only stares at her obliquely. She joins them at the end of the kitchen table. ‘I don’t have to go to bed until nine,’ the boy announces flatly and stuffs his mouth full of potato chips. The babysitter catches a glimpse of Mr Tucker hurrying out of the bathroom in his underwear.


Her tummy. Under her arms. And her feet. Those are the best places. She’ll spank him, she says sometimes. Let her.


That sweet odour that girls have. The softness of her blouse. He catches a glimpse of the gentle shadows amid her thighs, as she curls her legs up under her. He stares hard at her. He has a lot of meaning packed into that stare, but she’s not even looking. She’s popping her gum and watching television. She’s sitting right there, inches away, soft, fragrant, and ready: but what’s his next move? He notices his buddy Mark in the drugstore, playing the pinball machine, and joins him.

‘Hey, this mama’s cold, Jack baby! She needs your touch!’

Read the rest of Robert Coover’s short story “The Babysitter.”

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