Objects in mirror

April 13, 2010

Dinner was over, but Audrey and Carl had asked the boys to stick around at the table for few more minutes.

“You guys are creeping me out,” Evan said.

“Big time,” Joe said.

“Come on, think of it as disaster planning,” Carl said. “The chance of a disaster actually happening is almost zero, plus or minus. It’s the plus you gotta worry about.”

“It’s like assembling an emergency kit,” Audrey added cheerfully. “Food, water, parents—”

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

“I don’t want emergency parents!” Evan said. “Me, live with some random aunt and uncle I don’t even know? Talk about disaster.”

“No, I think a fiery crash on I-5 would be the disaster,” Carl said. “Or dual heart attacks.”

Audrey scowled at him. “Dual heart attacks?”

“I could take care of myself,” Evan said.

Audrey patted his hand. “I know you could, honey.”

Evan’s face darkened. “But what? I’m perfectly capable of making spaghetti and washing clothes, and, and making sure the house is locked at night. I’m almost driving.” Evan raised his voice over Joe’s cackle. “I know how to take care of things.”

Carl looked at Audrey. “I believe we’ve outlived our usefulness, dear. Guess it’s time to check out.”

“Face it, Ev,” Joe said. “If something happens tomorrow, I’m not gonna be your mommy.”

Evan looked at his older brother. “Why not?”

Joe laughed. “Why not what?”

“Be my mommy. My guardian.”

Joe laughed. “Dude.”

Evan noticed his parents hadn’t said anything. “Joe could do it, right? He’s twenty-one.”

“Well… technically…” Audrey said.

“A guardian is supposed to be… uh—” Carl said.

“Wait a second,” Joe said. “Are you saying I’m not responsible? Like I’m some misfit clown who couldn’t take care of his own brother?”

“Certainly not,” Audrey said, but Joe left the table. He began to pace across the room.

“Joe, you’re missing the point,” Carl said. “We wouldn’t want you to be saddled with the extra responsibility when you’re still… uh—”

“Still figuring out your own life,” Audrey said.

“That’s right,” Carl said, and his eyes rested on Joe for a moment longer. Joe caught the look. “Joe, when a man looks in the mirror like I did this morning, and he sees a sixty-year-old guy staring back… well, a man wants to know things are, you know. Taken care of.”

“Then what about Todd?” Evan asked.

Audrey glanced at Carl. “He’s not twenty-one,” she said. “And he’s busy in the Air Force.”

“I’ll bet they’d make an exception,” Evan said. “Like in Saving Private Ryan. I think they’d let Todd come home and take care of his little brother if everybody else was pffttt.”

“I’m sorry, which war did I get killed in?” Joe asked. “Wait, I know—the misfit clown war.” Joe’s anger was taking hold. “I get the feeling everybody thinks Todd should come home and take care of me, too.”

“I didn’t say that.” Carl looked at Audrey. “Did you say that?”

“No.”

“But you meant it,” Joe said.

“No, no, I don’t believe I did,” Carl said.

Despite Joe’s discontent, both Carl and Audrey felt the discussion was going in the right direction, and that they were closer to a resolution than it appeared. They left it unresolved for the time being because it was time for Dancing With the Stars.

©2010 Pam Wells

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