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Irregular Accounts of Self
by KJ Hannah Greenberg



Dorothy hated that Chet referred to their son as “The Terror.” He was a two week-old infant. Infants cried. Infants who had colic cried even more. In fact, Terrance cried so much that  Dorothy was contemplating giving up her newfound love for Ukrainian comestibles. She had read that cabbage processed through breast milk gave newborns reflux.


While contemplating impending culinary sacrifices, Dorothy had equally objected to her husband’s idea that their toddler and baby, respectively, be renamed “Thing One” and “Thing Two.” They were family, not aliens. Besides, Penguin Random House owned the intellectual property for all of the contents and concepts found in Dr. Seuss books. She knew the ins and outs of literary and artistic works, of designs and symbols, of names and images as she was an intellectual properties lawyer.


At least she used to be a lawyer. Sighing, Dorothy laid Terrance Andrew Dean on the sheepskin she kept by the sofa. Thereafter, she regarded her blouse. Baby puke adorned both shoulders.


Just short years earlier, she had passed her credentialling exam. It had been administered by her state’s bar association. It had been impossibly difficult. Yet, somehow, Dorothy had squeaked by with a satisfactory mark.


Soon, thereafter, she had been hired by a firm that was more box cars than engine and had scurried for senior lawyers until her daughter Addison’s birth had sidelined her. Postpartum depression, individual counseling, and marriage counseling had followed.


Dorothy had switched from full-time office hours to remote, home hours. The work that she had consequently received was drudgery but had helped to pay the bills (the firm’s partners had decided that any of their lawyers who were “luxuriating” in remote operations would receive scut assignments.)


Meanwhile, Chet had switched from technical writing and editing via a laptop in their bedroom to creating advertising copy at an agency in a nearby city. He commuted more than an hour and one half in each direction. Gamely, he also endured their couples counseling sessions.


As for the family’s pets during this period, Rutherford seemed to have developed arthritis, which was a small aberration relative to the hedgehog almost dying a few months earlier. So, Dorothy dosed him thrice daily with the pain killer issued by their vet and checked to made sure that an adequate supply of warm nesting materials were scattered throughout their home. Mostly, though, Rutherford stayed behind the fridge.


In terms of Mr. Henry, the cat, he slept away with increased frequency. Dorothy missed his purring but could not blame him for wanting to avoid their toddler’s  “creativity” and their baby’s screams. Whereas Terrance’s shrieks were intolerable, Addison’s schemes were worse. She had “decorated” Mr. Henry with food coloring, “dug for treasure” in his litter box, and hidden his food bowl.


Per Withersmith, the wee doxie found the baby’s diapers interesting and almost always perched himself beneath whichever chair held Addison’s booster seat when the young miss was eating. Besides, a bigger family meant more two-legged critters upon whom to bestow love.


A bigger family also meant bigger bills. Chet’s promotion, earned because of his ad campaign for pet carriers for the ubiquitous Acme Corporation, had helped, but they were still left with a deficit. To make ends meet, Dorothy had surreptitiously begun to sell some of their possessions on eBay.


More than a month into her maneuver, Chet noticed. “Have you seen my pink, ruffled shirt, the one I thrifted from Old Days Boutique?”


“I thought you had switched to khakis and button-downs for work.”


“Did, at the office, especially with my new status as project manager.”


“And?” Dorothy was pinning a diaper to ever squiggly Terrance. She had recently revisited Chet’s suggestion of referring to their baby as “The Terror.” Their infant had become less gassy, hence less fussy, but that comfort had cost Dorothy her golubtsy, her holodets, and her walnut stuffed prunes.


“It’s my creativity totem. I’m trying to make more time to write poetry, these days.”




“So, did you stick it in the back of a closet, under our bed, or in our storage unit? I can’t find it in my drawers or anywhere else I’ve looked.”


“I sold it. I also sold your remaining Indian spices and your tofu mat. To boot, I unloaded your banjo.”


After taking a sad look at his still hormonal wife and at the child she was attempting to diaper, Chet walked into their bedroom, sat on their bed, and cried. Withersmith ran to his feet, his tail wagging.


A little while later, Dorothy, who was carrying a bundled Terrance, came and sat down next to him. “We needed the money. I sold my law schoolbooks, my favorite pinafore, and the rest of my Ukrainian spices, too.”


“I work a gazillion hours a week, commute three hours daily, and brought home a pay increase.”


“My therapy, our therapy, and Addison’s tap dance lessons are expensive.”


“Tap dance lessons?”


“I wanted to wait ‘til her show to tell you.”


Chet put his head in his hands and cried some more.


a line, (a short blue one)


The next day, after an exhausted Chet returned from the city, Dorothy greeted him at the door with a kiss. Chet returned the affection, puzzled.


She uncurled from his embrace and waved a check at him. “I don't believe it, Chet. Why would someone send us so much money?”


“So, return it.”


“What if it’s illegal? Funny money? Drug money? Prostitution income?”


“Return it.”


“You’re kidding?”




“To where?”


“To whoever sent it.”


“Don't know. Found it in the trash. You know that membership form you were looking for...”


“Not sold with my favorite ruffled shirt?”


Dorothy pursed her lips and squinted at her husband before continuing. “. . . and the credit card we thought that we were missing? It seems that the card had stuck to the wrapping and that Addison had confiscated the wrapping for a ‘project.’ I also found...”


“What about the envelope? What wrapping? Was it what the check arrived in?”


“Orange sparkles, bits of dry clay, Addison’s runaway plastic cheetah and her leftover toothpick sculpture — I tossed that. Please don’t tell — I thought it was dangerous for a toddler. I found some of our mismatched socks, too.”


“Toothpicks? Very dangerous!”


“Forget I said anything. Let's go out to eat. I called a babysitter and an Uber.”


“The Terror?”


“We’ll take hm with, so I can feed him.”


“Do we pay taxes on the money?”


“I could cancel the Uber and the sitter and we could snuggle, instead.”


Chet arched an eyebrow. “Snuggling” was not a favorite postpartum activity of his wife’s.

“You didn’t say if we’ll have to pay taxes on the money. Snuggling sounds better than dinner. Did you shower? Did you know that you have horse breath?”


“Chet, we’re going to be able to balance our budget! I’ll still have to forego cabbage, asparagus, beans, dairy, and soda, but we’ll be able to pay for Addison to take ballet lessons, too. Plus, when I attend the mommy meetings, I won’t have to bake—I can bring treats from that fancy bakery. Maybe, I can entirely quit my job!


“Anyway, I doubt we’ll have to pay taxes. Usually, gift givers pay. I could shower in less than two minutes. We might be able to enjoy nookie before Terrance wakes up.”


“What about Addison?”


“She’s busy painting Mr. Henry’s tail. She tied him to one of the kitchen table’s legs.”


“Sigh. I’ll rescue him while you suds up. I think I can bribe her with a farm animal video. I wonder if the money’s a prize. You know, maybe that sweepstakes from the sneaker company? We had an official 'chance in one million' to win.”


“No one rang the doorbell. No one shone lights in my eyes. No one presented flowers. No, the money’s no sneaker company sweepstakes win.”


“Did you check the check for a return address?”


“There was no identification printed on it.”


“Maybe, the bank can trace it.”


“Maybe. It’ll take a while if the  money’s from out of town.”


That night, Chet and Dorothy were billed for an uncancelled Uber and an uncancelled babysitter. Addison fell asleep in front of the TV with Withersmith curled up next to her. Mr. Henry ran away, again, via the opened kitchen window, and Rutherford remained secreted behind a tall appliance. No additional belongings were sold on eBay.


a line, (a short blue one)


In due course, Pemberton Savings Bank cleared the check. The source of the funds was a small savings and loan in Iowa. No additional information was forthcoming. Dorothy and Chet chose to allow themselves to use the interest generated by their deposit. Dorothy quit her part-time job. Addison was enrolled in a ballet class for tots.


Chet continued his protracted commute. He was enjoying his time alone on the train more and more. Although Dorothy had quit working as a lawyer, their laundry, again, had been relegated to a sheet spread on their bedroom floor. Additionally, their home had once more begun to reek of cabbage as Dorothy had emancipated herself from nursing.


The advertising agent sighed. Terrance’s diapers were evil-colored and stinky. The formulae he was drinking in place of Mom juice made their baby irritable, too. Plus, his reflux had returned.


As Chet climbed out of the subway, he looked at the spot where the insure-touting lizard had once appeared boldly on a poster. In that notice’s place was yet another of his adverts for Acme pet carriers. According to the placard, those animal boxes came in small, medium ,and large. Ordinarily grey, those carriers could be ordered, for an extra fee, in red, blue, or yellow. Something in Chet’s environment had influenced him to ask Acme to produce that more expensive line.


Dorothy had insisted that Chet ask for the blue ones when Acme offered gratis carriers to him. Despite that bright color, both Mr. Henry and Rutherford refused to voluntarily enter any of them. Only Withersmith could be bribed into a box.


Regardless, if the vet and Acme’s reports were to be believed, those transporters had become well-liked among pet owners. In fact, Acme had asked Chet to lead a campaign on spheres for Vanlifers since he had performed so well with Acme’s boxes.


In the interim, Tell Bell wanted more storyboards for yet another series of advertisements. As well, Polished Polish wanted Chet and only Chet to run their springtime nail enamel undertaking.


Chet’s boss remained a chowderhead. Plus, Romi, Maylee, and Aryeh resented Chet for winning the Acme campaign and, subsequently, getting promoted over them. Worse, the new fellow who was supposed to be tech support for the office spent more time playing online games than patching the code the agency needed to keep their fancy graphics running.


No sooner had Chet sat down at his desk than Aryeh leaned over one of Chet’s cubicle’s wall (Chet’s “promotion” came with more responsibility, and a 3% increase in salary, but no self-contained office. The empty room, next to that of the boss’s space, stayed a stockroom despite it featuring a window and a split AC/heating unit.) Aryeh was wearing a barn red  blouse tucked into jeans that had a vermillion floral motif.


“Not enough commissions, Chet.”




“You gave Maylee the Coconut Cola account and Romi Big Swig’s toe deodorant transaction. When do I get some goods?”


Chet sighed. He, too, needed the bonuses. “Tell Bell or Polished Polish? Pick one and give me some of those cheese puffs you’re scoffing. I forgot to pick up my doughnut, this morning.” 


“You’d really let me take Tell Bell?”


“My pleasure.”


“Well, here, then. You can have what’s left.” Aryeh nearly floated back to his own cubby.


Chet uncrinkled the small sack that had been thrust at him. There wasn’t even a handful of puffed corn remaining.



a line, (a short blue one)






“Did I wake you?”


"No. Yeah. Everything o.k., Dot?”


“Do you have an account in Iowa?”


“No. I'm having the worst day in my life and you're asking me about Iowa? What the foo?”


“Nothing. You wouldn't believe it. I'm pregnant with twins!”


“Great. You’re fertile. Now, tell me why you’re calling in the middle of the night.”




“Fran’s quitting.”




“Dot, that means I'll only have one nanny.”


“Okay. No, not okay. I need to puke... hold on.” Dorothy put her head on her nightstand and slowly inhaled. She didn’t really want to run for the bathroom.


Withersmith tried to reach her face to lick it, but his nose didn’t extend far enough. Beyond the bedroom door, Terrance was his crib. As well, based on a combination of toddler laughter and feline screeches, it seemed that Addison was once more torturing Mr. Henry.


“You listening?”


“Of course, Es. Talk to me.”


“I don't know what to do. By the way, does Chet know?”


“You mean Mr. Working Late again? Nope. As for your nanny, hire another, use afterschool programs, or accept that your girls don’t even need a single care provider.”


“Are you trying to give me advice? Wait! You didn’t tell Chet?”


“Sorry. Tell me about Fran leaving, again. No, he’s overwhelmed with a campaign for Polished Polish.”


“I like that brand. Anyway, Fran gave two weeks’ notice.”




“When are you due?”


“After the spring line of nail polish comes out but before the fall line.”


“Evasive much?”


“I weaned Terrance so I could return to eating Ukrainian food and now I’m so woozy that the thought of perogies, let alone of stuffed cabbage, my favorite, sends me hurling.”


“Chet didn’t notice!?”


“All he looks at are the line of nail polish bottles adorning our table. He tested Definitely Daffodil on me, Pretty Pansy on Rutherford, Cute Columbine on Witherspoon, and received a significant wound on his face from trying to put Lovely Lenten Rose on Mr. Henry. He doesn’t realize that I saw him also dab Iridescent Iris on himself. The man’s in no state, this week or even this month, to learn that his brood is about to double in size.”


“Maybe you need a nanny, too.”


“Nope, just animal-friendly nail polish remover. The new stuff stinks worse than the old stuff I used on Withersmith and Rudford for our wedding. I’m guessing our animals hate it.”


“Talk to you tomorrow, Sis?”


“Deal! By the way, I’m sorry you lost one of your nannies.”


“I’m sorry you’re so queasy.”


“Twins’ll look cute in pictures.”




“Why did you ask about Iowa?”


“Tomorrow, Es, tomorrow.”



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