Tom sucked in a deep breath of humid summer air. His lips pressed together in a strange pucker and his eyes became narrow slits. Steam was clearly visible rising from the balding spot on the back of his head where there once was an unruly cowlick. If Grace had seen him, she would have declared to the whole family that Daddy was making another angry face. Then she would proceed to demonstrate.
But Tom could still feel Grace’s presence. In fact, it was because of Grace, and his son Riley and his other daughter Faith, that he made his “angry face.” His garage was an utter mess. Where once there was a neat and tidy workshop counter, piles of clutter littered its surface. Labeled drawers were all half-opened and nails and screws were all tossed together and spilled on the floor. A flashlight lay on his motorcycle’s seat, the light bulb dim from the nearly dead batteries. Bikes leaned carelessly up against his Jeep Cherokee.
Stepping into the front yard he observed upset buckets of chalk that lay in the driveway. A half-finished wooden bike jump lay in the shade of the tree with tools strewn about it. Helmets and skateboards, inline skates and knee pads, baseball bats and soccer balls, and all other matter pertaining to sports or outdoor activities were scattered all over his dandelion yard. Tom refused to go see the damage in the backyard from “Hurricane Baracskai” as he dubbed it. Since the backyard held the pool, play set, trampoline, and shed, he knew the destruction was most likely worse.
Tom tried to calm himself by taking deep breaths, but it ended up something like hyperventilation. “RileyGraceFaith!” he bellowed, running their names together in one word. Indeed, he seemed to say it all day long. He was secretly pleased, though, that he had gotten their names correct the first time; they hated it when he confused their names with that of their pets and other family members. “Clean up my yard and my garage! Now! It looks like some trailer park yard!” Under his breath he muttered, trying to console himself, “One day, when the kids are gone, my garage won’t look like it threw up all over my yard.”
Lisa sighed. Was she the only person who knew how to fill the water filter and the ice trays? The only one who wiped the slingers of slobber of off the massive mastiff’s mouth after she drank? The only person who knew how to properly fold clothes? The only one who knew where things went when they were done being used? It sure seemed that way.
Her kitchen was a wreck from her teenage daughter’s latest baking experiment. Lisa instinctively knew this without actually seeing the state of her kitchen. But someone needed to wipe off the huge booger on the bathroom wall—the booger from the “It-Wasn’t-Me” monster that lurked around the house, no doubt. So she went to the kitchen for a washcloth.
Kaylee’s head snapped up when Lisa entered the room. “Oh, hi mom! I think this mocha chocolate cake is gonna be great! The batter was a little…um…different…than the recipe said it should be, but I know I followed the directions correctly, so it must be some kind of typo.” Kaylee took one look at Lisa’s weary face and hastily added, “But just in case it doesn’t, I baked some peanut butter chocolate chip brownies. Uh…you want one?”
Lisa hurriedly shoved the brownie in her mouth and headed to the laundry room, the buzzer for the dryer had sounded and another load of laundry was done soaking in the washer. “One day, when the kids are gone, my kitchen will be my own, I’ll only have to do laundry once a week, and my house that will stay clean for more than three hours,” she mumbled to herself. Then she yelled down the vent to her son’s room in the basement, “Spencer, bring me your dirty clothes hamper! And then go take a shower!” She sighed again. “If only I could order myself to take a nice, hot relaxing shower that could last over five minutes. Well, when the kids are gone…”
Tom and Lisa stood in each other’s arms waving as their baby, the fifth and last Baracskai child, slowly backed out of the driveway and headed west, to college. Lisa was blubbering and Tom was trying hard not to cry. Lisa spoke through her tears. “Well, Tom, we did it. The kids are all gone.”
“Yep,” he spoke hoarsely. “Now we’ll have money to go on that Alaskan cruise.”
“Uh-huh. And I can have my kitchen back, all to myself.”
Tom cleared his throat. “And I’ll have a neat, clean organized garage.”
“And I’ll only have to do laundry once a week.”
“And my yard won’t look like we’re white trash from a trailer park.”
“And my house will stay clean for more than three hours.” Lisa eyes strained to follow the tiny car far down the road. “Everything…will be…perfect.”
“Just…like we…planned.” Tom shook his head and suddenly spoke in a loud, decisive voice, “Well, when we get sick of it, we’ll just have to go steal the grandkids for a while.”