Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)
TITLE: Kids Say the Darnedest Things
By Cheri Hardaway
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On one memorable visit, Joni and I were in the bathroom downstairs. We could hear our parents at the kitchen table. We stifled giggles as we fixed our hair and made ourselves look grown-up. Boy, were they going to be surprised!
“Put this under your shirt.” Joni whispered. She handed me a wad of toilet paper, which I obediently stuffed under my tee-shirt, so it would look like I had breasts. She did the same. We primped a little more and then made our grand entrance.
Our parents were completely quiet when we emerged from the stuffy bathroom. We had their full attention as we strutted in a way that would have made any runway model proud. We must have looked fabulous, because all four adults remained speechless as we paraded by, one hand on our swaying seven and eight-year-old hips, the other waving the pretend cigarettes that added years to our ages. We were satisfied; they were duly impressed by our “new look.”
We were halfway up the stairs when I heard a funny noise.
“Did you hear that?” I asked Joni. “It sounded like your mom was choking on something.”
“No,” Joni answered. “But when I looked back, my dad’s face was all red, and his shoulders were shaking. Your mom smacked him on the arm and told him to stop.”
Uncle Brad must have told a funny joke, because by the time we got to my room upstairs, all four of them were hooting and hollering. It must’ve been one of “those” jokes, too, because Mom whacked him.
Kelly had been waiting for us in my room, and we quickly became engrossed in our game of “Grown-Ups.” She talked in a way deep voice, pretending to be the dad. I was the mom, and Joni was the daughter. She was supposed to be a teenager, like her big sister, my cousin Tricia. In our game, “Tricia” came home late, and her daddy – really Kelly – was yelling at her something terrible. Kelly really did sound like Uncle Brad, because she was using curse words that I knew we’d get in trouble for saying, if our parents heard us.
Soon sick of yelling at “Tricia,” we pretended that the phone was ringing.
“Hello?” Kelly answered like a dad. She stayed quiet a minute, like she was listening to someone on the other end.
“Who is it, dear?” I asked, like a mom.
“Shhh…” Kelly hissed, waving her hand at me like she was listening to a real person on the phone.
“Well, I don’t care what they said. I want those darn things delivered on time!” Only Kelly didn’t say “darn.”
I wasn’t looking at Kelly, but dutifully spoke as I’d heard Aunt Rita do many times. “Sweetheart, please watch your language.”
“Shhh!” Kelly hissed urgently, causing me to look her way.
Our house was old, and we got heat upstairs through a pipe in the floor. In the summer, like now, there was just a hole in the floor where the pipe usually went. Kelly was staring into the hole. Her face was very white, and she looked as if she might burst into tears.
I forgot all about playing “Grown-Ups,” as I watched her. “Kelly, what’s wrong?”
“I looked down the hole in your floor while I was pretending to yell on the phone, and Uncle John was looking up at me.”
I paled. “Oh,” I said in a tiny voice. Even though I hadn’t been the one to say the D-word, I knew I was in trouble too. Mom and Dad were clear on that.
It was confusing. If we were pretending to be grown-ups, we couldn’t say those things. But if you really were a grown-up, it must be okay. After all, I’d heard many grown-ups use the D-Word.
We three decided to go downstairs and face the music. When we got down there, looking like properly repentant seven, eight, and nine-year-olds, there were our parents, playing cards quietly.
Not a word was said about our game of “Grown-Ups.” Uncle Brad was extra quiet.
I don’t think we played that game again, for a long, long time.
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