Lisa stood on her porch, the floor boards creaked as she rocked back and forth blowing puffs of smoke into the cloudless sky. It was just after 8:00 in the morning and her children were still sleeping. As she looked over her back yard, she took inventory of the things needing done. The garden needs weeding. A puff of smoke swirled in front of her eyes. The swing set is rusty. The stuff my youngest can reach should be scraped off or treated or whatever it is you do with rust. She wanted to go to Farmer’s Market and maybe snoop through some garage sales. Anther puff of smoke floated past her eyes.
Tom, her husband, had plans. She wasn’t sure what they were. Golfing? Bowling? Something to do with a ball I’m sure. That meant her kids would have to go with her. Her little Emma wouldn’t be a problem. She could be plunked in the stroller with a few toys, some crackers, and a Sippy cup of milk. Her eleven year old would be a whole other matter. Sometimes she thought David had an allergy to listening and was addicted to whining. She blew out a particularly long puff of smoke and watched it dance in the air.
Emma started crying. Lisa rocked back on her heels twice more and then dropped the butt in the old coffee can placed at her feet for just that purpose. The paint is chipping, she thought as she turned and went into the house and up the stairs to get her precious little girl. “Hi sweetie!” she cooed as she rounded the corner. “Are you weddy to get up now?” Lisa’s smile was large and her voice rose and fell like a nursery rhyme. Emma grunted at her and reached up.
Lisa swung her out of the crib, hugging her close. “I bet you need a die-purr change and some food for your wittle tummy. Wet’s go take cayr of dat.” Emma kicked her legs, her eyes brightening at the playful way her mother spoke to her. As she was laid down to be changed, she caught a glimpse of her brother in the doorway and squeeled with delight. “Who do you see? Who do you see?” Lisa squeeked at her, tickling her belly to Emma’s delight.
David peered in the room, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “Can I go to John’s house?”
“No. We are going to eat breakfast and run some errands,” Lisa said flatly.
“What errands?” David stretched his arms in the air. His skin pulled taught making each roll of his ribs visible and his shorts sag a little lower. He looked like a holocaust survivor, bones sticking out at odd angles, his short hair accentuating the thinness of his face.
Lisa took this in with worry. “You need to start eating more.” She tossed the command over her shoulder as she smiled and positioned Emma in her new diaper.
David growled at her. “I’m not hungry.” His arms fell down to his sides pulling his shoulders over and curving his back.
“Put a shirt on and go sit at the table. I’ll be down in a minute to make breakfast.” She knew his low appetite wasn’t his fault. It was the medication she agreed to put him on at the school’s request. He’d had difficulty in school since kindergarten largely because he couldn’t sit still and never paid attention to instructions. She blew a raspberry on Emma’s belly and Emma cackled in joy.
David called over the sound. “I said I’m not hungry.”
“I don’t care. You are not leaving this house without eating a big breakfast.” Her tone held an edge to it.
David took a step toward the bathroom muttering. Lisa over heard him and stood up. “What did you just say?” Her tone was no longer edgy; it was cold. Her hands pushed into her hips and her eyes dared him to challenge her.
“I said that I guess we wouldn’t be leaving the house then.” Snotty, that’s how many would have described the sound coming out of his larynx. He jutted his measly chest out, his hands slowly folding into fists and his heart pumping. His brain was trying to tell him something, but the message was muddled in the adrenaline so he pushed it aside.
Lisa took a couple of steps forward, her index finger shaking directly at him. “I said get a shirt on and get to the table. If I have to say it again, you are going to get a whoopin’ when Tom gets up. Do you understand me?” Her voice was hard and her face flushed. Emma started crying, the tension was more than her little two-year old self could handle. Lisa yelled, “Now look what you have done! Get your ass down stairs now.” She turned around and went to soothe Emma.
David walked off, miffed. He slammed the bathroom door and grabbed his toothbrush. He could hear Emma crying and felt bad. Challenging his mother at any time was always a bad idea, but first thing in the morning was just stupid. He grimaced. It wasn’t yet 8:30 and already he'd called himself stupid.