“It would be fine,” I say. “I don’t have much experience, but I learn fast, and I’d be happy to babysit.” As long as you don’t tell my mother.

Mrs. Garrett gives me a grateful look, then pulls Patsy off one breast and, after reaching up to unsnap something, moves her to the other. Patsy wails in protest. Mrs. Garrett rolls her eyes. “She only likes one side,” she confides. “Very uncomfortable.”

I nod again, though I have no idea why that would be. Thanks to my mother’s comprehensive “your body is changing” talk, I’m clear on sex and pregnancy, but still hazy on the nursing end. Thank God.

At this point, George interjects. “Did you know that if you drop a penny off the top of the Empire State Building, you could kill someone?”

“I did know. But that never happens,” I say quickly. “Because people on the observation deck are really, really careful. And there’s a big plastic wall.”

Mrs. Garrett shakes her head. “Jase is right. You’re a natural.”

I feel a glow of pleasure that Jase thought I did anything well.

“Anyway,” she continues. “Could you do one or maybe two times a week—in the afternoon, if that works with your summer job?”

I agree, tell her my schedule, even before she offers me more than I make at Breakfast Ahoy. Then she asks, again looking a little self-conscious, if I would mind starting today.

“Of course not. Just let me change.”

“Don’t change.” George reaches out to touch my skirt with a grubby finger. “I like that. You look like Sailor Supergirl.”

“More like Sailor Barbie, I’m afraid, George. I have to change because I worked in this all morning and it smells like eggs and bacon.”

“I like eggs and bacon,” George tells me. “But”—his face clouds—“do you know that bacon is”—tears leap to his eyes—“Wilbur?”

Mrs. Garrett sits down next to him immediately. “George, we’ve been through this. Remember? Wilbur did not get made into bacon.”

“That’s right.” I bend down too as wetness overflows George’s lashes. “Charlotte the spider saved him. He lived a long and happy life—with Charlotte’s daughters, um, Nelly and Urania and—”

“Joy,” Mrs. Garrett concludes. “You, Samantha, are a keeper. I hope you don’t shoplift.”

I start to cough. “No. Never.”

“Then is bacon Babe, Mom? Is it Babe?”

“No, no, Babe’s still herding sheep. Bacon is not Babe. Bacon is only made from really mean pigs, George.” Mrs. Garrett strokes his hair, then brushes his tears away.

“Bad pigs,” I clarify.

“There are bad pigs?” George looks nervous. Oops.

“Well, pigs with, um, no soul.” That doesn’t sound good either. I cast around for a good explanation. “Like the animals that don’t talk in Narnia.” Dumb. George is four. Would he know Narnia yet? He’s still at Curious George. Edited.

But understanding lights his face. “Oh. That’s okay then. ’Cause I really like bacon.”

When I return, George is already standing in the inflatable pool while Harry sprays water into it. Mrs. Garrett efficiently removes Patsy’s diaper, pulling on some sort of puffy plastic pants with little suns all over them.

“You haven’t really met Harry. Harry, this is Jase’s friend Samantha, who’s going to be watching you for a while.”

How did I get to be Jase’s friend? I’ve talked to him twice. Wow, is Mrs. Garrett ever different from my mother.

Harry, who’s got green eyes but fairly straight dark brown hair and lots of freckles, looks at me challengingly. “Can you do a back dive?”

“Um. Yes.”

“Will you teach me? Right now?”

Mrs. Garrett interrupts. “Harry, we discussed this. Samantha can’t take you in the big pool because she has to keep her eye on the little ones.”

Harry’s lower lip juts out. “She could put Patsy in the BabyBjörn like you do and go in the water. She could hold George’s hand. He can swim pretty good with his swimmies.”

Mrs. Garrett glances at me apologetically. “My children expect everyone to multitask to an extreme degree. Harry, no. It’s this pool or nothing.”

“But I can swim now. I can swim really good. And she knows how to back dive. She could teach me to back dive.” While wearing the baby and holding George’s hand? I’d need to be Sailor Supergirl.

“No,” Mrs. Garrett repeats firmly. Then, to me: “A will of iron. Just keep saying no. Eventually he’ll move on.” She takes me back into the house, shows me where the diapers are, tells me to help myself to anything in the refrigerator, gives me her cell phone number, points out the list of emergency numbers, cautions me not to bring up the subject of tornadoes in front of George, hops into her van, and drives off.

Leaving me with Patsy, who’s trying to pull up my shirt, George, who wants me to know that you should never touch a blue-ringed octopus, and Harry, who looks like he wants to kill me.

Actually, it doesn’t go that badly.

I’ve mostly avoided babysitting. It’s not that I don’t like kids, but I hate the uncertain hours of it. I’ve never wanted to deal with parents arriving late and apologetic, or that awkward drive home with some dad trying to make small talk. But the Garrett kids are pretty easy. I take them over to our house so I can get our garden sprinkler, which is this complicated standing copper twirling thing. Harry, fortunately, thinks it’s amazing, and he and George spend an hour and a half playing in it, then jumping back into the baby pool while Patsy sits in my lap, gnawing my thumb with her gums and drooling on my hand.

I’ve finished doing the snack thing and am herding the kids back out to the pool when the motorcycle pulls in.

I turn with a tingle of anticipation, but it’s not Jase. It’s Joel who gets off the motorcycle, leans against it, and does that whole slow-appreciative-scan-of-your-entire-body thing. Which I get quite enough of at Breakfast Ahoy. “George. Harry. Who’ve you brought home?” Joel says. He is good-looking, but a little too much on the and-well-he-knows-it end of the scale.

“This is Sailor Supergirl,” George says. “She knows all about black holes.”