Sometime in my early teens for a mercifully brief period of time I had the absolute delusion that my ability to take somewhat decent care of my sister totally qualified me as a babysitter and I went to work. I babysat regularly for the people across the street, who were California Jewish and that was pretty interesting, all that art and strange half-held ritual. There was another woman whose children I don't remember beyond the smell of their bedroom, sleep and urine, but I remember she called me Sarah Bernhardt. I liked it after the kids would go to sleep, wandering the rooms of the house, reading the spines of the books or flipping through the record collections, imagining I lived there.
One time I watched two children whose mother was, I think, recently divorced. She was going to a party. This was the saddest house I remember being in, not a home at all. There was a hole in the living room wall and someone had penciled above it "Sue did this when she was mad." Sue being the mother. Things went along okay until bedtime, when the boy completely snapped and decided he was going to kill me and his sister with a baseball bat. Let me tell you, you do not want a 15 year old in charge in this situation, because we are perfectly capable of making enough drama on our own and do not need help from genuine dramaticians. I tried to take the bat away a few times, got cracked on the arm pretty hard, and gave up. Using I guess hurricane logic, I locked myself and the sister in the bathroom and she fell asleep against me while he banged against the door with the bat. Eventually the boy fell asleep on the floor. I tucked the girl in bed and proceeded to think of ways to stay awake. There was a book with a black cover, with a hand seeming to rip through paper, holding or dropping a flower, which looked like it might do the trick. And it did; I stayed up all night reading.
The mother didn't come home til the next morning. The man who had driven her home drove me home, which was my first ride in an semi, which was interesting. I have absolutely no memory of what happened with the children that morning, but for 50 cents an hour I'm pretty sure that that night was the end of my babysitting relationship with that family. And that is the story of how I read "The Bell Jar".