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Fiction #200
(published November 11, 2004)
A Joke Gone Too Far
by Maggie Keyserling
Thanks for coming by so quickly, Officer Officer Quinn. I'm Janet Lucas. I'm glad they sent you; I asked for a female officer. I only found out what happened this afternoon in bits and pieces; that's why I didn't call the police this morning when I picked Katie up from the Bernosky's. Susan Bernosky has been a friend of mine for years, and Katie goes to school with Ellen at Boca Elementary. Katie spends the night there all the time when I need to work an extra shift; they're great folks.

Anyway, when I called them yesterday to see if Katie could spend the night, Mr. Bernosky—Mike—said that Susan and Ellen were out of town for the weekend, but he and his oldest daughter, Sherrie, would be at the house. He said to bring Katie over and they'd order pizza and watch movies.

I like going to Ellen's house. She has a big room with lots of stuffed animals. Sherrie wasn't there very long; I think she had a date. Mike ordered pizza and we watched the Cartoon Network. When it got dark I got scared and wanted to call my mom, but Mike said she was busy at work. I took my medicine and he let me sit on the recliner with him.

It's like this, Officer. Katie was sitting on the couch watching TV in her shorts and tank top, and I was reading the paper right here in my recliner. Every now and then I'd look over at her and she'd be staring at me, giggling, rolling around on the couch. Katie's a very hyper child; she takes Ritalin. Ellen says Katie acts up in school; I think she wants the attention she's not getting at home. Her mother works way too much. But Susan has known Janet for years, so we welcome Katie into our home.

You know how girls can be, don't you, Officer? I'm glad you're smiling; you know what I'm talking about. Hell, you're a woman. When did you start flirting with boys? I'm sure you had a crush on some older guy in your family or a neighbor, right? Girls learn how to flirt at an early age, and Katie was laying it on thick. Susan has told me how wild Janet used to be, and given that Janet is a single mom and dates, I'm sure Katie knows a lot even though she's only ten.

Katie exaggerates from time to time, Officer Quinn, and that's the first thing that came to mind when she finally told me what happened. I've let her watch way too much cable TV. But then I remembered how upset Katie was when she called me. When? Between three and four this morning.

She's never called me to come pick her up early. When I got there, Mike said that maybe he'd teased her a little too much; it was a joke that went too far. Katie didn't say anything, so I decided to wait her out.

I know the difference between the truth and a lie. The truth is what really happens. A lie is when you make something up so you don't get in trouble. I told my mom the truth; I don't know why I waited.

I felt safe when I sat on the recliner with Mike. We watched Mrs. Doubtfire and he was nice. When the movie was over he told me to put on my nightgown. He tucked me in Ellen's bed and told me goodnight, but I couldn't sleep. It was different because Ellen wasn't there. I was scared so I went to his room. He was watching TV in bed.

He told me I could watch the movie with him. I was on my side and he was on his side, but behind me. I didn't watch all of the movie; I fell asleep but woke up when I heard a car door slam.

I was afraid. I didn't remember where I was, but Mike said, "it's okay, Katie," and then I remembered and felt better. I gave him a hug, then tried to go back to sleep. I turned away from him and I felt him behind me and I still felt safe. But then he started saying things to me, and I got scared again because he said he was going to eat my cat.

Katie said she was afraid and didn't want to sleep in Ellen's room alone, but you and I know better, right Officer? We watched the movie; she fell asleep— probably pretended to fall asleep— then woke up and said she was scared. No, I didn't hear any car door slam.

Then you know what she did, Officer? She gave me a hug— I mean she really pressed her body into mine; she knew what she was doing. Then she did what all girls learn to do right after they learn to flirt: she played hard to get. She turned away and pretended to sleep.

Yeah, she was playing with me, but I figured I'd teach her a lesson. I asked her if she wanted me to eat her pussy. She didn't say anything, so I put my hand under her nightgown and touched her— on her panties! I didn't go under her panties or anything like that. I'm not stupid.

When she first told me my gut reaction as a mother was to call the police, but I think I've made a big deal out of nothing, Officer Quinn. Susan and Mike are good, decent people. I think Katie was upset because Ellen and Susan weren't there. If Mike were going to do something to Katie, he would have done it long before now, don't you think? I just can't imagine; I mean, I would've seen it coming. Do you believe her?

He put his hand under my nightgown and touched my panties and I was scared. I didn't know what to do. He rolled me on my back, then he pulled up my nightgown, and he .and he

I don't know! I don't! He kissed my I don't want to talk anymore. I'm sorry I was dirty and bad.

No, Katie didn't stop me, Officer. If she would have said no I would've stopped, but she didn't because she wanted it. I only kissed THE TOP of her panties.

No, I didn't "pull down her panties" and kiss her pussy. You think I'm nuts? She said she was cold, so I pulled her gown back down, then she left the room.

Then I heard her downstairs on the phone with Janet. When she hung up I told her she ought to come back upstairs, but she said she was waiting for her mom. So I sat on the stairs until Janet got here. I told Janet I went too far joking around with Katie, and that's why she was crying. That's all it was, officer: a joke gone too far.

I think we should just let it go, Officer Quinn. I'm going to look like an idiot if you talk to Mike about this. Susan and I are close. If you say something then Katie and I both lose our best friends.

No, that's not it; I can find a sitter if I need too. I don't think I like your tone, Officer Quinn. I would never put my daughter in danger.

Fine. Will you let me know what he says?

Why do you want me to stand up, officer? Put my hands behind my back? Can I call my wife? Let me just call Janet and apologize. Jesus, it was just a misunderstanding.

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