Chapter 6: The sassy saga of Dot & Dash continues …
“Why do you need me to babysit with you? Twelve year old girls babysit on their own. You can handle it,” Dottie encouraged over the phone as she entered her apartment and locked the door.
“Does it ever occur to you that I might like your company?” Dash asked feigning hurt.
“Oh, that occurs to me all the time,” she said and dropped a handful of mail on the kitchen counter. “I’m a veritable Party in a Bag. Whose kid is it anyway?”
“Ollie’s nephew. His brother and sister-in-law are visiting from out of state and wanted a night out on the town. Come on. Keep me company.”
“Don’t whine.” Dottie slipped her shoes off and looked inside her nearly empty fridge. “You treating me to dinner?”
“Of course. Didn’t I mention that?”
“Alright,” she sighed. “Where are you?”
“The Carlyle. Room 17.”
“Room Service! Yes! I’ll be there in a few.” Dottie rang off, slipped her shoes back on, and headed for the lobby of her building. Her doorman hailed her a taxi in record time.
“Dottie!” Dash beamed as he opened the door to the suite. “You’re a life saver.” He embraced his sister and kissed her cheeks.
“Where is he?” she whispered and looked about the expansive room for Ollie’s nephew.
“In his bedroom, jamming a fork into an electrical socket no doubt.”
“Dash!” Dottie swatted his arm.
“Archie,” Dash called and entered the boy’s bedroom. “Say hello to my sister, Ms. Hammond.”
“So formal?” Dottie asked and peered over Dash’s shoulder to see the small boy sitting on the bed with a coloring book and crayons.
“I won’t let him call me Dash; I hardly know him.”
“Hello, Miss Hammond,” Archie said looking up at them.
“Hello, Archie. Ooh, dinosaurs,” Dottie said seeing the cover of the coloring book.
“Don’t encourage him,” Dash whispered. “Once you get him started…” Dash made jabbering motions with his hand and rolled his eyes. “Are you hungry, Archie? I’m ordering dinner.”
“Quiche,” Archie said and turned his attention back to coloring.
Dash gave Dottie a raised eyebrow. “Chocolate milk with that?”
Dash remained in the doorway waiting.
“Please and thank you, Mr. Hammond,” Archie said and smiled benevolently at them.
“You’re welcome, Archie. OK, my sister and I are going to be out here chatting. So, color away.” Dash pulled the door nearly shut and walked to the sofa.
“He’s cute,” Dottie said and sat on the sofa opposite Dashiel.
“Mmm…blessedly unlike that hackle-raising kid from Jerry Maguire and his older brother from that horrible Red Rider movie.”
“And their cousin from Eight is Enough.”
“Exactly! All tow-headed miscreants with speech impediments and too big glasses. They’re all mini John Denvers. May he rest in peace.” Dash shuddered. He perused the room service menu then Frisbeed it across to Dottie. “Good catch.”
“I think young Archie’s made a wise choice with the quiche. What are you getting?”
“Shrimp crepes work for me.” Dash placed the order then folded his arms across his chest and gazed at his sister’s shoes.
“You don’t like my peek-a-boo’s?” Dottie asked and swung her crossed leg.
“Honey, those aren’t peek-a-boo as much as, ‘Hey, sailor!’”
Dottie gasped at the insult. “They’re sexy, not slutty.”
“Delusional,” Dash coughed.
Dottie laughed and tossed a silk throw pillow at him. “So, where’s Oliver?”
“He’s playing tour guide to Archie’s parents.”
Dottie nodded. “Don’t you think you should be interacting with Archie a bit more?” Dottie whispered, cocking her head toward the boy’s bedroom.
Dash splayed his arms and legs in exaggerated exhaustion. “I’ll have you know I’ve spent the better part of the day with that young pup and I’m this close to collapse.” He held his thumb and index finger half an inch apart. “The Children’s Zoo in Central Park, the Carousel, FAO Schwarz, Dylan’s CandyBar,” Dashiel enumerated on his fingers. “Trust me, if I could’ve put one of those Invisible Fence collars on him, I would have.”
“Dash, you’re horrible. You wouldn’t even put one on Monsieur Guy.”
“That’s because my beloved Monsieur Guy is well behaved and doesn’t require one. Oh, there’s a present for you over there,” he waved a fatigued hand toward the armchair by the window.
“Ooh,” Dottie said excitedly and leaped up. She dug her hand inside the striped shopping bag from Dylan’s and removed a Candy Bar Snow Globe from the tissue paper. “Lollies and glitter. How you.”
“Wind it up,” Dash suggested.
Dottie gave it several firm twists and The Candy Man began to play as the glitter swirled around the assorted colored lollipops. Dottie stared at it. “Are you sure this is for me? Maybe you should keep it instead.”
“OK,” Dash agreed quickly and took it from his sister. “You can have this then.” He handed her a long cylinder.
“A kaleidoscope!” Dottie said excitedly and held it up to her eye and slowly turned the bottom to view the changing patterns. “This is great. Thanks, Dash. Well, it looks like you two had a lovely day.”
“Dottie do you remember years ago when Mom would say you were like a broken record?”
Dottie lowered the kaleidoscope and thought for a moment. “No. I don’t remember Mom ever saying that to me. I think she used to say that to you.”
“OK, she used to say it to me. Anyway, years ago being called a ‘broken record’ was an insult – meaning being repetitive.”
“Annoyingly repetitive,” Dottie corrected.
Dash squinted his eyes at her and cleared his throat. “Though how she could have thought that about me is…OK,” he caught Dottie’s raised eyebrow and continued. “Nowadays if you call a kid a broken record, they think you’re complimenting them; thinking in terms of breaking an Olympic record.”
“Unless they’re indie kids into vinyl,” Dottie said cheekily.
“Dottie, you’re trying my patience. I am nearing disintegration, I warn you.”
“Ah, room service,” Dottie cried and crossed the room to answer the discreet knock.
Dash escorted Archie to the dining area and lifted him up onto the chair. He gave a napkin a snap and tucked it gently into Archie’s pajama collar. “What do we have here?” Dash said and removed a silver lid from one of the plates. “Ooh, your quiche, Archie. It looks scrumptious!” Dash began to cut the wedge of quiche for Archie.
Dottie coughed. “Perhaps Archie would like to tackle that himself, Dash.”
Dash looked down in surprise at Archie’s upturned face.
Archie smiled up at Dash and took the knife and fork from him. “Thank you, Mr. Hammond.”
“Oh, quite alright, Archie,” Dash said and slightly ruffled the boy’s blond hair. “I didn’t realize…”
Dottie gave her brother an affectionate look. “Archie’s a big boy, he can feed himself,” she said kindly.
“Had young Master Archie alluded to his big boy skills this afternoon, perhaps I wouldn’t be so exhausted now,” Dash said and shot the child a scathing glance.
“You insisted on carrying me, Mr. Hammond,” Archie said and stifled a grin.
“You carried him?” Dottie asked and gaped.
“Until I could no longer carry him and all the parcels,” Dash said, slumping in his chair. “That’s when I wished for the Invisible Fence collar when the little urchin ran amok in Dylan’s Candy Bar.” He glowered across at Archie.
Dottie pressed her lips together to keep her guffaws at bay.
“If I weren’t so weary I’d be flinging such a raised eyebrow at you right now,” Dash told his sister.
“Duly noted,” Dottie said softly and patted his hand.
“May I be excused, Mr. Hammond?” Archie asked and placed his napkin beside his plate.
“By all means,” Dash said. “But since you didn’t finish your dinner there’ll be no dessert for you, Archie.”
Archie scanned the table and looked at Dash. “You didn’t order any dessert.”
“Yes, well, had I, you wouldn’t get any.”
Archie shrugged and toddled off to this bedroom.
“Dash!” Dottie whispered and swatted his knee.
“What? We never got dessert if we didn’t finish our dinner.”
“But Dash this is a special trip to New York for him. You could have cut him some slack. Do you want him to look back on this and remember mean old Mr. Hammond wouldn’t let him have dessert?”
“And why didn’t you order dessert?”
“Stop swatting me!”
Dottie switched her empty plate for Archie’s and began eating his quiche.
“Calories, darling,” Dash sang.
“No dessert, darling,” Dottie sang in response and jammed a particularly large wedge of quiche into her mouth.
“Well, if you don’t care how you look at Boxo’s wedding, by all means, gorge.”
Dottie nearly choked and dabbed at her mouth. “What?! Boxo’s getting married?”
“Oh, didn’t you know?” Dash asked über casually.
“Would I have nearly needed a Heimlich maneuver if I knew?”
“Stop swatting me! Honestly, you’re such a child.”
“Gimme the info.”
Dash slid an embossed cream colored envelope from his jacket pocket. He removed the invitation and read aloud. “Mr. & Mrs. Reginald Cole request the honor of your presence blah blah their daughter Emily Cole blah blah marriage to Boxo Whatley blah blah,”
“Stop with the blah blahs. When?”
“OMG! I swear if you swat me-”
Dottie grabbed the invitation from Dash’s hand. “June 7th,” Dottie read aloud. “Oh, how lovely. A June wedding. That doesn’t give me much time to figure out what I’ll wear.”
“Dottie, it’s two months away.”
Dottie’s mood shifted and she gazed sadly at Dash. “Oh, sweetie, is this why you’re being so grouchy,” she asked gently.
“I’m not grouchy.”
“I am not. I am exhausted. I explained that to you.”
“Dash, I know the difference between the look of a man who’s been lugging a small child around Manhattan all day and a man who’s feeling grumpy because his favorite cousin – whom he has harbored a not-so-secret crush on for decades – is getting married.”
“Oh, so now I’m grumpy? Are you going to run the gamut of all Seven Dwarfs?”
“Dash, ‘grouchy’ was not one of the Seven Dwarfs,” Dottie said softly and patted his arm.
“I confided my feelings about Boxo to you in a moment of weakness.”
“As I recall, you were totally sober – miracle number 1, totally devoid of any mind or mood altering drugs – miracle number 2, and in a rather upbeat disposition. One that I would classify as completely devoid of weakness.”
“Well, smarty pants, I admit I still harbor a major crush on Boxo, but I am neither grouchy nor grumpy because of his impending nuptials. I am very happy for him and Em, as a matter of fact. They’re perfect for each other. I know that’s a cliché but I mean it.”
“Good. Then what else is troubling you?”
“Dorothy, have you not listened to me? That kid’s gotta weigh 80 lbs. easy.”
Dottie pursed her lips. “Maybe 50.”
“OK, well you lug a 50 lb. kid around the city all afternoon and let’s see how chipper you feel at the end of the day.”
“I wouldn’t do that. And I don’t know why you did. Did you really think he wasn’t capable of walking on his own?” Dottie laughed.
“I was afraid someone would snatch him,” Dash mumbled.
“Oh, sweetie.” Dottie looked adoringly at him. “You’re such a softie.”
“So,” Dash said happily, “Whaddya say we fly over a few days early so we can party with Boxo and Em? You know, you do her hen party and I’ll go to his bachelor party.”
“Just invite ourselves?” Dottie asked, appalled.
“Don’t be a ninny. He emailed me this morning suggesting it.”
“Really? Yippee!” Dottie clapped her hands. “Any ideas for a wedding present?”
“Well, Boxo said they were going to Hawaii on their honeymoon, so I offered them a week at Om on the Range. He was rather keen on the idea. So, Ollie and I designed a bridal suite and it should be ready by June.”
“Ooh, that’s great.”
Dash glanced at his watch and stood. “Bed time, Archie,” he called and walked toward the boy’s bedroom. He knocked lightly and pushed the door open. “Did you brush your teeth? Good boy. Would you like me to read you a story? OK, scoot over.”
Dottie sat on the sofa and listened with her eyes closed as her brother read “Jinx and Dexter’s Beach Picnic” and “Brendan the Penguin” to Archie, doing all the voices and singing the songs until the boy was asleep. Dottie wiped a tear away and blew her nose.
“You should adopt,” Dottie said quietly when Dash emerged from Archie’s room.
“Mmmm. Despite the grumpy, grouchy side of you, there’s the patient, tender side that some poor orphaned kid would really thrive on.”
“Ah, but you see I have Monsieur Guy, the most adorable Pomeranian ever born. Perhaps when his time comes to leave this mortal coil, perish the thought, I’ll be more mature and less ego-centric and ready to take on that challenge. What about you?”
“I’ve thought about it but there’s nothing but cobwebs happening here,” she indicated her lower abdomen. “Besides, with my job I work about 50 hours a week. I’d wind up paying someone else to raise the child. And I have enough trouble finding a man on my own; it’d have to be a very special guy who’d take me on with a kid.”
“Oh, so you’re still holding out hope of finding a man?” he teased and dodged another swat. “Maybe we’ll both find a man at Boxo’s wedding,” he said brightly.
“Oh, that’d be swell; long-distance romance. How long would that last?”
“Now who’s being a Gloomy Gus?”
“Well, I don’t do it often, so indulge me, OK?”
“OK, sweetums,” Dash said and rubbed his sister’s shoulders.
“What are you doing?” Dottie asked and swiveled her head around to look at him.
“Massaging your shoulders,” Dash said innocently.
“No. You were making those little weird sounds.” She leaned forward and away from Dash’s reach.
“What little weird sounds?”
“The ones you make when your scheming brain is on overdrive. Are you working on another invention?”
“You could say that,” he said coyly and checked his watch. “Where are they? Ollie said they’d be back by now.”
“Maybe they’re stuck in traffic. Can’t wait to get back to your subterranean laboratory?”
“Yes, I have to feed Igor and take Monsieur Guy for his walk.”
“If you really have to leave, I’ll stay until they get back,” Dottie offered. “Dash! You’re making those creepy sounds again.”
“Am I?” he asked absently. “Sorry.” He gazed out the window and chewed his lip.
Dottie stood and gently pushed him toward the door. “You go home and walk your dog. I’ll wait until they get back.”
“No, no, it wouldn’t be right. I asked you to keep me company and here I am deserting you. And you feeling all Gloomy Gus-ish about your tumble-weeded uterus and all.”
Dottie sighed. “I’ll be fine.”
Dottie nodded and unlocked the door. “Don’t let Guy pee on any exposed wiring,” she said sweetly and patted Dash on the back, sending him down the corridor.
“It’s Ghee!” Dash corrected and sauntered off.
Dottie shook her head, locked the door and quietly checked on Archie who was sleeping soundly. She aimlessly surfed the channels until she heard the suite door opening.
“Hi,” Dottie said pleasantly and stood to greet Ollie and Archie’s parents.
“Hi, Dottie, you’re looking lovely as ever,” Ollie said and kissed her on the cheek.
Dottie felt her face redden and gazed down at her peek-a-boo’s. “Oh!” she said abruptly, rousing herself from her momentary awkwardness. “Thank you. You’re looking as lovely as ever, too,” she stammered and blushed deeper. “Handsome, I mean. You’re handsome, not lovely.” Dottie shook her head and pressed her lips together to keep any further embarrassment from emerging.
Ollie smiled warmly and leaned casually against the wall. “Where’s Dash?”
“Dash had to…well…dash. He had to walk his dog, actually,” she addressed Archie’s parents. “Hi, I’m Dash’s sister.” She extended her hand to them.
“I’m Donna and this is Mark. Thank you so much for looking after Archie for us. I hope he wasn’t any trouble.”
“Well, I only arrived in time for supper, but Dash couldn’t say enough nice things about him. A lovely little boy.”
Donna and Mark beamed proudly.
“Well, I guess I’d better be going. I’m sure you all want to unwind after your busy day. It was nice meeting you. I hope you enjoyed seeing the city.” Dottie slipped her shoulder bag on and inched toward the door, wanting to be away from the handsome Ollie and the effect he had on her.
“Yes, it was great. Ollie’s a wonderful tour guide.” Donna sat on the sofa, slipped off her heels and rubbed her feet.
“Thank you again,” Mark said. “Please thank your brother for us,” he called as Dottie opened the door. “If you’re ever out our way, look us up.”
“I will. Enjoy the rest of your stay. Good night,” Dottie said and stepped into the corridor, quietly closing the door behind her. “Oh, my God!” she sighed, inwardly cringing in mortification. “You’re handsome, not lovely,” she mimicked softly. “What a moron!”
“Dottie,” Ollie called and hurried to catch up to her. “Share a taxi?”
Dottie paused and turned, unable to stop herself from smiling. “Where are you headed?”
“Where are you going?”
“Uptown,” Dottie said.
“Me too,” Ollie said and smiled.
“I thought you lived downtown.”
“You caught me,” Ollie said and lowered his head and scuffed a shoe.
Dottie’s eyes widened at the realization that Ollie was apparently flirting with her and smiled when he took her elbow as they stepped to the curb.
Previous episodes in the Dot & Dash Chronicles:
A sometime amateur sleuth, Billie offers to help the cops solve a local murder. One mention of her psychic visions and they scurry, but when a body from a cold case appears in her backyard, they’re all ears. During this turmoil, Billie realizes her accountant, Emmett Gilmour, is sweet on her. She’d like to let him know the feeling’s mutual but doesn’t remember how; it’s been decades since she dated.