The Bet by Fred Wong

Author’s Note: This story’s inspired by and dedicated to the babysitter perils my friends Helen and Marcy dealt with in high school and college, respectively.

“Thanks again for having us over for dinner, Laura,” thanked Rayda as she and Colt entered her modest house not far from FemForce headquarters. “This is my first time over, how about you, Val?”

“First time here also,” said Colt. “The last time was at Laura’s family estate, wasn’t it? A mansion?”

“Yes, very old money looking,” commented Nightveil as she brought out a small tray of hors d’ouvres. “Way too large for one person to live in alone. This is much cozier.”

“Yes, there’s a certain charm to it,” said Rayda with a smile. “I wouldn’t expect it from the world’s most powerful sorceress.”

“So I’ve heard,” replied Nightveil as opened the bottle of white wine. “Half of the fan letters I’ve received ask if I live in some Gothic castle or a house of Gingerbread.”

“Are you serious?” said Colt with a laugh. “I can understand the castle but a Gingerbread house? What, do they think you try to cook little boys and girls into stew in your off-time when you’re not fighting Alizarin Crimson?”

Nightveil shrugged as Rayda laughed before sampling some hors d’ouvres.

“Dinner’ll be ready in about 40 minutes,” said Nightveil. “It’s still roasting in the oven. Why don’t you put on some music? I just got a new collection of CDs.”

“Okay,” said Rayda as she previewed Nightveil’s CD collection, a bit surprised on what she saw, as they were all big band orchestra music or jazz performers like Elle Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Louie Armstrong.

“Is there a problem, Dyna?” asked Nightveil.

“No, not at all,” replied Rayda as she put in a Duke Ellington CD. “Classic jazz is fine, but I was wondering if you had any music made in the last 20 years, perhaps?”

“What do you mean?” commented Nightveil with an awkward smile. “Are you implying that I’m out of touch?”

“Hold on, hold on,” interrupted Colt. “Dyna, Nightveil was originally the Blue Bulleteer during World War II and got teleported into another dimension to train in the mystic arts. She didn’t return until much later.”

“That explains a lot about the tastes,” said Rayda.

“You didn’t answer my question,” teased Nightveil. “Do you think I’m out of touch with the modern world?”

“Um…kinda, yes,” replied Rayda awkwardly. “I mean, the way you decorate your home, the way you dress when not in costume, and the music…it’s like I’m visiting my grandparents. One time, when they asked one of the other grandchildren what he was saving his allowance money for, he told them it was for a Sony Playstation, and they thought he wanted a jungle gym.”

“I am fully aware of all the latest gadgets today’s children are into,” asserted Nightveil humorously. “I’m just not willing to succumb to every fad that comes out, that’s all.”

“I still have my doubts,” joked Rayda.

* * *

About an hour and a half later Nightveil, Rayda, and Colt had finished the majority of their meal and were shooting the breeze at the dining room table with another round of wine while enjoying their dessert.

“I tell you what,” suggested Rayda. “You want to prove to me that you’re still with it, right? Well, I’ve got a wager for you. You interested?”

“Depends,” said Nightveil as she took another sip of her wine. “What is it?”

“I’m chaperoning a birthday party for my baby cousin Jimmy who’s turning eight this weekend,” explained Rayda. “If you help out and successfully keep them in line, then you win. Let’s say, I wash your car any time you want for a month.”

“And if I lose?” said Nightveil.

“I get you to dress you in the latest fashions for a month,” replied Rayda.

“Easy enough,” chuckled Nightveil confidently.

“Wait a second, I’m not through yet,” added Rayda. “No powers. No magic spells. No showing up in costume to dazzle the kids with lure of meeting Nightveil; just plain ol’ Laura Wright. Still willing to wager?”

“Of course,” asserted Nightveil humorously. “But who’ll be the judge of this contest?”

“I guess that’d be me,” commented Colt. “I didn’t have anything special planned this weekend, anyhow.”

“So, we have a deal?” said Rayda.

“Yep, consider it done.” said Nightveil with a confident smile as they shook hands to seal the deal.

* * *

The weekend of truth soon arrived, as Rayda and Colt picked up Nightveil and took her to Rayda’s sister’s home. The party wasn’t to start for about an hour, giving them time to freshen up and finish setting up. Rayda and Colt were dressed fairly casually, with a comfortable mock turtleneck longsleeve shirt and jeans while Nightveil was in a light spring dress

“What’d you bring?” asked Rayda, a little surprised to see Nightveil ride with them with a large paper bag.

“Oh, just some party games, like pin the tail on the donkey, a small pinata, and some others,” explained Nightveil, noticing strange looks from Rayda and Colt.

“Laura, no one really plays pin the tail of the donkey anymore,” said Colt, “But then again, I was kind of a tomboy growing up, and played football at my parties.”

“I just bought these yesterday at the party store in town,” replied Nightveil.

“Where? Don’s Party Store?” asked Rayda.

“Yes, I think so,” answered Nightveil. “Why?”

“Most of what he sells is clearance party supplies from years ago,” explained Rayda. “Look at the copyright on it…1970.”

“Well, what do you have planned then?” asked Nightveil as she put the items back in the bag.

“Follow me,” said Rayda.

“Don’t get too down, Laura, we might use them later,” suggested Colt as Rayda led them to the main living room, where three large big screen televisions were on display.

“What are those for? You’re showing movies for the party?” asked Nightveil.

“Hardly,” said Rayda as she pulled out some black boxes. “I rented these three televisions along with three sets of the hottest new video game system; we’re having a video game tournament.”

“You’re kidding,” said Colt in disbelief.

“Not at all. I got the idea from another birthday party I helped out in a couple of months ago,” commented Rayda. “For that one the family rented the whole video arcade for the afternoon, which cost them an arm and a leg. This cost a third of what they paid.”

“Aren’t the newest games for that system tailored towards teens?” asked Nightveil. “They’re awfully violent and graphic.”

“Got it covered,” said Rayda. “My sister and I picked out a cool racing car game and tested it out. It’s called Daytona 5000 and they can use either modern or futuristic racing cars. Just cool cars and lots of speed.”

Nightveil picked up the controller, a bit perplexed by the number of buttons.

“Isn’t this kind of advanced for an eight year old?” asked Nightveil. “Wouldn’t a simpler video game system like an Atari be easier?”

Rayda looked up confused and said, “What’s an Atari?”

* * *

An hour later the kids arrived, and including the guest of honor, Jimmy, the total was twelve little boys as they exchanged high-fives and placed their gifts on the main table. Nightveil and Jimmy’s Mom, Sheila, were in the kitchen were finished heating up some pizza rolls and placed them on the tray, while Colt and Rayda were still connecting all the video game systems together and setting up the tournament rules.

“The natives are getting restless,” joked Rayda, overhearing Jimmy and his friends running around, laughing and screaming while impersonating their favorite television superheroes.

“I still need to clean up some things here,” said Sheila. “Laura, why don’t you entertain the kids until Dyna and Val finish up in the living room. There’re plenty of toys in the rec room.”

“Okay,” agreed Laura as she herded the kids into the rec room.

“Hello, everyone, I’m Laura,” greeted Nightveil.

“Hello, Miss Laura,” replied the kids in unison.

“Would you like to play a game?” offered Nightveil.

“Sure!” said Todd happily, one of Jimmy’s friends.

“What game, then?” asked Nightveil.

Todd and Jimmy’s other friend Kyle whispered a suggestion into Jimmy’s ear, as Jimmy nodded yes as he said, “How about the Perils of Penelope?”

“Um, okay…” replied Nightveil. “I’ve never heard of that game before.”

“That’s okay, we’ll teach you how,” said Kyle.

* * *

About ten minutes passed as Rayda and Colt had everything set up while all the food for the party was ready to go. Rayda had written down how the tournament was to go, so everyone had a chance to play plenty of times throughout the day.

“Well, it’s all set up,” commented Rayda. “Let’s reel them in.”

As Sheila got out some more napkins and small paper plates, Rayda and Colt went to the recreation to check on Nightveil and start the video racing game tournament. When they arrived, Rayda and Colt wound Nightveil tied to a chair with an excessive amount of rope and gagged with a cloth!

“What’ll it be, Penelope? The buzzsaw or the bomb?” teased Kyle in a funny voice, using an old tablecloth as a cloak.

“MMPH!” protested Nightveil.

“What on earth….?” said Colt in disbelief.

“Oh my,” added Rayda, trying hard not to laugh. “I wouldn’t expect this to happen to the world’s most powerful sorceress!”

“What do we do?” asked Colt.

“I’ll take care of it,” assured Rayda.

“Okay, Hooded Claw…” called out Rayda. “Let’s fast forward from damsel in distress land to the racing pit, shall we? Are any of you ready to race?”

“YEAH!” cheered the kids.

“All righty then, let’s go!” replied Rayda, imitating Donald Duck’s voice. The kids put the toys back on the shelf and followed Rayda to the living room to start the tournament. Colt remained behind in the recreation room and started to untie Nightveil, removing the gag first.

“Are you okay?” asked Colt as she began untying the knots.

“DOES IT LOOK LIKE I’M OKAY????” blurted out Nightveil. “I CAN’T BELIEVE THOSE LITTLE HEATHENS DID THIS TO ME!!! I’M GOING TO PUT THOSE BRATS ON MY KNEES AND…NO, WAIT! I’M GOING TO WASH OUT THEIR MOUTHS WITH SOAP!!!!”

“Easy, Laura, easy…” replied Colt. “You really can’t spank or punish other people’s kids nowadays…”

“I know, I know…” answered Nightveil as she took a couple of deep breaths and calmed down. “I just can’t believe this happened. I mean, I’ve gone toe to toe against the Black Shroud and just got tricked into being tied up by a bunch of seven year olds!”

“Well, there IS a difference,” commented Colt as she removed some more rope. “The seven year olds are smarter…”

* * *

About an hour later the party was well under way with Rayda and Jimmy’s Mom Sheila were running the video game tournament as the kids rotated in and out for snacks. Inside the kitchen Nightveil and Colt were serving food and cleaning up the occasional spill that occurred.

“What’s the matter, Laura?” asked Colt.

“I’m just grimacing about Dyna winning our bet,” pouted Nightveil. “She’s going to try and dress me up like Britney Spears or someone worse.”

“The party’s barely started, Laura, you’re doing fine,” assured Colt. “I’m the judge in this, after all.”

“Are you kidding me? Look at her and look at me!” replied Nightveil. “Dyna has them eating out of her hands and me, well, you SAW what happened to me! Tied up like a some damsel in distress in the silent movies.”

“Well, the mischievous whim of trying to tie up the babysitter is in all little boys,” pointed out Colt, hiding her smile.

“You say that as if you know from experience,” replied Nightveil skeptically.

“Like I said, Laura, I was a tomboy growing up,” reminded Colt. “I played the same games the boys down the street played; I’ll leave it at that.”

* * *

Meanwhile, outside the once clear skies over Florida turned cloudy as a thunderstorm quickly loomed in overhead. Within another half hour a steady rain was coming down, followed by flashing lightning and booming thunder. As the weather took a turn for the worse, another flash of lightning struck and impacted the local power grid, as power failed within a several block radius.

“Uh-oh…” muttered Rayda.

“Aw, man, the power’s out!” muttered Kyle along with the other kids attending the party.

“Now what do we do?” asked Todd.

“I want to go home…” whispered Eric.

Nightveil’s eyes lit up instantly as she came out and put up the donkey poster on the wall as she said, “Well, you all did okay on the video games, but I think it’s time you all get a real test of dexterity. Pin the tail on the donkey.”

“What’re you talking about, Miss Laura? Pin the tail on the donkey’s the easiest game in the world,” insisted Jason, a party guest.

“Great, then you’ll go first and show us how easy it is,” replied Laura as she covered his eyes with a blindfold and then spun him around clockwise, then counterclockwise, and then maneuvered him around the room a bit before spinning him around a few more times.

“Now, no help from the outsiders, got it?” ordered Nightveil and Colt flashed the “Shhh” signal with her finger over her mouth.

Jason stumbled about, extremely disoriented as he cast the tail. Upon removing the blindfold. everyone laughed in the fact that Jason missed the donkey’s body by at least four whole feet.

“Not as easy, is it?” giggled Nightveil.

“Here, let me give it shot!” insisted Kyle.

“No, me!” blurted out Eric.

“One moment, one moment. You’ll all get a chance,” stated Nightveil politely as she blindfolded Jimmy next.

* * *

About two hours later the power was restored as the party drew to a close, as young Jimmy blew out the candles and opened his gifts with his friends by candlelight that gave the room a magical aura. Not long after the cake was served it was time to go, as parents soon arrived to pick up their kids. As the last of the party guests left, Nightveil, Rayda, and Colt helped clean up while Sheila and Jimmy were saying goodbye.

“Fun party,” commented Colt. “I think the kids had a blast.”

“So, have you reached a decision?” asked Rayda as she wiped off some dishes.

“Well, I haven’t really given it much thought yet,” admitted Colt.

“Rayda won,” muttered Nightveil. “I was the one who got tied up by them and had to get rescued. Dyna corralled them up and had control the entire time with the high-tech toys she got.”

“I wouldn’t go that far, Laura,” admitted Rayda. “I really didn’t know what to do when the power went out and those party games you ran were a real hit. That pinata was amazing; there’s something to be said about that old-fashioned style of yours.”

“Well, I believe you’ve already settled it then,” said Colt with a smile.

“What do you mean? Who won?” asked Rayda.

“You both did,” answered Colt. “Both of you had your hiccups, but you pretty much had things under control the entire time. You don’t see Sheila complaining, do you?”

Laura smiled as she said to Rayda, “Dyna, I’d like my interior vacuumed also after you wash my car tomorrow, please.”

Rayda smiled also as she fired back, “Sure, and you can drive us straight to the mall afterwards; Express Internationale and The Limited are having storewide sales.”

The End