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SID BADLOSS SINGS "The Malignant Wandering Spirit of Darkness" / /. Morris HERE IS SYLVIA, in the audience again. She's hunkered down on the rec-center astroturf, surrounded by kids, but none of them are hers. I play my guitar and sing "The Squeak Squeak Song," Squeak up! goes the refrain, Squeak now or forever hold your peace! Cute. AU the kids get the idea and start squeaking. I stop the song and vamp while I teach them how to do an excellent squeak. The moms and the two or three dads check all this out with nervous smiles (and eyes foreseeing future squeaks at the kitchen table, at lightsout time, in church pews and Burger Kings and cross-country car trips along about Nebraska) while their heirs and progeny squeak hysterically, and properly, on the downbeat. It's a trick of the trade: nothing a kid likes more than making a totally obnoxious noise that has been solicited by a strange singing adult with a beard and an O's cap turned the wrong way around. Sylvia sits amid the squeakers and aims her smile at me. When the gig is over the moms bring their children to meet me, if they care to. Most of them do. My ex-committed relationship used to say that the secret of my success with kids is: I treat 'em like everybody else. Talk funny to 'em, ignore 'em if I feel like it, ask 'em stuff they can't answer. This could be so; they definitely dig me. One of these days I will get around to having some myself. Several moms have brought my CD for me to autograph. Sid Wicter Sings "Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts" and Other Childhood Favorites. Actually, my version of "Great Green Gobs" isn't the childhood favorite one. Mine is G-rated, so as not to offend. Colby Dunn, my agent, insists that my public is pre-K through fourth, and he's supposed to know, it's what I pay him for. Though lately we've had a disagreement or two about that. There on the edge of the crowd, her permablonde hair shining in a bar of October afternoon sun coming down through the skylight, is of course Sylvia. Smiling and clutching another manila envelope. "Here you go," I say to a mildly hysterical girl child, handing her back the CD. She pounds on my flank and says, "Did you sign it? With my name?" The Missouri Review ยท 11 I tell her, "I signed it with my name, to you, Ms. Carolyn French." "Carolyn French," she agrees doubtfully, her face flushed. She jogs from foot to foot. "Come on, sweetie," the mom says. "We have to go peepee." Carolyn French slugs me again on the same rib. "More music," she suggests. "Sing more about the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out." The mom tells me she sure does remember that one from when she was a girl. "I don't know how you sit up there and sing those silly songs. But they just love you, for a fact!" I tell Carolyn, "Don't let those worms crawl into your spinach tonight, baby," then smile at the mom and say, "Thank you so much for coming by, ma'am." They go away. Now the Frenches will be hearing about worms at dinner. That's entertainment. Slowly the moms and dads and kids disperse. "Come on down, Sylvia. Your turn," I mutter, putting my Martin back in its case as I smile and wave to the last of the little ones. Now she's approaching closer. "I can't wait to see you on TV," says the last mom. (Closer still: Sylvia, incoming.) "Saturday mornings, nine a.m., starting in November, and don't forget to shop at Price-rite," I tell her. Tm about to become a local media celebrity. Thank you, Colby; thank you, Price-rite, my dear sponsor. No doubt Sylvia will have some observations to share with me about celebrityhood. Just ignore her. I pick up the guitar-and-case and move my boots across the astroturf, heading for the double doors. Every time, every time...


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