RIP Lamont. Dude Surfs

The sun had barely broken the horizon, but Dude was already out there, waiting, ready. Since Lamont’s death he’d done a LOT more surfing. The museum at the Tar Pits had also opened since Covid had shut things down. Dude was getting out at dawn for a few rides before he had to drive to LA to sort bones and don his Smilodon costume for the kids.

Why Lamont had wanted to go down to Puerto Peñasco when they could have gone anywhere — and, for that matter, they lived on the beach! — was still a mystery to Dude. In a MOTORHOME for the love of God? A rented motorhome, “See America.”

“We’ve SEEN America, wouldn’t you say, Dude?” laughed Lamont as they took the keys from the rental agent. “In four dimensions.”

The next morning, as he was walking on Playa Bonita, pondering life, the universe and everything, Lamont was flattened by a dune buggy. The driver never stopped. Lamont’s last words? “Watch out, Dude. The Reaper’s driving a dune buggy. Well, see you later.” That was it. His life left his body, the vapor of the soul sped toward its next life.

Dude missed Lamont. After all, they’d been through a lot of lifetimes together, a fact that was a consolation but also, in its way, a curse. Who knew if Lamont would be back or when or, worse, as WHAT? Dude thought about that almost every day as he sorted bones. As he was all too aware, it was kill-or-be-killed out there in reality and one day’s dinner was the next day’s diner.

He looked to the west and saw a perfect swell heading his way.


Lamont (RIP) and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have (had) the uncanny ability to remember many of their previous incarnations which gives them an unusual perspective on life, the universe and everything.

Portrait; the Whole Story

“Don’t move Lulu! Hold still!
“It HURTS.”
“Just sit still two minutes and it’ll be over.”
Lulu gritted her teeth and Mom pulled the comb through Lulu’s tangled back hair.
“If you’d let me cut it off neither of us would have this problem.”
“NO!!! I want hair like Rapunzel!!”
“You’ll never have hair like Rapunzel. That’s just a story.”
“But maybe. OW!”
“Hold still.”
“Why can’t you just brush it?”
“I want to braid it, that’s why. It’s not your problem, Lulu. Just don’t move.”
Lulu decided to get even by sitting up ram-rod straight. Mom laughed to herself. If she hurried she could get this done before Lulu wasn’t mad any more.

In another room, Dad knelt in front of Hugo and clipped the bowtie onto the little boy’s white shirt. And in the living room, one of Dad’s friends, a photographer at Dad’s job, was setting up a fancy camera on a tripod. He’d already set up a couple of spot lights so everything would be perfect for an interior shot without a flash. 

“I want a real picture,” said Mom one night at supper. “Not just a snapshot.”

That’s how it happened that the family was putting on Sunday clothes on a Saturday afternoon and combing out tangles in a little girl’s curly hair. 

The ordeal ended in pigtails with red ribbons. Lulu didn’t think the ribbons went with her dress at all but Dad said it was a black and white picture and this wouldn’t take very long, and they could go out to play. Dad was given to non sequitur but what can you do? 

For some reason Dad’s friend wanted Lulu and Hugo to KNEEL in the chairs looking over the back with their arms folded on the back of the chair, their chins resting on their arms. Lulu thought to herself, “Do you know the trouble we get into if we do this?” But Mom and Dad stood approving the whole thing as if they thought kids should kneel in chairs all the time. 

“OK, Hugo, look at the camera. look right here. NO! Don’t cross your eyes. Just look at the camera. Good, hold it, hold it, hold it. Good! OK, Hugo, just one more. This time I want you to smile at me.”

Hugo crossed his eyes and shot a lopsided grin at the camera. Lulu started to giggle. Mom pressed her lips together. Dad grinned. The photographer laughed. The sheer silliness of the seriousness of this moment struck all of them. 

“Do you want me to photograph him, Mr. Callahan?” asked the photographer, wiping a tear from his eye.

“I don’t think it’s possible, Ted.”

“That boy’s a live wire, sir.”
“That he is, Ted,” said Dad, trying not to laugh.

Dad went over to Hugo’s chair. “I want you to sit still and do as you’re told for five minutes. Five whole minutes out of your entire life. When Ted’s done you can go change your clothes and do whatever you want until supper. You understand? Otherwise?” Dad gestured as if he were about the remove his belt. Hugo nodded.

Dad’s belt had mysterious powers. Never, ever had it come even within ten feet of a kid’s backside, but the threat! Even if it NEVER happened (and it never would) Lulu and Hugo understood that it COULD happen. What would it be if it happened? Nobody knew, but it wasn’t good. Sometimes Lulu and Hugo would be making ballistic sound effects or singing silly songs in their bedroom when they were supposed to be going to sleep. All Dad had to say was, “You want me to come down there with the belt?” And that was it. The fake war or giggling operetta ended and the kids were quiet.

Hugo settled down and did as the photographer asked.

Then the photographer told Lulu to turn her face to the side for a profile (she did have a very cute freckled little nose) and took that photo, with one braid over the shoulder nearest the camera.

When the pictures came back, mailed to Dad in a big envelope, Hugo looked surprisingly intelligent, even wise. Lulu looked as if she should be running a company. “They’re so good!” said Mom. “Should we put these on Christmas cards?”

“Absolutely not,” said Dad, appalled. He fished down into the bottom of the big envelope and found a tiny contact print. There was Hugo making a face and, beside him, Lulu cracking up.

“But maybe this one,” he said, handing it to Mom.

Wings, Complete Story

“Go outside and find something to do.”
“But…”
“NOW!!!”

Lulu and her little brother, Hugo, went out the kitchen door that led to the garage and from there to the back yard. There in the garage was the great wonder — a refrigerator box that their parents had left out for trash day. They dragged it out the back door and looked at the slight rise at the back of their yard. Then they looked at the refrigerator box. They felt the November wind push their cheeks back toward their ears, and looked again at the refrigerator box. Yep. Wings. They set to breaking the box apart. Before long it was one flat piece of corrugated cardboard. 

“We have to get some scissors,” said Lulu, thoughtfully. 

Hugo got up from the cardboard and ran into the house. He came out with scissors. Mom’s sewing scissors. “Not those scissors, Hugo. Mom’ll kill you.”

“It’s just this one time.”
Lulu shrugged. Hugo would get away with it if anyone would. 
“I’m not touching them, and YOU tell her YOU took them.”
“I will.”
Soon they’d fashioned two sets of wings from the refrigerator box. 
“Go put them back,” said Lulu, seeing the scissors on the grass.
“You do it.” 

There were no buttons in existence that Hugo wouldn’t push. Lulu picked up the scissors and tried to sneak into the house with them, but as fate would have it, Mom was in the kitchen peeling potatoes. 

“We told you…what’s in your hand? Are those my sewing scissors?”

“They are, mom.” Lulu hung her head.
“Don’t you KNOW better than that?”
“I do.” Lulu didn’t DARE look up.
“Can you explain this to me? Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
“We’re making airplanes so we could fly. We needed to cut the refrigerator box so we could both have wings.” 
“Look at me.” Mom was mad. “What have I told you about my sewing scissors.”
“Never to touch them.”
“And?”
“We touched them.”
YOU CUT CARDBOARD WITH THEM!!! Did you take them outside?”
“No. Hugo came in and got them.”
“Well that is neither here nor there.” Mom sighed. “Go to your room.”
Lulu thought it WAS “here AND there.” She’d brought them back in and faced this music while Hugo, the one who’d taken them, was getting off scot free. Lulu knew SHE would not have taken them. “But Mom. I didn’t take them. Hugo took them.”
“Nobody likes a snitch. I told you to go to your room.”

Lulu felt like she got off easy. 

It wasn’t long until she heard her mother calling Hugo into the house. “And put that cardboard in the garage where you found it!”

The kitchen door to the garage opened and Hugo came in.
“Hi Mom.”
“Hugo, honey, did you take my sewing scissors out of the drawer?”
Hugo hung his head. Mom wasn’t completely blinded by her golden child, and she recognized guilt.
“Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever do that,” she said sternly. “I need those scissors for sewing. They were expensive and money doesn’t grow on trees.”
“Where’s Lulu?”
“I sent her to her room.”
“We were building airplanes. We were going to fly.”
“Go get your sister,” said Mom who’d never been all THAT angry.

She looked out the window over the sink. She closed her eyes and saw another blond-haired little boy and a dark-haired little girl in braids. They stood on the lip of the small hill in a different back yard. With only one big piece of cardboard between them they had to take turns.

The little boy was smaller than his sister. A moment came when he took off running down the slope, and caught a gust at exactly the right time, exactly the right angle. His sneakered feet lifted two or three inches off the ground. It was only a matter of seconds but long enough.

He flew.

Mom wiped a tear from her eye.

“Mom?”
“OK, kids. Take THESE scissors and go build your planes. Next time, ASK. I hate kids sneaking around behind my back. And NEVER EVER EVER take my sewing scissors for ANY purpose at all EVER.”

Grandma’s House (where we all find out where this story was going)

This story was told over the course of four days; now it’s all in one place. 😃

Part One — The wind slowed and the rain began to fall instead of sliding across the glass like a sneaky kid stealing third base. Lulu stared out the storm door and wondered if it was really true that standing at a window during a thunder storm attracted lightning. Right on cue her grandma yelled, “Get away from that door! Do you want to be struck by lightning?” Freckled imp that she was, she stepped back while her grandma was watching, but when the old woman’s head turned back to braiding rags to make a rug, Lulu stepped up to the door again. “I can see you, honey. You can’t fool me. I raised seven girls,” grandma chuckled. “Now you mind me and step back from there or I’ll get up and close that door.”

Lulu was bored, that was the thing. She’d been in the house with a cold forEVER. She felt fine. Her cousins were in the cellar, trapped by the rain. She hated them. Once in a while they’d call her on the WW II Army field phone they’d strung from the cellar to grandma’s kitchen. THEY were having fun while SHE was being yelled at by grandma. Everyone was having fun but her. The whole world was having fun but her. It was summer and was supposed to be fun, but it wasn’t. She went to the back room where she slept and flopped down on the bed, feeling very sorry for herself.

Part Two — You’d probably imagine that the next place for this story to go would be Lulu — who really DOES have a cold — flopping down on her bed, falling asleep and having a dream. You’d be right. She DID go to sleep and she DID have a dream, but I have no idea what it was. Grandma, however, hearing too much quiet coming from the back of the house, set aside the rag rug she was weaving, and pushed herself up from the rough, gray chair beside the window. “That girl,” she muttered, shaking her head. “She’s got a mind of her own, that’s for sure.”

She walked across the living room and through the kitchen to the back of the house. Two rooms had been added long after the house was built. There was a room with the wringer washer, some shelves for home-canned fruits and vegetables, hooks for coats and a pile of overshoes waiting for winter. Off that room was a bedroom where her husband of 52 years had spent the last days of his life. From there he could see everyone who came and went and it was easy for people to come in to visit. Now it was the “guest bedroom” but the “guests” were grandkids. 

“Lulu?” grandma said softly pulling aside the curtain that served as a door. 

There in the shining light of a rain-washed afternoon, across the bright-colored fancy quilt, the little girl lay, sound asleep, with her thumb in her mouth. Grandma chuckled and closed the curtain. 

“Now to see about those boys.”

Part Three — Grandma pulled on her pink sweater and outdoor shoes and went out the back door. At the other end of the wooden sidewalk Jack and them had built for her last year was the cellar. Its heavy door was covered with asphalt shingles. When the old man was alive, he spent many summer days in the cellar where it was cool. 

“Let us put up a new door, mom. That old door is pretty heavy.”

“No, no. I manage fine. Don’t go to any trouble.” But the sons-in-law all showed up early one Saturday morning, ready to work, only to learn that if they tore down that door, they’d have to tear down the cellar. That was more job than anyone was ready to tackle. Grandma made them breakfast and sent them home. 

You’re probably expecting grandma to open the cellar door and find the boys smoking or getting drunk on moonshine, but there weren’t any cigarettes (the boys weren’t interested anyway) and certainly no moonshine (good grief!). Instead she found four little boys shooting marbles on the cellar’s dirt floor under the light of the light bulb than hung from the ceiling. When they couldn’t fix the door, the sons-in-law had electrified the cellar. “It’ll be safer for you, mother,” they said. “Just turn on this switch.” They put the switch on the wall inside the door. Grandma thanked them but said she’d done fine a long while with the kerosene lantern that sat atop the shelf by the back kitchen door. She was sorry they’d gone to so much trouble.

“Why didn’t you just call us grandma? We set up the field phone so you could call us!”
“I’m not touching that thing.” 
“Is it still raining?”
“No, it stopped a little while ago.”
“Let’s get Lulu!”
“She’s sleeping. Leave her be.”
“When’s she going to be well, grandma?”
“Only the good Lord knows that. Supper’s in an hour. You need to come in pretty soon and get cleaned up. Your folks’ll be coming back.”

To be continued — for those of you sitting on the edge of your chair over this story, I honestly don’t think anything exciting is going to happen. Lulu isn’t going to die of a mysterious malady that initially manifests as a cold. The boys aren’t going to set anything on fire. Grandma isn’t going to suddenly clutch her chest and fall off the wooden sidewalk (4 inches — it’s set on 2 x 4s) There could be a game of Red Rover — a game kids are no longer allowed to play — and THAT may be a little sensational, but… I think the deepest question this story will address is “Why can’t we eat honeysuckle berries, Grandma?”

Part Four — conclusion

“Real gullywasher out east, mom. The river flooded down by Pompey’s Pillar.”

“Oh my Lord,” said grandma wiping her hands on her apron. “Could you shell those peas for me, Jo? Those snow peas have been prolific this year.” (grandma wouldn’t say “prolific” but that’s the prompt today)

“Happy to, mom.” Hazel, mother to two of the boys in the cellar, took the colander from grandma and sat down at the table to shell the peas.

“Was Lulu any trouble?” asked Patricia coming in the back door with Lulu’s baby brother in her arms.

“Not at all. I had to make her mind once.”

“Just once?” Patricia laughed. “Do you need a hand with supper?” She set the baby in the high chair.

“Hazel, if you could take those peas somewhere so Patricia could lay the table?”

“Sure thing, mom.” Hazel took her project and her chair and moved out of the way.

The back door opened again and the sons-in-law came in with Rochelle, mother of two of the boys in the cellar. “Where are the boys?” she asked, shaking the water out of her hair in the back room.

“In the cellar playing marbles.”

“Do you want me to go get them so they can clean up for supper?”

“That’s a good idea.”

“Where IS Lulu?” asked Patricia.

“She’s taking a nap in the back room.”

“Oh mother, how long?”

“An hour gone now.”

“She won’t sleep tonight, mother. What were you thinking?” Patricia stomped out of the kitchen heading for the back room. Hazel looked at grandma who shook her head.

What could you do? The boys came in and Greg, the oldest finished setting the table.

“There are a lot of us for supper tonight,” said grandma to one of the sons-in-law who nodded and got the chairs from the dining room. Grandma had a dining room, but no one ever ate there.

“Let me do that, mother,” said another son-in-law. He took the heavy kettle and poured the chicken and dumplings into the large mixing bowl and set it in the middle of the table with the new peas, cooked quickly and topped with butter, a plate of bread, a plate of butter, grandma’s plum jam from last year. Thirteen people sat around the table, seven grown-ups, laughing and arguing, four cleaned-up little boys surprised not to be at a “kid’s table,” one little girl with a cold, sitting in the corner, sleepy-eyed, with her thumb in her mouth, and a baby in a high chair with his thumb in his mouth, smashing peas against the tray with is other hand.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you that NOTHING would happen with this story.

Ubiquitous Gadgets

“What’s that?” Ark-won held a small curved object in the palm of her hand.

“An egg?”

“It’s not a carbon-based form.”

“Some kind of ear ornament? Try it.”

“YOU try it.” Ark-won shuddered, imagining her little blue ear pinched between the narrow space where the wire bent in on itself.

“Maybe it’s not even meant to look like this,” suggested Ray-on, bending pulling back the exterior, loose end until it was straight. “No way to know.”

“Look, here is a whole pile of them.”

Ray-on slowly passed his left middle digit over the pile of small metal objects. It registered, “Steel,” he said. “We have a little pile of steel something-or-others. I guess it’s a necklace, just in pieces.”

“That doesn’t make sense, Ray-on. We know enough about this culture to know that steel was not a precious metal like chromium, lithium or uranium. I don’t think they made jewelry from this. What status would it confer or demonstrate?”

Ray-on shrugged.

“I think it’s just another gadget,” said Ark-won. “We’re always finding inscrutable gadgets on this job.

Not ALL that Hard to Do

“It’s just not working, Tamara. It’s…”

“It’s WHAT Josh? And WHAT’S not working. I HATE this vague language. If you want to break up, just say, ‘Tamara, I think we should break up’. NO, that’s too vague. Say ‘Tamara, I want to break up’. It’s not that difficult.”

“But what if it’s just a mood, a passing thing and I don’t really WANT to break up, I just want a break? Or what if I don’t know?”

“There you go, Josh. Sure, let’s take a break. It’s fine.”

“But you can’t sleep with other guys while we’re taking a break.”

“Seriously? I think if you want to take a break, that’s on you, and what I do is on me. If we’re not together, you aren’t in a position to tell me what to do.”

“Yeah but it would kill me if you slept with some other dude.”

“How would you even KNOW since we’d be taking a break? I wouldn’t be talking to you.”

“What if you meet someone you like better? And then at the end of the break you don’t want to get back together?”

“Josh, that’s just the risk we’d have to take. I mean, what if YOU meet someone, and YOU don’t want to get back together?”

“Well, I did…” Josh’ face turned bright red. Oops.

“Cat’s out of the bag, Josh. So basically you want to do this other chick, but you don’t know if she is attracted to you, and you want to keep me around just in case?”

“Not exactly. It’s more like what if Kirsten and I don’t hit it off? You and I? We hit it off. Hey? Where are you going?”

Word Up!

“A breach, T.L.? It’s where things break down. An opening. Like an old wall that has a crack in it. There’s a breach in the wall, and the weeds grow through it.”

“How do YOU know?”

“I’m in seventh grade. I KNOW things. You’re only in third or something.”

“Fourth.”

“Whatever, you haven’t learned ‘breach’ yet. Now you have. It’s an opening.”

“Who died and made you the dictionary?”

“Whatever.”

“I guess that’s why I got it wrong.”

“Got what wrong?”

“On the vocabulary test. I hate school. I never learn anything.”

“You just did. You learned ‘breach’.”

“Not from school. From you. My stupid brother. My stupid teacher doesn’t teach as good as my stupid brother.”

“You have to learn this stuff Tina Louise. Do you want to spend your life in fourth grade.”

“No.”

“Let’s see your list.”

Tina Louise went into the kitchen and dug the test out of the trash. She took a paper towel, wet it a little, cleaned the ketchup off the top and took it back to her room.

“Here.”

“You only got one right?”

“I hate school. I hate vocabulary.”

“Ha ha ha! You said ‘breach’ was ‘pants’.”

“Like the ‘Little Breaches Rodeo’.”

“That’s not breaches. That’s ‘britches’.”

“Don’t tell mom and dad, OK?”

“T.L., you know you’re gonna’ get a report card. They’ll find out. How many of these have you flunked?”

“Pretty much all of them.”

“You want me to help you?”

“I hate my teacher. I hate school. All we do is learn stuff and take tests.”

“That’s school, T.L.”

“I don’t want to go any more.”

“OK, what about this one. You got it right.”

“Yeah. ONE.”

“OK, that’s better than NONE. What about this one? Let’s try it.”

“Dis-pos-able. Vocabulary is disposable. I can’t learn it. It’s disposable for me.”

Derrick looked at the crumpled piece of paper smoothed out, washed by his little sister and smelling of ketchup. He didn’t want to laugh at her, but it was becoming more and more difficult not to.

“Apparently not, TL.”


I’m in a creative funk and I figure the best way out of it is to write a story every day and maybe draw a picture. It’s very hot here in Heaven, it’s impossible to get out with the dogs at the moment. I have a hangover from the past year and a bad case of ennui. I can’t complain because it’s been a LOOOONNNNGGG time since I’ve felt a funk like this and I can see where it came from. I’m a very lucky person — something that’s also clear to me — and I know that this will pass. One of the things most in demand by life itself is patience. 🙂

Old Golds

Methinks thou dost protest too much,” said the woman from her arm chair, cigarette in hand, smoke winding slowly up through the lampshade chimney.

“Everyone else is going. THEIR parents let THEM.

“If everyone was jumping off the Brooklyn bridge would you jump just because everyone else is? The answer is NO.”

Mathilda turned and waltzed out of the room. It was hopeless. Her friend, Adelaide, was waiting in the back yard for the verdict.

“Well?”

“No. I got the Brooklyn Bridge thing.”

“I HATE the Brooklyn Bridge thing. My parents do that, too.”

“Parents.”

“Yeah. You want me to go talk to her? Maybe I can talk her into it.”

Mathilda shrugged. “I don’t think it would work. The Brooklyn Bridge is usually the end of the conversation. “

“I’ll try. She’s not MY mom. She has to be nice to me.”

“OK, but…”

“Just stay here.”

The shade of the house slowly covered the back yard, the picnic table where Mathilda was siting, the Rose of Sharon bush and Adelaide still hadn’t come back. “I wonder what happened?” Mathilda went inside and found her mom cooking dinner.

“Where’s Adelaide?”

“I sent her home. If you have something to say to me, talk to ME, don’t send in your attorneys.”

“What?”

“I told you no. You knew my answer. Then you went out there and got your little friend to come in and try another tactic.”

“She wanted to come in and talk to you. I didn’t make her.”

“Be that as it may, in this house I’m judge and jury.”

“Her parents are letting her go.”

“So I heard. Well, your parents AREN’T letting you go. You’re only eleven years old. You have plenty of time for movies like that. Set the table. Your dad will be home any minute.”

Mathilda wondered what her mom meant by “movies like that.” She decided to ask Adelaide during recess. Adelaide knew everything.


The prompt this morning is the word “spruiker.” Here’s the definition:  “noun at spruik verb. DEFINITIONS1. 1. (Australian English) someone who tries to persuade people to buy something, use a service, etc often in a dishonest or exaggerated way.” Since the one example that came to mind is someone and something I don’t want to write about this’ll have to suffice. 🙂

Relevance


The seeds of destiny are sown in mysterious realms.

“What does that MEAN???”

“It means that destiny is, well, OK, it’s like this. The seeds of destiny are sown in strange places.”

“Yeah but what are ‘seeds of destiny’?”

“Sperm.”

“Huh??”

“Yeah.”

“So the whole vagina uterus thing is a ‘mysterious realm’?”

“Well, yeah.”

Tom and Trevor, have you got an interpretation of that line of poetry to share with the class or are you giggling over something else?”

“Sorry Mr. Schmidt.”

“So, have you interpreted that line?”

“Trevor did, but I think he’s wrong.”

“Tom, there are no ‘wrong’ interpretations of poetry. The poet just wants you to think about what he’s said. Trevor can’t be ‘wrong’. There is no ‘wrong’. We don’t use that word in my class. Go ahead and tell us what you think. Stand up so we can hear you.”

Trevor stood, sure in his interpretation.

“Well, like ‘destiny’ is our future, right? And the seed comes from our dad and goes into our mom. And all that stuff inside women is pretty weird and mysterious. Realms are places. That’s what it means, ‘the seeds of destiny are sown in mysterious realms’.”

Mr. Schmidt’s face went pale and he held his lips tightly together.

“Dude,” Tom whispered, shaking his head, “I told you.”

Sharon, Shannon and Sherry turned bright red. Janine, Jerome, Janelle, Jessica, and Jim laughed so hard tears streamed down their cheeks. Ramona, Robbie, and Rex sat stunned, afraid to laugh because maybe Trevor was right and they hated this poetry shit. Others sat wide-eyed, staring at Mr. Schmidt, waiting for a cue.

“OK,” said Mr. Schmidt. “Who has the next line?”

Yung Luv’

“I don’t think he’s going to call me EVER.”

“Probably not. I don’t see you as a pair.”

“What does THAT mean? I thought you said he likes me?”

“Yeah, but not in THAT way.”

“Why not?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“I thought he was your friend.”

“He is but, believe it or not, we talk about other stuff. We don’t talk about you.”

“You’re mean.”

“No. I’m honest. I’m just telling you like it is.”

“Does he have a girlfriend now? You said he doesn’t have a girlfriend.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so, but I’m not with him 24/7. Why don’t you just go find something to do and forget about Keith?”

“I can’t ‘forget about Keith’. I’m in love.”

“Oh god. Again?”

“Kids! Supper!”

“Let’s go in. Mom hates it when supper gets cold.”

What are you kids doing, anyway?”

“Brenda is in love again,” Ryan pulled the bar stool away from the breakfast bar in the kitchen where they ate their meals.

“Oh. Well, it’s to be expected.”

“What do you mean, mom? You’re as mean as Ryan.”

“Honey, you’re fifteen. You’re just boy crazy.”

“That’s not fair! I really LOVE Keith. He’s THE ONE I want to spend my whole life with. Didn’t you and dad meet in high school?”

“You really want me to repeat THAT story?”

“You loved each other, right?”

“Yeah, for a while. But then we didn’t love each other any more…”

“Why did you stop loving dad?”

“Honey I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s over, in the past, we’ve worked out a way we can be here for you, sometimes that’s the best two people can do. Your dad is happier with Cynthia than he ever was with me.” Mom shrugged.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“OK, Brenda, I’ll lay it all out for you. When we’re young hormones rage through our bodies…”

“Everyone blames ‘hormones’. This isn’t ‘hormones’. It’s love.”

“OK, but you asked a question, and I’m trying to answer it. Your dad was cute, I was cute. We were propelled by higher forces toward each other and there was Ryan, so we had to get married.”

“You weren’t even MARRIED when you made me?” Ryan almost tipped over his barstool, laughing.

“No, we weren’t married. It made things very very difficult. I had to drop out of school to have you. Your dad had to go to work while he finished school. We weren’t kids any more. Life changed from one thing to another thing, a very serious thing.”

“Why didn’t you use a condom?”

“Buying a condom in those days was embarrassing. You had to go to the drug store and ASK for one.”

“Huh?”

“Listen, kids, the world doesn’t stay the same. Something changes every day. Anyway, as time went by, I got my GED, dad went to community college, Brenda came along, we got a house, and, sometime in there, we realized we had nothing in common. Your dad was already sleeping with Cynthia. He didn’t want to break up our family, but… So, Brenda, when I say ‘hormones’ I mean ‘hormones’. When I see your dad now I wonder what I was thinking. In fact, I wasn’t thinking.”

“There you go, Brenda. If Keith isn’t calling you, it’s not because he doesn’t like you. It’s because his hormones don’t.”

“Pretty much,” said Mom. “You want more Tuna Helper?”