“This is Agent Desperate. Come in, Agent Sneaky.”
“Agent Sneaky here.” Giggles erupted from his receiver. Jim tried to keep from smiling. “Hey, are you serious about this or not.”
“Sorry. The intrigue just got to me for a moment.”
“Well, this is important.”
“Is the plan good to go?”
A thump on the floor above his home office put Jim on full alert. “Subject is alert and should be on scene momentarily. Operation Integrity about to commence.”
Another giggle. “Understood. Over and out.” Jim, aka Agent Sneaky, hid the radio and turned back to his computer screen.
Melissa hurried to put away the breakfast dishes and sat down at her desk to answer some emails. Her heart raced as her twelve-year-old clumped down the stairs and she pulled out her radio and spoke softly. “Subject approaching.“ Jim’s reply was muffled as she slipped the radio into a drawer.
Melissa steeled herself. She knew she needed to hold to the plan. “Morning.” The silence was disquieting.
“You let me sleep in.” It was a statement and a question.
“Yup.” Again that same silence.
He padded out to the kitchen. “It’s almost noon. Can we have burgers for lunch?”
“Sure.” Melissa didn’t get up from her chair. After a bit, his footsteps thudded up the stairs.
She finished another hour of computer work then went to switch over laundry.
“In here.” She tucked her radio under a stack of freshly folded towels.
“Um… when will lunch be ready?”
“After I finish laundry.” She poured in the detergent and closed the lid to the washer.
“An hour or two.”
“But it’s lunchtime now.”
“I’ll get to it in awhile.” The washer started filling as she grabbed a dryer sheet.
“Maybe I’ll have some cereal.”
“You know where to find it.” The dryer door clicked shut.
“Mom? You forgot to wash my favorite jacket.”
“I’ll get it later.”
“But I need it.”
“I know. You don’t have to nag. It’ll get done… sometime.” Now the silence had a whole different tone.
“What’s going on? Everything is weird today.“
Melissa heard the refrigerator opening. “We’re out of milk, Mom.”
“I know. The bread is gone too.” She gave a pair of jeans a snap and then carefully folded them.
“When are you getting groceries?”
“I guess today.” She tossed a sock in a pile.
“Can I go with you?”
“Can we go now?”
“No, maybe later.” Another partnerless sock hit the pile.
After a pause he padded up the stairs again.
Her radio crackled to life. “What’s wrong son.” Jim smiled at Mike as he held down the talk button so Melissa could hear the conversation. He kept his radio hidden behind the desk.
“Something’s wrong with Mom. She didn’t wake me up, and she said she was making lunch but she’s not. And now she says I can go to the store with her.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“I haven’t done my schoolwork yet. I’m not allowed to go out until it’s done.”
“She is saying stuff but not doing it.”
“That doesn’t sound like her.” Jim forced back a grin.
“Is she mad at me?”
“She didn’t seem mad. Should she be?”
“Well, she should be frustrated with me for getting up late and not getting my schoolwork done. I haven’t done any chores today, either.” Mike ran his fingers through his hair.
“Would it make any difference if she was frustrated?”
“What do you mean?”
“What would you do if she asked you to vacuum?” Jim leaned back in his chair.
“I would agree to do it.”
“And when would it happen?”
“Oh.” He stared at the ceiling. “I think I get it.”
Back downstairs, Melissa heard Jim’s door close and her radio spoke once more. “Reprogramming begun. Report results.”
In record-breaking time Mike was back. He wrapped his arms around Melissa in a tight hug. “Sorry Mom. Here’s a list, want to add to it?”
She smiled at him and at the scrawled words:
putting my stuff away
obeying the first time I am asked to do something
keeping my word when I say I will do something
doing what I promise in a timely manner
His smile was weak but genuine. Mike grabbed his basket of laundry from the previous day and headed up the stairs as Melissa retrieved the radio from a pile of folded clothes. “Mission accomplished. Tactics worked. Reprogramming successful. Over and out.”
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