When You Gotta Go
Friday, August 10, 1990
"Lee, we need you here now." Francine told him. "There's no room for discussion."
"You don't think I know that?" Lee's voice rose as he paced the length of the living room, the cordless clenched in his hand. "But until the sitter comes there's not a whole hell of a lot I can do."
"What about someone else?"
"Like who, exactly? Amanda and the boys are visiting Georgetown this weekend and Dotty's at her book club." In his head he could hear his voice telling Dotty to go ahead, that he had everything under control.
If only he'd known—
"Surely there must be somebody." Francine's voice brought him back to the present. "I don't know—some teenager around the neighborhood who wants to make some extra cash?"
"I'm not entrusting my daughter to some random teenager," Lee looked at his watch. "Laurie was supposed to be here at 8:30—maybe she's just running a little late."
At least that's what he hoped it was. But if she didn't turn up soon—
"Congresswoman Faber does not care about your child care difficulties," Francine replied. "She's the chairwoman of the Agency Oversight Committee and she wants—"
"Francine, at the moment Congresswoman Faber can kiss my—" Lee drew in a deep breath and let it out, running one hand back through his hair. "Look—I'll figure out something—I'll be there."
"Well, I'll try to stall her as long as I can."
"You could always come and babysit again if you like."
A sharp intake of breath. "Never," Francine told him. "I will never babysit for you again, Lee Stetson—you hear me?"
Lee felt a grin spreading across his face—he loved teasing Francine. "But she mostly goes to the bathroom all by herself now," he told her. "And she doesn't drool—and she hardly ever throws food anymore—"
A click, followed by a dial tone. With a sigh Lee replaced the receiver in the charger. Another glance at his watch told him that it was 9:05.
'What the hell am I going to do?'
Then it came to him—the only thing he could do.
SMK SMK SMK SMK
His daughter hung on to the back part of the crib with one arm—the other arm clutched the side rail—bare feet dangled precariously over the side, kicking the air.
"Daddy help—I stuck!" she cried out. In two strides Lee was beside his daughter, plucking her from the side of the crib and placing her on the floor. He bent down and hugged her to him briefly, whispering a prayer of relief that she was all right—he'd gotten here just in time. Still holding Jenna's arms he pulled back, looking into her face.
"Listen to me—I want you to promise that you'll never do that again, all right? You really scared Daddy—I don't want anything to happen to you. Okay?"
Jenna nodded. "'kay"
"Good girl," Lee kissed her forehead and ruffled her silky blond hair. "You know—you're supposed to be taking a morning nap, munchkin—I told you to stay in the crib, didn't I?"
"No—no stay— no nap." Jenna's lower lip stuck out—dark eyes mutinous—her mother's eyes. Come to think of it, Amanda had never wanted to stay put either.
"All right," he told Jenna. "Well in that case, how would you like to go out? Huh?"
"Watch Pooh?" Jenna asked. That was her most favorite cartoon at the moment, Lee knew—she'd dance around the family room whenever the theme song came on.
"We're not going to watch Pooh right now," he told her. "Right now, we're going to see where Daddy works."
"Work?" Jenna repeated.
"Yeah, we'll go to my office—you'll see Billy, there—and Francine too—it'll be fun."
"We'll watch Pooh later, munchkin. I promise. But right now Daddy really needs to go to work." He vividly recalled the last time Congresswoman Faber had been here—she'd ruthlessly dug through his expense accounts dating back to '73—forcing him to account for every expenditure—from ink pens all the way to lady's underwear. "Want to go to work with Daddy, munchkin?"
Jenna paused. "'Kay."
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"El'vator?" Jenna said as they stepped inside the closet.
"That's right," Lee told her. He held her as he ducked under the coats—taking care that she didn't hit her head.
"What's that?" she pointed a tiny finger at the row of buttons.
"Those are buttons—you press one for the floor you want to visit."
"Want—pease?" Jenna reached out towards the buttons.
"Here," Lee took her hand and helped her press the right button. "See? there you go." Jenna laughed delightedly as the elevator began to descend. The machine came to a halt with a slight jerk—there was a soft chime as the doors slid open. Once again Lee cradled his child's head as they ducked under the coats.
"Want down!" Jenna announced as they neared the bullpen.
"All right," Lee put her down. "Just hold on to Daddy's hand."
"'kay." Her little hand wrapped around his larger one.
"I'm glad you're here," Francine was waiting as they entered the bullpen. "What—" she said as her eyes fell on Jenna.
"Our sitter didn't come," Lee explained, "I had to bring her—I didn't have a choice."
"Hi, Fwanceen," Jenna said.
"Hello Jenna." Francine smiled briefly at the youngster before turning back to Lee. "Lee, just what are you—"
"There you are," Billy walked up to them. "Faber's about to climb the walls—she's waiting for you in my office."
"Yeah, well tell the Dragon Lady she can wait a little longer," Lee replied.
"Bee!" Jenna let go of his hand and wrapped herself around Billy's legs.
"Hey there, Jenna!" Billy smiled down at her. "And just how are you doing today?"
Jenna smiled back. "I fine."
"And I'm glad to hear it." Billy gave Lee a questioning glance.
"The sitter didn't come," Lee told him. "I didn't know what else to do."
"So there you are."
Congresswoman Inez Faber's voice could have frozen water solid. Her red hair practically quivered with indignation—eyes glared at Lee from behind a pair of spectacles. Jenna shrank away from the woman as she approached, clutching Lee's legs.
"I'm glad that you bothered to turn up, Mr. Stetson," she told him. "I was beginning to worry."
"I—ah—I had some family issues." Lee said.
"So I gather." The congresswoman looked down at Jenna, reminding him of a scientist regarding a bug underneath a microscope. "And who exactly is this?"
"This is my daughter, Jenna." Lee replied. "Say hi, Jenna."
"Hi, Dwagon lady," Jenna told her.
Ooops—Lee winced inwardly as he remembered his words from earlier—he really needed to start watching what he said.
"I'm sorry—what?" the congresswoman asked sharply. "What does she mean?"
"Nothing," Lee gave the woman what he hoped was a disarming grin. "She must have picked that up from cartoons are something—she's been saying that to everyone—you know kids."
Congresswoman Faber sniffed. "Actually no— I've never cared for children. "
Jenna tugged on Lee's hand. "Daddy—"
"In a minute, munchkin."
"Daddy—go—" Jenna told him.
"I said not now," Lee told her. "Daddy has things to do first."
"Look—" the congresswoman said. "Since Ms. Desmond has all of your expense reports in your office, might it be advisable to leave that—child—in someone else's care—at least temporarily?"
'Gee thanks, I never would've thought of that.' Out loud Lee replied. "Thank you—I'll certainly do that."
Another tug on his hand. "Daddy, Pooh—" Jenna's voice grew louder. "Go—pease?"
"I said not now—we'll watch Winnie the Pooh later." Lee told his daughter.
"Uh—uh—no—no—" Jenna whined as she tugged—her entire weight now practically dangling from his wrist. "Gotta go Pooh—now—pooh—"
"Jenna," Lee managed to loosen her grip—every eye fastened on him as he crouched down to Jenna's level. "Stop this—I'm not kidding—stop it right now."
His daughter's screech filled the room.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion—Lee watched in horror as Jenna pulled her pants and pull-ups down right in front of everyone—the items pooling around her feet— behind him the congresswoman gasped audibly.
"Gotta go." Jenna repeated. "Now."
That kind of poo, Lee realized— that was what she'd meant –not the bear at all. Dead silence reigned in the bullpen. Moving quickly Lee yanked up his daughter's pull-up and then her pants. He scooped her into his arms and Jenna rested her head against his shoulder, her thumb in her mouth.
"If you'll excuse me, Congresswoman Faber," he told her. "I have some pressing business to take care of—I'll be back shortly."
"Really, Mr. Stetson—I—"
Lee didn't wait to hear what else the woman had to say. He left the bullpen—heading quickly towards the main restrooms.
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Lee hesitated, looking at both doors.
This would all be so much easier if the Agency had a family restroom—then again, what would be the need for it? He sighed, running one hand back through his hair.
'Think this through, Scarecrow.' On one hand Jenna was a girl—she might be more comfortable in the ladies' room—she went in there with Amanda, and she was used to it. But on the other hand—
As if on cue a bunch of women from the steno pool walked by—their eyes caught Lee's and they giggled, bending their heads close together as if sharing a private joke.
Had they seen what Jenna did? He couldn't be sure. Lee knew that the image of his little girl standing in the middle of the bullpen with her pants down would be indelibly etched in his memory. Amanda had said that Jenna was supposed to let them know when she needed to go, but that—
Another woman walked by, giving him a curious glance as she passed.
"Daddy!" Jenna squirmed in his arms. "Have—to go—"
That was when Lee made his decision.
"We're going to go in the men's room, Jenna, okay?"
"That's right. Just let Daddy put his head in and check first."
"I'm hurrying, munchkin—let me put you down now—hold Daddy's hand."
Holding on to Jenna's fingers Lee opened the door and poked his head around the corner. Good so far—he didn't see anyone.
"Hello?" his voice echoed. "Is anyone there?"
"Hewwo?" Jenna called out.
"Quiet," Lee told her. For a moment he paused, listening for a voice, for tell-tale noises that would let him know someone was there.
Nothing. They were in the clear. He let out a breath that he didn't know he'd been holding.
"Okay, Jenna, we're in the clear—come on." He led her into the room. Jenna's little head turned this way and that—dark eyes wide, taking everything in.
"What those?" she pointed. Lee's eyes followed her finger—he realized that she was pointing towards the urinals. Of course Jenna would be curious about those—they didn't have them in the ladies.
On the other hand now was definitely not the time and place for a discussion of how boys and girls were different.
"Um—" Lee's mind raced—his hand went up his collar, loosening it. "Those are—they're sinks.'
"Wash hands?" Jenna asked.
"Yeah—people—people wash their hands. Come on, munchkin, we really need to get a move on, huh?"
"Get a move on!" Jenna repeated—giggling at the phrase. Lee opened a stall door, checking to make sure the toilet was clean.
"This is fine," he told her. Jenna pulled her pants down and he helped her climb up on the seat. "I'll be right outside—let me know when you're done."
She grinned. "I will, Daddy." Lee shut the stall door and stood outside. Several minutes passed—he checked his watch.
"I almost done!" she called out.
"That's very good."
At that moment the door opened. Lee's heart sank as Beaman entered the room.
"Morning, Stetson. Are you—"
"I'm—I'm just waiting."
"I see," Beaman replied. "Waiting for—"
Beaman shook his head bemusedly as he moved towards the urinals. Lee's mind raced. He couldn't let Jenna out of the stall if Beaman was planning on—
"What are you doing?" he asked him.
Beaman stared at him. "Kind of a personal question, don't you think?"
"Could you—could you just wait?" Lee asked.
"Wait?" the other man repeated. "What am I waiting for? What are you waiting for?"
"Daddy! I done going poo!"
His child's voice seemed to bounce off the walls. Lee closed his eyes briefly, fighting for composure.
"Oh, I see." Beaman grinned. "I think someone needs to see you, Daddy—and I'll see you later."
"Yeah, later." Lee muttered. He opened the stall door—Jenna had grabbed some toilet paper and was trying valiantly to wipe herself.
"Here, let me help you, munchkin." He took the toilet paper from her and carefully wiped from front to back. "Is that all right?"
"Fine," Jenna replied. Lee helped her off the seat and put the toilet paper in the toilet.
"You flush, 'kay?"
"Okay, I'll flush." Lee pushed the lever down while Jenna stepped back, hands over her ears. He opened the stall door and they both came out.
"Now let's wash your hands," he told her. "Then we can both—"
"Sinks?" Jenna headed straight towards the urinals—
"Jenna no," he held her back. "Not there."
"But—I going—wash hands."
"I know—but let's use these sinks over here—these sinks on the other wall—they're better."
"Sinks on the wall?"
"Yeah. Come over here and Daddy will help you wash your hands."
SMK SMK SMK SMK
"Hi there again, Jenna." Billy greeted her as they entered the bullpen, Jenna clutching his hand. Apart from a few stares and whispers the place seemed to have recovered from Jenna's big scene, though Lee had no doubt that he would be water cooler gossip for quite some time.
"Hi, Bee!" Jenna said. Billy bent down and lifted the toddler into his arms.
"Listen—your daddy has some work to do—and it so happens I found a bunch of toys in my office."
"Toys?" Jenna repeated.
"A whole bunch of toys," Billy told her. "And a coloring book and some crayons."
"Yay!" Jenna exclaimed, and Billy chuckled.
"Thank you," Lee told his boss. "Though I have to warn you—she may find your walls more appealing than the coloring book."
"Well I think the walls can stand it, Stetson," Billy told him. "You're not the only one who ever had to take a child to work."
At that point Francine and Congresswoman Faber came up.
"Lee?" Francine said. "I think that—"
"I know," Lee replied. "I'm ready. Jenna, Daddy has to go do some work—so you stay with Billy and I'll see you real soon, okay?"
Jenna nodded. " 'kay, Daddy—bye—bye Fwanceen."
"Bye, Jenna." Francine shook the toddler's hand.
"Bye," Jenna extended her hand to the Congresswoman, who shook it automatically.
"I went poo," Jenna told her—still keeping a grip on the woman's hand. "I went potty in men's woom."
"That's ah—that's—very nice—" The congresswoman was beginning to turn distinctly pale. Jenna rambled on, oblivious to the woman's discomfort.
"I wash my hands in other sinks on the wall—see?"
"Other sinks on the—"
"She doesn't mean the—" But Congresswoman Faber wasn't listening. She jerked her hands away from Jenna's as though she'd been burnt. "If you'll just excuse me for one moment, Mr. Stetson. I have to—" with that she practically ran out of the bullpen.
Jenna grinned. "Dwagon lady."