After a long day of dozing off in Geometry, dissecting a pig in Biology, and trying to make sense of Shakespeare in English Lit, the day got worse. My bed was made.
The corners were smoothed; the sheets folded over with crisp edges. My room even smelled of Mountain Breeze spray. I stormed out, slamming the door, and followed the pine scent to the kitchen where mom hunched over a pail of water and scrubbed the floor.
“When are they coming?”
“What about hello?”
“Okay, hi Mom, my day was great…so, when are they coming?”
“In about two hours.”
“No way! Didn’t you say Izzie and Shawn were coming next week?”
“Plans changed. They got a cheaper flight today by a cancellation, so…you’ll have to sleep in your brother’s room for a few nights while they’re here.”
I remembered the last time Mom’s ex-New Yorker-now-Floridian friend came—her son who’s just a year older than me liked to meditate after midnight; I woke, thinking a cow was in my room. “Are you sure they said a few nights? Last time they said a few days, they stayed for three weeks.”
“They want to take one of Penny’s kittens home.”
“But she doesn’t have any kittens yet!”
“She’s very close; just look at her.” Penny waddled over to her fluffy cat bed with her bulging belly swaying.
I shook my head. “They’re gonna be here a month.”
“Maybe a week. Or two at most.”
“Zac, please don’t ‘Ugh’ when they get here. God wants us to be hospitable. I know they’re a bit eccentric, but that’s better than dull. Would you rather spend the weekend cutting coupons for Aunt Mildred?”
Hmmm…not much of a choice. “Okay, I’ll try.”
As Shawn sat Indian style on the floor, and tied his head scarf, I warned him: “Please keep the meditation volume down; I’ve got Geometry Regents tomorrow.”
“No problem, Dude. I just need an hour to clear my mind before dreaming.”
I slept fine and didn’t hear him humming until…
DING DONG…DING DONG…DING DONG!
I squinted in the blackness and slammed my alarm to no avail. DING DONG!
“What the? Who’s ringing the doorbell at two A.M.?” I expected to see Shawn paying a Dominos delivery guy at the door. But it was more bizarre than pizza before sunrise.
Shawn crouched outside, holding the wires of our now dismantled doorbell over what looked like a wet rat. I was sure he zapped his brain by mistake. “What are you doing?”
“Your stupid cat’s a bad mum and didn’t take the kitten out of its sac, so it suffocated. I’m trying to make a defibrillator and shock it back to life, but the wires keep setting off the doorbell.”
Penny was a bit slow for a feline, but I wondered if, comparatively, she had a higher IQ than Shawn.
The scene was surreal. Strong winds howled from above the porch awning as rain fell diagonally, slapping the shingles and Shawn’s back. Penny lay in an Omaha Steak box and slept peacefully; her two kittens wiggled around her golden fur while the third little guy shook from being zapped.
Shawn tried again. “Stand clear!” DING DONG ZAP!
“Stop that! If it wasn’t dead before, you electrocuted the poor thing by now.” The smell of burnt fur hung in the air.
“But I thought I heard a little mew.”
Mom peeked outside… and screamed, “Ugh!”
Finally, he gave up and dropped the doorbell wires. “I think it’s dead.”
I patted him on the back. “It was a good attempt.” Shawn did have a good heart to make up for lack of brain waves.
“Thanks, man…I tried.” He wiped his eyes with the end of his sleeve. Actually, my sleeve; he must’ve changed into my shirt for the kittens’ birth.
In the morning, Mom cried over the dead kitten and gave it a proper burial under the cherry tree; Izzie sang her own off key version of “When the Saints Go Marching In”, and Shawn played his kazoo. They finally left—three weeks later with Sunnyside Up mewing in a shoe box. We kept Peaches, and hoped she had more wits than her mum.
I ripped out the doorbell for Mom, so she wouldn’t have to hear it again, and she hung a new welcome sign: Please knock. The doorbell never works.
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