I pause my potato peeling to strain and discern what sound is coming from the floor above. It’s not a gushing Niagara Falls reverberation and that does my budget conscious ears good. Still, I cock my right ear towards the ceiling.
“It’s the shower.” Ten year old Kendall strides through the kitchen, swiping a diced carrot.
“Jimmy’s in the shower?” I question, my voice an octave higher.
Kendall nods, heading to the bean bag chair to play the Wii. On cue the water noise ceases. The next five minutes are full of upstairs bangs on the bathroom counter and echoes from sprays. My hands are full putting the pot roast in the oven when a stench of Right Guard, Axe cologne and Aussie spray gel assault the kitchen.
I give a nonchalant glance my thirteen year old son’s way and blink double time.
He’s clean. The cleanest I’ve seen him since the nurse handed the swaddled bundle in my arms. No signs of jelly on the corner of his mouth. I don’t see a hint of a pen stain on his shirt pocket. I wonder if the toxic combo of smells rendered me delusional.
In my shocked state I file through a rolodex of reasons why my oldest took a shower.
“So…did the school send a note home or anything?”
Jimmy shakes his head no and asks why. Kendall wastes no time piping up with an answer before I can speak.
“Mom’s wondering if the school sent another note home about you and hygiene.” I stop and see Jimmy rolling his eyes and sticking his tongue out at his sister.
“You have to admit it’s unusual to hear the shower running and know you’re in it.” I groan as soon as the words come out. I need to think better on my feet and Kendall’s loud laugh confirms it. My new teenager releases a grunt and looks to the apple clock across from the refrigerator.
“When will dad be home?”
I note his voice is lower and hearing the change gives me a little stab in the heart. Before I can answer we all hear the garage door open. I throw up a silent prayer that my beloved can suddenly read minds.
“Hey dad, can you take me to the mall?” Jimmy shoots out the question before Chet has both feet in the kitchen. Behind Jimmy’s back I’m gesturing to my husband and shaking my head in Jimmy’s direction. Chet slides to a stop and clears his throat.
“Mall. That place with all the stores and far away parking spots?” He starts to give our oldest a playful pat on his head but sees the chemically induced stiff hair. He retreats his hand and notices my wild motions.
“Jimmy took a shower.” I blurt, again regretting my words as soon as I let them go. I see Chet’s lower lip curve into what I think is transforming into a grin. He opens the oven door for a whiff of the roast. I wonder if he’s trying to mask the cologne on steroids smell.
“Really, a shower? So, Jim-Bo, what time do you need to be at the mall?”
Jimmy announces he needs to be there at six-thirty. I want to start with twenty questions, finding out who else is going, what parents are staying, and will he have a charged cell phone in possession but Chet volleys back gestures to me. We excuse ourselves with a lame attempt to not look like parents trying to get the scoop on our kids but even I know we look obvious. Once we get to our bedroom Chet speaks first.
“This is a teenage boy thing. You need to give him some space.”
“But Chet, he took a shower. A. Shower. You remember the fights we had to get the boy in a tub through the years, right? Isn’t that strange to you that he’s suddenly taking a shower?” My husband chuckles and gives me a peck on the cheek.
“I’ll talk to him.”
I feel a little peace as we return to the kitchen. We walk into the kitchen and catch our teenager wiping red Gatorade off the front of his shirt. Left behind drips were marching to the once clean floor.
“Start up the shower.” Kendall muttered. Chet and I reprimand her.
“Oh, Jimmy!” I shriek, dashing to grab paper towels.
“Sorry, mommy…” His baritone voice still surprising me, he looks up and continues.
“And I like to be called Jim.”
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