Title: Mother’s Helper
Author: A. Bates (Auline Bates)
Published: August 1991
Tagline: Rock-a-bye-bye-baby . . .
Description: Her dream job is about to turn into a nightmare.
Becky can hardly believe it. Spending the summer as a mother’s helper on a romantic island, earning money for college and working on her tan at the same time – what a lucky break!
Too bad . . . Becky’s luck is about to change.
Soon the accidents will start happening – and the phone calls. Suddenly Becky’s island paradise will seem more like a prison. Becky will be plenty scared then. Mother’s helper is going to need all the help she can get.
That description is bullshit. There are no accidents, and the phone calls are literally just the phone ringing over and over – Becky never answers the phone. Nothing fucking happens in this book until the end.
Wait, that’s not how I usually start these recaps, is it? K. Sorry. Let’s try this again.
This book was released the month I turned ten. I probably didn’t read it that early, I’d say it was probably a couple years after that, although I do seem to be able to picture myself reading this in the house I lived in when I was ten, so it’s anyone’s guess. I didn’t remember this one very well, or else I probably wouldn’t have bothered rereading it. I think I’ve been putting off writing this recap, not only because I’ve been sick (which I have – goddamn respiratory flu won’t let go of me) but also because I know I’m not going to have fun writing the recap of this damn book. It’s not even fun-bad; it’s just fucking boring.
God help us. We open with our plucky young heroine, Becky Collier (I don’t know if this is pronounced Colly-er or Coll-yay, and I don’t really care), sunbathing in the secluded backyard of the cabin she’s au pairing in, thinking about what a cushy gig this is compared to flipping burgers in foggy Seattle and watching her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend flirt with each other. Groovy. The baby she’s watching is in the house instead of anywhere she could actually, you know, watch him, and we don’t fucking know why yet. Also, no baby monitor, because it’s so much more convenient to jump up and peep in the window every few minutes.
I gotta make a little aside here about Becky’s name. I literally can’t think of anything but Full House when I read her name – Becky as in Uncle Jesse’s wife, and Collier is close enough to Coulier as in Dave Coulier aka Joey Gladstone. This stupid book has me nostalgic for shit it’s got nothing to do with, simply because of a name similarity. Weird, huh?
Becky makes herself a makeshift halter top by looping the bottom of her shirt through the neckhole, and god help me, I think this book is where I learned to do that. Fuck. Becky hears twigs snapping, and immediately jumps up and returns her shirt to its normal state even though it was literally less revealing than a bikini top, then thinks to herself that the noise has to be a person trampling around where no one should be, because there are no animals on this island. Really? No one owns a dog or cat? There are no squirrels or chipmunks? Not a bird in sight? No animals at fucking all, Becky? Then Becky ramps up the melodrama by thinking to herself that the silence and the shadows seem alive and threatening, and she was keenly aware that the nearest neighbors are half a mile away through the forest (the forest that contains no animals whatsoever) – far enough away that no one could hear her call for help!
We’re on page two, guys. Page. Fucking. Two. I just . . . ugh.
A teenage guy steps out from the trees, Becky demands to know who he is, and he tells her he’s Cleve Davidson, and oh my god, Cleve?! Is that short for Cleveland? Is this Family Guy? Then he tells her he came, and I bet you did, Cleve. I bet you did. Okay, he actually says, “I came . . .” then trails off, then changes his sentence to ask where John Hillyer is, and Becky tells him that Hillyer rented the cabin to “us.” Then she internally exposits to us about how her employer, Mrs. Nelson, explained that this island, Sebastian, is isolated and a great place to get away because no one will ask questions or pry. Anyone else here thinking that Mrs. Nelson doesn’t have a clue how small towns work? (I’m unfamiliar with small islands, but I’m assuming they’re similar to small towns.)
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that Cleve starts to pry. He asks Becky who all’s staying in the cabin (just her and her “aunt”, did someone say baby? There’s no baby here!), then compliments her hair (which is so long she can sit on it), tells her it reminds him of Rapunzel, and starts talking about how much he likes fairy tales. Becky has always been scared of fairy tales. Well, I guess that’s the difference between Disney and Grimm’s. Disney’s versions are fucking terrifying! He starts asking how long she’s been on the island (three and a half days – oddly specific, Becky), and how she likes being alone, and again getting creepy about people coming to the island to be alone and then discovering they don’t like the solitude, and how it’s difficult to get off the island unless you have a boat and oh happy day he just happens to have a boat and would Becky like to go sailing with him sometime? Good god. Cleve is either a terrible CIA operative, or a terrible conversationalist. I don’t suppose these two are going to be on the boat to Bone Town by the end of this book, are they?
Becky thinks about how scared she is of boats because she’s not a strong swimmer, but wonders about her days off anyway, because Mrs. Nelson never mentioned time off and Becky never asked. Really? So for all you know, you’re on duty 24/7, Becky? Jesus Christ. Make better choices. Then she dials up the melodrama a bit because it’s the end of the chapter, and thinks about how she’s basically a prisoner on the island, then calms herself by asking what could possibly go wrong? Oh, so many things, Becky. So. Many. Things. Most of which could be prevented by not being an idiot, so I guess you’re shit outta luck.
After being on the island for ten days, Becky is going a little stir crazy and starting to think she imagined Cleve. I’m pretty sure no one has ever imagined another human being and named him Cleve, Becky. Well, except Auline Bates, that is. She thinks about how all of Baby Devon’s things are brand new and Mrs. Nelson seems more interested in cuddling Devon’s clothes than cuddling him, and somehow doesn’t find any of that suspicious. Mrs. Nelson attempts to feed the kid, then passes him off to Becky when he gets fussy. Becky thinks she should be letting Devon feed himself (we have no idea how old this kid is yet, but later find out he’s one), but Mrs. Nelson has a baby schedule, including scheduled diaper changes(!!!), that is not to be deviated from, goddammit!
While eating dinner (where she folds Devon’s pacifier into a napkin and wraps a rubber band around it – infuriatingly, this comes back later), Becky asks Mrs. Nelson about having a night off to go into town, and she’s suspiciously tense about it, but finally agrees after Becky promises for the umpteenth time not to mention Devon to anyone. Look, spending a summer on a remote island and demanding nobody find out you have a baby with you is totally normal behavior, okay?
Becky heads for town in the dark, through the woods, with only a flashlight. At one point she’s worried about snakes slithering out of the brush and getting her. Oh, but Becky, I thought there were no animals on this island? She of course runs into Cleve, because it’s that kind of book, and Cleve is really going hard with the fairytale thing, calling her “Rapunzel” and asking if she’s a maiden in need of rescue. Gag. To her credit (at least for the moment), Becky seems annoyed and lets Cleve know that she’s the one usually doing the rescuing, including once rescuing one of her little brothers from drowning in a wading pool, thank you very much. Cleve is an idiot who is unaware that little kids can easily drown in just a few inches of water, and seems incredulous that Becky’s lil bro was in any danger. Cleve sucks.
They walk and talk on the way to town, then have ice cream together. Cleve tells Becky he’s come up with her story and proceeds to spin a yarn about how she’s a rich girl who’s been threatened with kidnapping, so her father bought this island and sent her here to hide, and the woman she’s staying with is her bodyguard. Becky gets a little uneasy, because this is dangerously close to Baby Devon’s story. Mrs. Nelson told her that bad guys were calling and threatening Devon unless the Nelsons paid them off, hence the reason they’re hiding out on this island and not letting anyone know they have a baby with them. This story seems convoluted at best.
Becky convinces herself that Cleve is just an innocent teenage boy and not involved in the plot against Devon, and that his story being so close to Devon’s story doesn’t mean anything.
Becky hits up the library before heading back to the cabin, and when she gets in, Mrs. Nelson acts horrified that Becky used a library card. I can’t even make this shit up. But then she asks if she can use Becky’s card, so I guess she doesn’t actually have a deathly fear of library cards. We also find out that Becky’s purse was full of Cheerios when she went to get her card out at the library, because Devon loves to drop things in purses. I have to mention this stupid fucking detail, because it too comes back later.
The next day, Mrs. Nelson comes back to the cabin after only a couple hours away, Devon calls her “Pa-pee” which Becky thinks is strange but never ever wonders about again throughout the course of this idiotic piece of garbage, and it turns out Mrs. Nelson is home early because the delivery men just arrived on the ferry with their brand new washer and dryer and she and Becky need to hide Devon and any sign of a baby before the delivery reaches the cabin. They frantically throw all the baby shit in closets and Becky takes off into the woods with Devon.
While in the woods, they hear someone walking and whistling, and Devon clearly recognizes the song because he perks up and starts calling for his Da-Da. About a million years, six pages, and a metric shit-ton of melodramatic inner monologue later, Becky decides it’s safe and sneaks back through the woods to the cabin, where she throws the baby at his mom and takes off back into the woods to see if she can figure out who was whistling his way down the path. With all the fairytale talk in this, I would not be at all surprised if it was seven dwarfs.
Nope. She finds Cleve by the stream, holding a knife and whittling a stick. Jesus Christ. Am I the only one picturing him in denim overalls with a wife-beater on underneath? Anyway, he proceeds to ask her some very odd questions about her “aunt” and what she does for a living, asking if she has her own money and credit rating. What the fuck, Cleve? And what the fuck, Becky, for not thinking these are truly bizarre and intrusive questions. But then he asks how old Becky is (seventeen), and she relaxes, thinking he’s just making conversation. Asking about your aunt’s credit rating and finances isn’t normal conversation, Becky. Something is wrong here, mmkay? Stop being willfully stupid.
Cleve asks Becky if she’s aware that you can’t legally sign a contract at age seventeen, and she’s all, umm yeah, and? And Cleve asks her why someone would do that knowing it’s not legal. Are you a cop, Cleve? What the fuck is this, you weirdo? Finally Becky gets angry and annoyed and fucks off back to the cabin, wondering why Cleve is suspicious and grilling her about weird shit.
Back at the cabin, Becky is vague about who was in the woods, just telling Mrs. Nelson it was a neighbor. Mrs. N gets back in the car and takes off to go do whatever it is she spends all day doing in town, and Becky whistles the song they heard in the woods for Devon, who gets excited thinking it’s his Da-Da again. That night, after Mrs. Nelson spends some quality time showing off her new clothing purchases to the one-year-old baby (who can totes appreciate silk blouses and Coach bags, uh-huh), Becky suggests she let Devon talk to his daddy (who is off traveling for business) on the phone. Mrs. Nelson gets real squirrelly and wants to know why Becky thinks Devon misses his father, then shuts her down hard. Nope, nothing suspicious here! Becky asks if she can go to town tonight to buy souvenirs and do some proper sightseeing, and Mrs. Nelson practically throws the baby at Becky and flies out the door claiming she has a meeting she forgot about.
Fast forward two weeks, and Becky is again being melodramatic about being a prisoner on this island. She’s now been on the island a month, and Mrs. Nelson hasn’t let her out of the house since that one night, always claiming a forgotten meeting or the like every time Becky asks to go out. This is always happening in the evenings, so I have to wonder what the hell kind of meetings we’re talking about here.
By the next morning, Becky has suddenly turned into Cinderella or some shit, with a brighter outlook on life, singing while she makes breakfast, and listening to the birds (I guess they must be robot birds since there are no animals whatsoever on this island) chirp and sing. She tells Mrs. Nelson that she needs at least three more trips into town while she’s here, and to let her know when she can spare her. Mrs. Nelson vaguely blows her off and heads out the door. Becky tells Devon to say bye-bye to Mama, and Devon looks super hopeful until he realizes who Becky is talking about, then he says “Bye-bye Pa-pee.” Are we really not finding that the least bit suspicious, Becky? Really? The baby got super excited when you said “Mama” until he realized you were referring to Mrs. Nelson, and this doesn’t raise any questions at all for you? Oh. Okay then.
Immediately after Mrs. Nelson leaves, the phone in her locked bedroom starts ringing. And ringing. And ringing, all day long. There’s no TV, no radio, nothing Becky can block the sound out with. By the time Mrs. Nelson gets home, Becky is raging about the phone, but Mrs. Nelson acts terrified about someone calling her, then tells Becky she can go ahead and go into town in an effort to distract Becky from her reaction. Look, I’m not a fan of phone calls, either. My voicemail message should probably just say “Please hang up and text me.” But I’ve never almost fainted because someone told me my phone was ringing. That shit’s not right, Becky – don’t let her distract you with trips to town!
Becky skips merrily through the woods, hoping to run into Cleve (my god, why?), before it occurs to her that Mrs. Nelson was just distracting her so she wouldn’t wonder why reports of a ringing phone almost made her piss herself. Becky wonders about it for a minute but can’t come up with any answers so she’s ultimately just like fuck it, I’m going shopping, bitches!
She decides to try to find Cleve (whyyyyyy???) at the boatyards but finds out that he was with the sheriff, who fell off a cliff, so he’s hanging around while the med-evac comes to get Sheriff. Becky buys some souvenirs for her family, then goes to the coffee shop, Josephina’s, to wait for Cleve. When he shows up, he explains to Becky about the sheriff, Calvin, falling off this cliff, Babyface (not the R&B singer), and landing on a ledge beneath it. I can’t picture any of this or figure it out from the description, but somehow the sheriff only broke an ankle, so that’s good, I guess? Less good is the fact that he’s now in the hospital on the mainland, and there are no other law enforcement officers on the island. Also not good is that it’s apparently virtually impossible for a local to fall off this cliff, so people are already whispering that Cleve must have pushed him. That’s small communities for you, right? People always be minding their own business.
Cleve also mentions that this coffee shop is where Mrs. Nelson spends her mornings and afternoons, and Becky realizes that she’s spending her days watching people come off the ferry. She can’t make sense of this, because how does she know who to watch for, and if she knows, why not tell the police? Becky is clearly unable to add two plus two. (She’s not quite as egregiously oblivious as the characters in Music From the Dead, but it’s close guys. It’s close.)
Cleve shows Becky around town, they have dinner and banter until he turns weird on her again when she makes a joke about crime not paying, so she decides she’s done with his bullshit. She reaches into her purse and throws a wad of what she assumes is money on the table without looking at it, and storms off. He catches up to her on the way back to the cabin and explains he’s just jumpy from people thinking he’s an attempted murderer. She accepts this and walks home with him, and he pouts about not getting to walk her all the way to her cabin. Then he returns the wad of “money” to her, telling her over her protests that she can’t pay her way with that.
Inside, Mrs. Nelson is mad that Becky is home so late, because Devon keeps waking up and calling for her. I mean, if you don’t want to let Becky have a night off, I guess we could talk about the ringing phone and why it makes you do your best deer in the headlights impression, right? Becky gets him back to sleep, then Mrs. Nelson tells her it’s not a good idea for her to go out since it upsets Devon so much. Bitch, what? Oh, don’t worry, though. Mrs. N ordered a giant screen they can put up in the backyard so that Becky can take Devon outside without anyone seeing them. I don’t understand how that’s supposed to work. A screen can’t cover 360 degrees, can it? Like, surely they’d be visible from several different angles to any nosy passersby, right? Also, working on your tan in the backyard is not at all the same as having time off to yourself to visit town.
Becky finally decides to see how much money she tried to pay for dinner with and why Cleve was so amused by it, and guess what? Remember that pacifier she wrapped a napkin and rubber bands around earlier? And Devon’s penchant for dropping things in purses? Yeah, Becky tried to pay for dinner with a pacifier. Tres humiliating.
Sometime in the middle of the night it occurs to her to wonder why she and Devon have to hide from the men threatening the baby, but Mrs. N is perfectly free to go gallivanting around the island in plain view of all the kidnappers and baby-threateners in the world. Hmm, good question, Becky.
The next day (maybe?), the phone starts ringing incessantly again, driving Becky up the damn wall until she finally says fuck it and picks the lock to Mrs. N’s bedroom and unplugs the phone. Later that day she goes back into the room just before Mrs. N is due home to plug the phone back in, but knocks a bunch of paperwork off the desk. When she picks it up, she finds phone bills, the rental agreement, delivery receipts, and bank statements . . . all in her own name!
Of course Mrs. Nelson walks in right at that moment, and here we have a bit of a standoff – which is the worse offense, breaking and entering, or identity theft? Becky doesn’t back down or get distracted this time, demanding to know just what the fucking fuck is going on here, and Mrs. N spins a tale straight out of a Lifetime movie. Or a Mary Higgins Clark book I read about a million years ago. She’s hiding Devon from her abusive husband. She lists off a litany of terrible things he did – controlling where she went, having the chauffeur follow her, burning her old letters, prom dress, and yearbooks, smashing the antique doll collection her mother shipped to her because he thought they were from a man, not letting her near the baby once he was born. So, she took the kid and ran first opportunity she got, and now she’s got people on the lookout for her husband, Franklin, in case he shows up on the island. Becky accepts this story, because I guess it covers most of the weirdness of the situation.
Sometime later, could be a day or a week, who fucking knows (the screen has been delivered, at any rate), Becky runs into Cleve while in the backyard, because Cleve has a stupid name and no boundaries. He gets all butthurt about her not knowing if she can take time off to meet him in town later on, and instead of telling him to fuck off with his fragile masculinity and feelings of entitlement to her time, she makes up a story about working for her aunt doing a mysterious job she can’t tell him about, but she has to be on call 24/7. Which I guess is basically the truth, except for the aunt part. He decides this explanation he is in no way entitled to is acceptable, then starts to tease her about the pacifier-as-payment from the other night. Becky blows it off as her littlest brother sticking things in her purse before she left, but I’m willing to bet Cleve is more interested in how the hell you mistake a pacifier in a napkin for money. Do you not keep the bills in a wallet? Is there just money loose in your purse, Becky? And if so, is it all wadded up into balls of paper? Because that’s what a pacifier in a napkin might feel like if you’re not paying attention, but it would never feel like folded-up money! Also, who the fuck doesn’t look at the “money” they just pulled out of their purse? I’m sorry to harp on this, but it’s fucking ridiculous and unbelievable.
Anyway, then Cleve asks if that also belongs to Becky’s little brother, and points out a teddy bear in a bush under Devon’s bedroom window. Becky tries to play it off like it’s her bear, and Cleve won’t stop teasing her about it. I bet he thinks it’s flirty banter, but it plays more like some shitty negging technique he picked up from a pickup artist forum. She changes the subject to ask about Sheriff Calvin, who is doing okay. Really, this plotline goes nowhere, I don’t even know why we’re wasting time on it.
Oh, I guess so Mrs. Nelson can tell Becky to watch out for this teenage neighbor boy who pushed the sheriff off a cliff. Mmkay then. Becky tries to stick up for Cleve without letting on that she knows him, but Mrs. N is all like, nope, locals don’t fall off cliffs, had to have been pushed, end of story. I don’t understand why locals are believed to be impervious to losing their balance or tripping over something, but whatever. Then Mrs. N starts going on about how she thinks Franklin has figured out where they are and will be coming for them.
After Devon is asleep and Mrs. N is clearly in for the night reading a book, Becky sees her opportunity to peace out for a night off. She’s out the door talking about whale watching at the point before Mrs. Nelson can protest. You go, Becky. Also, is whale watching at night a thing? How do you see them in the dark?
Becky has a lot of boring inner monologue wondering whether she can trust Cleve or not as she makes her way to this whale watching spot on the Babyface cliff. Once she gets there, she sees Cleve’s boat out on the water. They wave to each other, he motions for her to climb down the cliff, and like an idiot tempting fate, she does. Let me repeat – she climbs down a rock face, in the dark, with no climbing equipment whatsoever. This seems inadvisable. Especially since this is where the sheriff fell/was pushed/attempted suicide rather than actually appear in this book. She climbs down the cliff to this weird little ledge/pier thing because apparently she’s Spiderman now, and Cleve talks her into getting in the boat to go whale watching on the water. Becky asks some truly stupid questions about whales, then stands up to get a better look because she’s a big dum-dum and falls into the water. And gets eaten by a whale. Oh no. How on earth are we to finish the last 60 pages of this book with the protagonist dead.
Okay, okay, I made the whale thing up, although before she falls in she does think about getting eaten by a whale and how it might not be so bad. Becky is weird. So, she can’t really swim (ugh, you and me both, Becks), but she can try to float. At one point she thinks Cleve tries to hold her down, but then she’s back up in the boat, and Cleve says something about the sun being in his eyes, so I guess it’s not dark after all? I’m so confused about when sunset is on this island. And how early is this baby going to bed? While the sun is still up? Do babies normally go to bed while it’s still light out? Serious question – I don’t have (or want) kids.
Cleve makes it all about him by saying he must be hexed since this has happened to him twice in the last couple days, first with the sheriff and now with Becky. Oh, fuck off Cleve. Not everything is about you. Becky gets back to the cabin and sneaks into her room, where she has a lot of pointless melodramatic inner dialogue about Mrs. N saying Cleve pushed the sheriff off the cliff, and Cleve proclaiming his innocence, and someone is lying to her and trying to confuse her. Huh? Uh, no girl. They’re called rumors. You’re in high school, you should know all about them by now. Nobody is trying to confuse you, your boss is just repeating rumors. She doesn’t even know you know Cleve. Calm your tits, child.
The next morning starts with Mrs. Nelson talking about the sheriff still being in a coma and people talking about calling in the FBI (even though the night before, Cleve said the sheriff was awake and doing fine), and then her opening the door and finding a smashed doll on the porch. And screaming. Always with the screaming in these books. Oh noes, Franklin found us. Or did he? Doesn’t Mrs. Nelson have people watching out for him? So he’s probably not here yet. Did he hire someone to put the doll there? Was it Cleve? Is this bullshit so idiotic that I’m about to head out to break into a liquor store in the middle of the night just to make it through the rest of this recap? The answer to at least one of these questions is yes. I’ll let you wonder which one.
Becky tries to brainstorm ideas to keep Devon and Mrs. Nelson safe, but Mrs. N shoots them all down. Well, fine. Fuck you, too, lady. Becky finds a slashed-up doll in her bedroom and determines that someone must have chucked it in through the open window. Really, Becky? Is that really what you think happened?
More melodramatic inner monologuing, wondering if they’re in danger, and thinking that she thought if Mr. Nelson showed up there would just be arguing but she never thought she’d be in actual danger. Um, Becky? Abusive husbands are absolutely dangerous, you fucking twatwaffle. Of course you’re in danger from the man whose wife had to take the baby and flee in terror away from him. I guess Becky’s never watched a Lifetime movie.
Mrs. Nelson shows up with another mutilated doll – she found this one in the car and put it in a hatbox to bring it in the house. I have . . . questions about this. Most of them have to do with the hatbox. Becky insists on coming up with a contingency plan in case Mr. Nelson shows up, and surprisingly Mrs. Nelson agrees. They hatch some very convoluted Ocean’s Eleven type plan involving Becky hiding the playpen in the woods (I have thoughts on this . . .), Mrs. Nelson liquoring Franklin up with his favorite brandy that makes him sleepy, then meeting up with Becky and Devon in the woods and taking off to stay with her mother and stepfather. I . . . aren’t there simpler plans than this?
More inner monologuing, more wondering if Cleve is a bad guy, lots of wondering about how far a disturbed mind would go. The phone rings, Becky breaks into Mrs. Nelson’s bedroom (again) to unplug it, then later it starts ringing again. Seriously, why even have it plugged in at all at this point? Becky breaks in again to find the phone plugged in; she unplugs it again and then notices that the front door is unlocked when she knows she locked it. Or did she? Who knows? Who cares? Not me!
As soon as Mrs. N gets home, Becky’s all, fuck this shit. She quits, going on and on about how she can handle all the regular babysitting shit, diapers, entertaining one-year-olds, stupid cartoons, but she can’t take this shit, including the telephone that never stops ringing. Which she mentions three times. And Mrs. Nelson points out that she mentions the phone three times. I kind of love seeing Becky go all explody – especially about the phone. Especially about the phone that plugged itself back in so it could keep ringing. That would be a better story than this one.
Anyway, when Becky’s finished with her freak-out, Mrs. Nelson drops the bomb that Franklin is on the island. He came over on the ferry with his car, but conveniently and mysteriously (wink wink, nudge nudge) he got a flat tire he needs fixed, so they have some time to put their Mission Impossible plan into action.
Becky takes off into the woods with Devon when they see headlights coming up the road. She hears Mr. Nelson yelling at Mrs. Nelson (whose first name is apparently Patricia. Hmm. Pa-pee?) that she’s gone too far this time, she won’t get away with this, and he wants his son back. Becky fucks off into the woods and I guess delivers Devon to his playpen because part of this plan involves leaving him alone in the woods while she heads back to the cabin and Mrs. Nelson heads out to the woods? This plan makes zero sense to me. I mean, I guess it’s okay to leave a one year old alone in the woods, since there are no animals on the island or anything, right? But somewhere along the way, Becky starts thinking something doesn’t add up and she doesn’t have the whole truth here! Ho hum.
She starts heading back to the cabin, expecting to run into Mrs. Nelson somewhere along the way, but no joy. She’s reaching for the back door handle when something hits her over the head from behind. A head injury in a Point Horror novel? I’m shocked I tell you. Just shocked. She wakes up in the cabin in the dark, with the smell of gas all around. Becky smelt it, but I don’t think she dealt it. She groggily thinks she needs to turn the gas off, and thinks about turning a light on before remembering that that could generate a spark that would make the house go boom. She crawls toward the kitchen in the dark and stumbles over a dead body that moans at her! Heyyyyy, wait a minute! Dead bodies don’t moan! Unless they’re zombies, then all bets are off. I don’t think this is a zombie book, though. Might be more interesting if it was.
Becky makes it to the kitchen to turn the gas stove off, but all the knobs have been removed. Damn. I feel like that’s some forethought you don’t generally see in books and movies when someone decides to let a house fill up with gas. Left with no choice but to fuck off or die, Becky grabs the not-dead body and drags it outside with her, a split second before the house explodes. I’m not sure what, exactly, made the house explode, since no mention was made of any sort of ignition source, but sure. Whatever.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that Becky doesn’t die from the pressure wave or get impaled by shrapnel, despite the existence of physics. She passes out, because that’s the best thing you can do with a head injury, then wakes up to Cleve calling in additional firefighters over the radio. Thanks to telling instead of showing, we find out that the not-dead guy was Mr. Nelson, he divorced Mrs. Nelson eight years ago, Devon is his baby with his new wife, and apparently Becky didn’t leave Devon alone in the woods after all – she dropped him off at Cleve’s house. Groovy. Mrs. Nelson got away after bashing both Becky and Mr. Nelson in the head and leaving them to die, and Becky decides to go after her because Becky thinks she’s a superhero or something. Concussion Girl to the rescue! The Concussed Avenger! The Head Injury Harpy!
So. Nauseated, groggy, concussed, and pissed that this here bitch made her an accessory to kidnapping then tried to kill her, Becky stumbles off into the woods to find her. (How many times have I typed “into the woods” during this recap? Fun fact – I tried to watch Into the Woods with the boyfriend one night and shut it off after half an hour. That movie was garbage. Given the choice between watching that movie or reading this book again, I would have no choice but to fake my own death and find a secluded island to hide out on.)
Even though we (and Becky) know the truth now, she still has to inner monologue about how she figured out something was wrong with Mrs. Nelson’s story – for instance, she had said that she never let on how much her dolls being destroyed upset her, so why would Mr. Nelson use them to terrorize her, etc etc I don’t give a fuck. Becky thinks Mrs. Nelson went up to the whale watching point at the top of Babyface, so she heads up there after her. The book says that the path was covered with humus, and even though I Googled what that is (basically, decomposed plants in soil) I’m far more amused by the idea that it’s a typo of “hummus.” A path covered in hummus sounds delicious! Somebody please toast me some pita bread, mmkay?
Becky comes across Mrs. Nelson singing to and yelling at one of the dolls. Oh, boy. She spots Becky, says she forgot to pay her, writes her a check, then attacks her with a big tree branch. This somehow devolves into a playground slappy-fight, then Mrs. Nelson says she supposes Becky wouldn’t die if she threw her off the cliff because the sheriff didn’t. So, Mrs. N threw Sheriff off the cliff? I . . . sure. Okay. We find out that all the things she claimed Mr. Nelson did to her, she actually did to him – burned his yearbooks and prom tuxedo. So where do the dolls come into it? Not that they couldn’t have been his dolls, but this is Point Horror in the 90s, so I seriously doubt they were. Was the story about the dolls completely fabricated? I need to know, dammit!
Anyway, convinced that Becky is somehow invincible, Mrs. Nelson gives up on killing her, then has a breakdown about how all she ever wanted was to be normal instead of going to special schools and having problems. Point Horror, serving up nuanced and sensitive depictions of mental illness since 1991! Becky hears a boat horn down by the pier and asks Mrs. Nelson if that’s her friend coming to pick her up. Mrs. Nelson is surprised that Becky’s going to let her go, even though she’s the one still pinning Becky to the ground (the ground that’s covered in yummy, yummy hummus!). Mrs. Nelson fucks off down the cliff face, and Becky idly picks up the check Mrs. N wrote her, only to discover that it’s $5,000 made out to Becky from Becky. You know, because of the whole identity theft thing. But . . . it’s a legit bank account (I mean, kinda – Mrs. N has been conducting business with it, anyway), and you absolutely can write yourself a check, so . . . Becky has no reason to be acting like the check is worthless, right? Girl, hurry up and go cash that thing!
We pick back up with an epilogue chapter, where we find out that Cleve actually owns the cabin (inherited from a rich uncle) and rents it to John Hillyer, so he was weirded out and suspicious when Becky and Mrs. Nelson showed up claiming Hillyer rented to them. I guess Cleve isn’t familiar with the concept of subletting. It appears Becky didn’t even bother trying to cash the shady check, but Mr. Nelson paid her and gave her a reward, so it’s all good, I guess? He’s also already hired her to take care of Devon next summer, and she invites Cleve to come visit, and I just threw up in my mouth a little. So, Mrs. Nelson is either still at large, probably waiting for another opportunity to snatch little Devon, or she fell to her death off of Babyface. I guess Auline Bates doesn’t care enough to give us a concrete answer, and I don’t care enough to be upset about it.
Nostalgia Glasses Off
After I hit “Publish” on this post, I am never going to think about this book again. If it were a little bit worse it would be fun, but it’s just depressingly mediocre. And boring. Boring is a sin I can’t forgive, and I hope this boring ass book didn’t make for a boring ass recap. I’m sorry if it did.