I am in the bathtub.
The girls are due to arrive home from school any moment, and I am hiding from them.
I am feeling sorry for myself, and I just want to be alone for a little bit.
Mark’s out in the garage; he can deal with the frenzy of the girls’ homecoming.
I run the water and lie back in the tub.
Wallow a bit.
Over the sound of the rushing water, I hear the pounding of feet up the stairs.
“MOM! MOTHER! MOM! MOTHER! MOM!”
“I’m in the tub, ladies. What do you need?”
The bathroom door swings open (because I forgot to lock it) and three sets of feet stomp into the bathroom with me. I gaze at the shadowy figures of Maj and Kallan and one of their friends through the privacy glass of the tub enclosure’s sliding doors. Their voices tumble over one another and compete for my attention against the rush of the water.
MOTHER! BICYCLES TO THE SCHOOL BUS PUPPIES! WE ARE LEAVING DADDY SAID OK IF YOU SAID OK BICYCLES MOM! WE WILL BE CAREFUL HER FRIEND . . . PUPPIES! MOTHER! I WILL KEEP AN EYE PLEASE MOTHER ON MAJ AND KALLAN AND BICYCLES AND PUPPIES YESTERDAY TODAY PROMISED PUPPIES! WE WILL BE CAREFUL PUPPIES! GAS NOT SO FAR PUPPIES STATION WE RODE THERE BEFORE PUPPIES! CELL PHONES. BICYCLES! PUPPIES! CAN WE? PLEASE? PUPPIES! WE HAVE TO GO WHILE THEY ARE STILL THERE PUPPIES! CAREFUL PUPPIES! PLEASE?
From which I gather that they want to ride their bikes to a friend’s house and look at puppies.
I want the three of them to be anywhere but here in this bathroom with me.
I want that so much.
I sink into the water so that I cannot hear them anymore, and I say, “Fine. Visit the puppies, but do not bring any puppies home.”
I hear faint squeals of water-dulled delight, and then I feel more than hear the pounding of three sets of feet down the stairs and out the front door.
I feel the door slam.
I turn off the bathtub water.
I lie in the tub and stare at the ceiling and wallow in steamy water and self pity for a few minutes.
I wash my hair.
Run some more hot water.
Lie back in the tub.
I try to empty my mind.
But two words refuse to be dislodged.
GAS . . . STATION.
Why did they say “GAS” and then “STATION?”
Wait . . . whose house did they say they were going to, anyway?
Oh good lord.
I climb out of the tub and grab a towel and the phone and then walk out to the garage, “Mark, which friend has the puppies? Where did the girls go?”
Mark is working on the trailer lights, and he answers absentmindedly, “They didn’t say. I told them to ask you.”
I sink to the ground, “I’m not sure, but I may have given them permission to go visit puppies some random stranger has at the gas station by the grocery store.”
Mark looks at me, his eyebrows raised, “Well, that was awesome parenting.”
I sigh, “I know, right? This is how stupid white trash ends up on CNN in a bath towel explaining how she sent her daughters off to visit puppies at the gas station and how could she have possibly known this was a bad idea?”
Mark laughs, “The three of them are together. They will be OK. Call them.”
“I did, but they are on their bicycles . . . they’re not answering.”
“They’re fine, Kris.”
“Help me with the trailer for a minute. They’ll be back before you know it.”
I call and leave another message on Maj’s phone.
On Kallan’s phone.
I help with the trailer.
And the girls are back before I know it.
They didn’t answer my calls because they never got off their bicycles. The man with the puppies at the gas station wasn’t there anymore. All that bicycling for nothing.
Kallan heads into the house to get a popsicle.
Maj stands out in the driveway with Mark and me.
I am sitting on the ground and I look up at her, “So the puppies at the gas station . . . was that just some random guy with a box of puppies or was it one of the men who works there?”
Maj looks at me, “One of the guys who works there. We saw him and the puppies when we rode past on the school bus, but I guess he took them home for the day.”
“Just you know, Maj? Not one of my finer parenting moments.”
“I didn’t listen carefully and I should not have let you go. Riding your bicycles to the gas station to see a man about some puppies? I messed up.”
“Yeah, I am aware . . . I was surprised when you said yes, but I wanted to see the puppies, Mother.”
I pick up a stick and snap it into little pieces, “I wish you had spoken up, Maj.”
She pats me on the shoulder, “Sometimes, Mother? Sometimes, I just have to let you learn from your mistakes.”
I sigh, “It’s going to be a long summer, isn’t it, Maj?”
Maj giggles, “Yes, Mother. Yes, it is. Attention will be required.”