"Something's wrong," Mo said through a strained whisper. "The child is holding very still. I think he might be up to something."
I wrinkled my nose. Zach was definitely up to something.
"He's grunting and his face is turning red. I think he's possessed."
"He's not possessed. He's having a bowel movement."
"He's what?! That's it! I'm coming out—"
"No! Whatever you do, do not stand up!" I buried my arm elbow- deep in my bag. There definitely wasn't time to run out to the cereal aisle. The poor man would probably suffer a heart attack and wind up dead on the floor before I made it back, and the last thing I needed to deal with was one more corpse. Especially one with his pants around his ankles.
New year, new me. I wasn't a criminal or a killer, at least not by my own choice. Harris Mickler, the sleazy accountant who had turned up dead in the back of my minivan three months ago, was not murdered by me, regardless of the fact that his wife, Patricia, had insisted on paying me to kill him. And yet, no matter how many times I explained to Mrs. Mickler that I was not a contract killer, disturbingly similar job offers continued to find me. The list of resolutions I'd adopted two weeks ago had included three very important bullets: no more junk food, no more men, and no more bodies in my minivan. Not necessarily in that order. Zach finished his business with a delighted squeal, clapping his hands with exclamations of self-praise. He stomped toward Mo with An outstretched hand.
"I don't understand!" Mo screamed. "What does it want from me?!" I dumped the contents of the diaper bag onto the floor. My police officer sister, who would rather clean up crime scenes than wipe her
nephew's backside, had spent the last few weeks attempting to potty train my son despite my insistence that Zach wasn't ready. While my barely-two-year-old now grasped what he was expected to do in the bathroom, Georgia's training strategy had only managed to whet his appetite for bribes. "He wants a reward."
"A reward?! Why would it expect a reward for this?"
I grabbed a plastic baggy of Cheerios and thrust it under the door. Zach turned toward the sound as I shook the cereal inside, his chubby hands chasing the bag as I drew it closer toward me. As soon as my son was within reach, I looped an arm around his waist and dragged him out of the stall.
Mo's hands fell limp at his sides. I plopped Zach down on the floor beside me, wiping my brow as he puzzled over the seal on the snack bag.
"It's safe, Mo. You can come out now." I gathered the diaper creams, packets of wipes, and random mom-survival gear, stuffing them back into my purse. A quick glance under the stall revealed that Mo hadn't moved. "Mo?" I paused, listening for signs of life through the door. "Mo? Are you okay?" For the love of god, let him be okay.
"I am far from okay."
I released a held breath. "Do you need me to call for help?"
"I'd rather you just go," he said, "and take the tiny demon with you."
"Fair enough." I plucked the bag carefully from Zach's hands and scooped him up. Holding him over the sink on one raised knee, I washed both of our hands twice, rigorously and with plenty of soap, before returning the bag of snacks to him.
"It was nice meeting you, Mo," I called out.
A stoic grunt issued from the stall. I comforted myself with the fact that at least Mo had survived. It was past noon, twelve days into a brand-new year, and I hadn't broken any of my three resolutions—at least not yet.
After a quick diaper change and several more rounds of handwashing, I hefted Zach into a shopping cart, handed him his threadbare nap blanket and a sippy cup, and pushed him around the store, searching for Vero. I found my children's nanny in the women's clothing department, scrutinizing a generic fleece hoodie, which did not jibe with the brand-name-wearing, hip fashionista I'd grown to know and love. She jumped nearly a foot when I rolled my cart up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder.