“The Babysitter’s Code” by Laura Lippman

I was browsing through the archives at Fifty-Two stories again and came across this one by Laura Lippman. Laura Lippman is one of those authors who have been on my to-read list for what seems like forever, but somehow I just never seem to get around to. Based on this short story, I really do need to move her to the top.

Terri Snyder is the most in demand babysitter in River Run and knows all the rules. She sneaks and peaks, snoops all she wants, but knows to make sure everything is in it’s rightful place before the houses owners return, following the real babysitter rules. One of her weekly clients is Jakkie Delafield, a young rich housewife who just doesn’t fit in with the neighborhood. While going through Jakkie’s lingerie, Terri finds a small silver handgun. At first she doesn’t touch it, but eventually the temptation proves too much.

And that’s when the husband comes home, catching her in his wife’s lace nightgown holding the gun he didn’t know was in the house. Don’t worry, this is not a creepy husband hitting on the babysitter story, but at the same time Terri wants Mr. Delafield to be interested in her. She diets, continues to try on the clothes in the following weeks, posing with the gun, fearing and hoping to be caught again.

On what she would later claim was an impulse, Terri stuffed the gun in her knapsack, grabbing the emerald-green slip as an afterthought. . . . She swaddled the gun with great tenderness, placing it in the outside pocket of her beat-up bag, assuring herself all the while that when something makes you beautiful, it should be yours to keep.

The most disturbing part of the story for me is that phrase “what she would later claim was an impulse.” What does she do with the gun after the story ends? Terri is in that territory between child and adult, full of landmines that can alter the rest of your life.

I read the story at Fifty-Two Stories, but it’s also included in Lippman’s collection Hardly Knew Her.

John hosts Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set. Head over there to see what he and others have been reading.

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