April 2, 2010
Carl stared at the popcorn bowl. Perfectly popped kernels, salted just right, an aroma to snack for—
“Uh-uh,” Audrey said.
Carl picked up a puffy white explosion. “I’ll just eat the white part.”
“You do that and there’ll be no way to stop you,” she said, and picked up the bowl. Carl followed her into the kitchen where Evan was opening a beer.
“Evan, why don’t you take this upstairs.”
Evan disappeared with his hands full.
“Was that really necessary?” Carl asked.
“Carl, you’re having the procedure on Monday.”
“Colonoscopy is not the c-word. Cancer is the c-word, which a colonoscopy could prevent. You have to prep for it, starting today with the very simple step of not eating a few things. No seeds, no tomatoes, no cucumbers, no popcorn. How does teriyaki chicken sound for dinner?”
“Sesame chicken sounds better,” he said, his voice dropping with futility. “Okay, I’ll pick up some take-out. It’ll give me something to do.” He picked up a pencil and scrap of paper. “Teri chick, soba noodles—can I have soba noodles?”
“I think so, but I have what I need to cook everything. It’ll give me something to do.”
Carl laughed. “Look who’s avoiding.”
“Avoiding? I’ve got plenty of time. You do know I was kidding last night about the Dewey Binary System, right? April Fools’?”
“I know, dear. Many congratulations on that.”
“So what am I supposed to be avoiding?”
“You know. That thing that comes every year.”
Audrey scrunched up her forehead. “The Easter bunny?”
”Taxes,” he said.
“Taxes? Whoa, buster, I did ‘em last year. It’s your turn, and I think you should get hopping.”
“I think not. I distinctly remember doing this last year—” and he snapped the pencil in two. “I went through a lot of pencils.”
“Which I put on Schedule A under Hobby expenses,” Audrey said.
Carl slumped. “This is going to be a very uncomfortable week, inside and out,” he said. “Colonoscopy prep, tax prep… ‘We’re gonna clean you out, buddy. Be prepared.’”
Audrey brought him a cold beer. His first sip reminded him of something. “What was Evan doing when we went into the kitchen?” he asked.
She thought back. “He was… he was opening a beer.”
They bolted up the stairs. Music got louder as they rushed toward Evan’s room.
“Ev—” Audrey began, but he didn’t hear her. He was playing a video game wearing headphones.
Joe sat on Evan’s bed. He turned down the music with one hand and held the beer in the other. He raised the popcorn bowl, which still had a few handfuls left. “Want some?”
“Yes,” Carl said, his hand outstretched. Audrey dragged him out of the room.
©2010 Pam Wells