Mesh and Lace
I put the knife down and go over to him. I take over the scratching, digging my nails into his scalp the way he likes. He throws back his head and slacks his jaw just like the dog does.
“She wanted to know if we would go to the reunion in a couple of weeks,” I say, and watch him furrow his brow in his best Scooby Doo.
“How long has it been?”
“A hundred years.” He laughs and I stop scratching. I have some kind of grit deep in every fingernail. “Tony, this is disgusting. Why don’t you go take a shower while I go get the kids,” I say.
“Okay,” he says, getting up. “It’s really been ten years?”
“Uh-huh,” I grunt. I wipe my fingernails clean on my apron. By this time, it looks like it’s been run over several times anyway. I catch Tony looking at me.
“How much would it cost?” he says.
* * *
The kids—Tony, Mary, and Susan—are next door with my neighbor, Sarah. Sarah works the nightshift at the diner and I got her the job already thinking about how it could work out with the kids. They have “breakfast” with her when they get home from school and I pick them up before she goes to work. Sarah’s already dressed when I get there. She looks just like me, maybe four or five years older, although I’ve never asked and she never tells.
“Isabel,” she says, as I walk up the driveway, “you’ve got to do me a favor. My brother in Jersey is getting married next next-weekend and I need you to do Saturday night—will you?”
I get a little pang somehow. It’s the night of the reunion. “Can’t Cary do it?”
“Cary’s already working on Saturday night.”
I really can’t say no to Sarah. How do you say no to someone who takes care of three kids she’s not even related to for three hours, five days a week? “Okay,” I say.
My son, Tony, comes up to me from behind Sarah carrying Susan, dead asleep and half his size, over his shoulder. He makes a shh sign and I bend down to ruffle his hair. He looks just like his father. “Any news about that flamingo you stoned?” I ask. He nods his head no and shhs at me again. I wonder if Susan is pretending to be asleep so he has to be quiet. Mary sidles up to him with her big silver glasses run down to her nose. I push them up with my forefinger and take her hand, and the four of us walk home slow and quiet.
After I’ve cleared up what’s left of the mashed potatoes, thrown away the salad, and packed up the last piece of the meatloaf, Tony comes up to me while I’m doing the dishes.
“I’m going to go down to Bob’s to watch the game, okay?” he says. “TV has that white shadow on the top again and I can’t see the score.” He smells better now and I watch him loop his belt into his jeans. He looks up at me for permission.