Lessons by Frederick Foote

 “Drew, brother of mine, it is with reluctance and trepidation that I leave you in charge of the three most precious beings in my life.”

“Gwen, no worries, Sis. I have learned my lessons. I’ll not be teaching them how to drive or make Molotov cocktails or how to catch card cheats. I’m a much improved child care provider. I’ll do you proud.”

“Brother, what was on your mind?”

“Gwen, these are uncertain times. I just wanted them to be ready for anything, you know?”

“Drew, I don’t know how your mind works. I do know I need this job. I’ll be calling to check on you as frequently as I can.”

“Not necessary. I’ve learned and grown so much since my last childcare assignment.”

Drew, that was two weeks ago. And don’t help them with their homework. I mean it. I don’t want to respond to any more calls from their teachers.”

“I hear you, Sis. I got this. Hey, the traffic is heavy at this time of day. Shouldn’t you be on your way?”

“Drew, don’t make me regret this again, please.”

Drew and Gwen step into her apartment and Drew is greeted with hugs and shouts of joy from eight-year-old June, ten-year-old Dawson, and 12-year-old Lucy.

“Okay, okay, you guys know the rules. Remember what I told you. I should really be paying you three to keep an eye on my brother. I love you. Call me anytime if you need me.”

Gwen hugs each of them goodbye before she leaves, and whispers in her brother’s ear, “This is your last chance to be a reliable uncle. Don’t fuck it up.”

Gwen leaves biting her fingernails and wondering if it would be better to leave the kids home alone.

June is tugging at her uncle’s hand, “Uncle Drew, are we going to be blown up by nuclear missiles? Dawson said Russia was going to launch IBMs at us. Are we all going to die?”

Lucy adds, “Mom said that it is extremely unlikely that Russia will risk using nuclear weapons.”

Dawson explains, “Moms say stuff like that. It’s part of their job to keep us from being scared. But that doesn’t make it true.”

Drew holds June’s hand. “First things first, food. Have you had breakfast?”

The answer is no, and there is a stampede into the small kitchen to make chocolate, blueberry, and banana waffles.

“Why are you guys up so early on a Saturday? I thought you would be sleeping in until ten.”

Lucy answers as she chews the last of her banana waffle, “We knew you were going to babysit. We didn’t want to waste any of our time together. Are we going to do more cool stuff like last time?”

Dawson interjects, “No way! Mom would bury Uncle Drew.” 

A frustrated June asks, “So, are we going to get blown up or not?”

Drew turns to June. “Look it up on your phones, but I think there are nine or ten nations with nuclear weapons. I know that list includes the US, the UK, China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Israel, France, and North Korea. So, I would not trust any of those jokers to wash my dirty underwear. They are inherently untrustworthy.”

June questions her uncle, “Aren’t we trustworthy?”

“Heck no,” shouts Dawson, “We’re the only nation to use atomic weapons on people. We are probably the least trustworthy, in my opinion.”

Lucy shakes her head in disagreement, “No, that was a long time ago. Russia is just plain evil, evil, evil. They just can’t stop invading their neighbors.”

Drew adds, “Yeah, that’s true but we started a war with Mexico and invaded Canada twice.”

Lucy blinks in disbelief, “No way, we invaded Canada twice.” Lucy’s fingers flash over her phone as she seeks to disprove her uncle’s statement.

June sighs, “If none of them can be trusted, then we are in trouble, right Uncle Drew?”

Drew nods yes, “We are in trouble, June, no doubt about it.” 

Dawson cries triumphantly, “See, I told you.”

Lucy mutters, “We invaded Canada in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. We are not such good neighbors.”

Drew nods in assent, “No Nation or individual or group should be trusted with atomic weapons. Nuclear weapons shouldn’t exist. We must help people understand that. And once we get enough people to understand that, maybe we can move toward disarmament.”

June sighs in relief, “So, we aren’t going to die from nuclear weapons, huh?”

“I didn’t say that. What I’m saying is that it is a manageable problem if enough people realize how dangerous our situation is. If we can put pressure on our government and our government can put pressure on other governments, we might have a chance to avoid nuclear warfare.”

Dawson adds, “Good luck with that. I think we are more likely to get war than disarmament. You want to bet on that, Uncle?”

“Dawson, you have to give me like 20 to 1 odds. Okay, let’s clean up this kitchen before your mother goes nuclear on all of us.”

Drew answers his cell phone as they complete the kitchen cleanup. “Sis, all is well. We had breakfast. And we’re cleaning up behind ourselves. You’ll be so proud of us.” Drew moves into the living room while the kids complete their kitchen chores.

“Yeah, June did ask about that. No, she didn’t tell me she was having nightmares about nuclear annihilation.  We had a good discussion. I think she understands that it is a manageable situation. Do you want to speak to them? Okay. How’s the job going? Good. I’ll get back to you later.”

Lucy yells, “Ta-Da! It’s all clean. Come see, Uncle Drew. Can we go to the park now? We need to go early before it gets hot.”

As they walk to the park, June is working her phone full time.

Drew asks, “What are you up to, June?”

“I’m texting my friends about getting rid of nuclear weapons. I think I can get my whole class to write a letter to the president. Or we may get the whole school to write a letter. That would be sweet!”

Drew and June bump fists.

Drew pulls out his phone. “That’s a brilliant idea. I’m going to contact my friends too. You’re too cool, June.”

Dawson pulls out his phone, “Yeah, it can’t hurt. Nice going, sis.”

Lucy frowns and runs in front of the trio shouting at them, “Aw, that won’t work. It takes too long. We’ll all be radioactive dust by then. Come on. Let’s see who’s on the basketball court.”

June screams at her sister, “Lucy you’re so fucking stupid! We have to try.”

They all freeze as they are mesmerized by the bright flash on the horizon.