Day in the Apron

    Michael Coleman

The truck's tires squeal as I swing the turn. The engine and transmission strain. It's going to be close.

Joan's words echo in my head,"Be back in time for the school bus."

I look at my watch. ŽIt's 2:55 p.m., and I'm late. 'It could be behind schedule.'

You don't want the kids getting off the bus without anyone being here."

Joan's words haunt me.

Not something to do to a ten year old. You hear those horror stories. People following kids home from school. You know.

My mouth turns dry. I squeeze the steering wheel; palms feel sweaty. Mind drifts to this morning's conversation.

"Here is the list of errands, Mark."

"That's some list," I answered, "bank, food - shopping, mail bills, pharmacy..."

"Make sure you get the library books I want; they're on the list. And, Mark, we're out of milk. Add that to your list."

My list? Now it was my list?

"Watch your time. You don't want the kids getting off the bus without anyone being here. I'll be home after 6:00 o'clock so you'll have to make dinner."

Dinner? Add dinner to the list, I thought.

"Throw a load or two of laundry in the washer," she said. "I'll see you later." She kissed me on the cheek and left.

How am I going to make it through the day, and get all of this done?

Where did the time go? I still have things to do at home. My thoughts return to Becky getting off the bus and no one being there. I turn the truck onto our road. I push down, hard, on the gas. My heart pounds. The evidence of today's errands fly across the seat, bounce off the passenger door, and fall into a heap on the floor. How in the world does she do this? I breath deeply and sigh, glancing down at the jumbled pile. Skidding to a stop in the driveway, I pop open the driver's door and jump out. My ears are poised for the school bus motor. Rush, rush, rush. I don't like being rushed.

I look on the porch. No Becky. Where is she? 'IŽll call the school,' I say to myself.

Just then I hear a school bus, kicking out the jams. Sweet relief rushes through my mind.

"How was school?" She looks worn out. Her brown hair is wilted around her glasses. She's lugging an enormous backpack of books. It's more than I would carry, even to college.

"Any homework?" I press. The kids never like that question. "Just asking," I say backing off a bit.

"I just got milk and there's some chocolate cupcakes," I suggest.

"Cool!" she replies.

Cool. I guess that means it will hit the spot. Can't talk about homework, but we can talk about food. That's okay.

"Your brother and sister will be home soon. I'm going to start dinner and try to get some wash done. I'll make spaghetti. I think I can handle that."

I find a big pot in the cabinet, and a saucepan. Two like sauce, one doesn't. The water is at a boil. I throw in the spaghetti. I've got eight minutes until it's done. Enough time to start a load of wash, I estimate.

"Beck," I holler from the laundry room, "what's wrong with the washer? It's making a grinding sound when I turn it on."

"Mom turns it off and on a couple of times until the noise goes away," she instructs.

I never would have guessed.

Dump in the soap. Give a couple of tugs on the knob. 'Heh, we're washing clothes!' I tell myself.

I take stock of my successes. Errands, check. Home in time for the for the school bus; done. Start dinner; working on it. Laundry; under control. Eat supper, then the dishes. Joan should be home by then, I remind myself. Without any warning, the front door opens suddenly.

"We're home!" Katie yells as she comes through the door, along with Matt, two cats, the dog, and the neighborhood clown, Danny.

Just when I thought everything was under control. This must be the second assault wave, I tell myself, and I am about to be overrun!

In my in-charge tone, I question, "Homework?"

"Yes." they reply in unison.

"Homework is first."

"He sounds just like your Mom, Katie!" perks Danny.

I close the door. That was close. Divide and conquer.

"Dad!" yells Becky, "the spaghetti is cooking over!"

I run into the kitchen. Frothy white bubbles are surging out of the pot and rolling down across the stove. I turn down the heat and slide the pot to another burner.

"Mom puts a little vegetable oil in the water, Dad," she instructs, "keeps it from boiling over like that. "Don't you know anything?"

Loud, distracting noise. The washing machine is out of balance, rocking back and forth. I run to the laundry room, turn the machine off, and flip open the lid. Rearrange a few clothes. Close the lid. Pull the knob. It begins to cycle.

I walk back into the kitchen, drain the spaghetti, and pour it into a serving bowl on the table. We eat in relative peace and quiet until I utter the dreaded words..."Who is willing to do the dishes?" All three kids disappear.

I clear the table and put the dishes in the sink. 'Joan can finish the dishes and put the kids to bed,' I say to myself, 'I need a break.'

Relaxation. Finally.

"Mark, you can take my apron off now," I hear Joan say, "time to go to bed!" There is a mischievous giggle in her voice.

I muster the energy to open one eye. "Work hard, did you?" she snickers.

I close the eye.

In Posse: Potentially, might be ...