Still life with census

March 18, 2010

Audrey put down the day’s mail on the kitchen table, except for a large envelope. She opened it and scanned the contents, then shook her head with a laugh.

“What?” Evan asked. He looked over her shoulder.

“The census,” she said. “Read this.”

As Evan looked at the forms, Joe came into the kitchen from outside, sweating and smudged with dirt. He headed to the sink and downed a glass of water.

Evan read the cover letter: “‘Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today.’” He shrugged. “Seems pretty clear.”

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

“Uh-huh,” Audrey said. “Now look at question one.”

Evan read: “‘How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?’” He stared at his mother. “April first hasn’t happened, but they want you to do it today.”


“I don’t think it matters,” Joe said. “It’s the government.” He picked up an apple from the fruit basket.

Evan was getting into it now. “But what if you hadn’t come home yet? I mean, it was kind of random, dude. What if mom mailed it back for three people, and then you showed up? You’d be, like, uncounted.”

The idea didn’t sit well with Joe. “They count everybody. Doesn’t matter where they are.”

“So they say,” Evan said, then recited: ‘Do not count anyone living away at college or in the Armed Forces—‘ that would be the Toddster. ‘Do not count anyone in a nursing home, jail, prison, detention facility, etc., on April 1, 2010.’” Evan smirked. “You could’ve been in a nursing home.”

“Right. Even if I was living in my bus, I could get myself counted.”

“If you wanted to,” Evan said.

“If I wanted to.”

“Or I could fill it out posthaste,” Audrey said, “and hope that two weeks from now things haven’t changed.”

“Yeah, dude, in case you pull the old disappearing—”

“I know what it means,” Joe said. “But what are the odds?”

Audrey gazed at Joe. “You tell me.”

He tossed his apple core into the compost can. “Don’t worry, mom. My rent’s paid to the first of May.”

©2010 Pam Wells

Questions about the census? Visit


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