Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Today's muse:

As mentioned previously, I was given the privilege of reading my stories on the Radio Show "Life Rattle". The first story I read was "Saturday Morning Cartoons", a re-write of "Exceeding Expectations".

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Saturday Morning Cartoons

“What are you doing?”

My question is obviously rhetorical, as it is crystal clear that my kid brother is doing absolutely nothing. This doing of nothing is further confirmed by his shrugged response and caveman grunt. He wears his usual tattered track pants paired with a sleeveless undershirt that bears stains from at least a week ago. I know this because we haven’t had spaghetti since last Tuesday, and there is a large red stain on his shirt. His socked feet rest on the coffee table. One ugly big toe pokes out.

“Mom’s gonna freak if she sees you like this,” I warn. Again, he shrugs.

I roll my eyes in defeat, but sit down on the opposite end of the sofa. If the Golden Child is going to get in trouble, I want to be a witness.

Don’t get me wrong. My 16-year-old brother, Donald, and I get along well enough, but there are times I wish I was an only child. Being the youngest, Donald is always doted on, cooed over and coddled. It drives me nuts! Why doesn’t anyone pay attention to me? I’m the one who brings home good grades. I’m the one who helps out around the house. I’m the oldest! Why is it, I wonder, that the youngest child always gets away with the proverbial murder? In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was acquitted, should he actually commit such a crime. The boy can do no wrong.

I sit next to him on the sofa—fuming—my arms folded tightly across my chest, my foot tapping an angry beat. My jaw begins to ache from clenching and unclenching my teeth. Donald—conversely—is slouched in the sofa and mindlessly flips through the channels on the television, pausing occasionally to snigger at some childish cartoon. He finally settles on Sesame Street. I can hear the crisp march of my mother’s footsteps perfectly timed with The Count’s numbering. Eight, Nine, Ten … ten footsteps. Bwa ha ha!

It is Saturday morning, and Mom is in full cleaning mode—Dad was already enlisted to tidy the basement and I had just washed the windows and cleaned the bathrooms. Woe to anyone who was found loitering on a Saturday morning!

Mom strides into the living room with purpose. A laundry basket, brimming with freshly folded clothes, is securely tucked under one arm. Her hair is pulled off her face beneath a kerchief. She is wearing a white t-shirt paired with black polyester pants. Mom never wears jeans. She is June Cleaver incarnate—sans the pearls. Pearls, apparently, don’t go with polyester.

Mom glances over at us as she crosses the room, never breaking her stride. I smirk as I envision the scenario that I know is about to unfold. She stops abruptly when she reaches the threshold to the kitchen; turns with military precision and gapes at my brother.

“Well!” she exclaims. “This is a surprise.”

I do my best to squelch the smile that threatens to spread across my face. It occurs to me that I am far too excited about this.

“I really didn’t expect you to be up until after noon.” She assesses Donald, looking him over with an analytical eye. I imagine that she is deciding how to punish him; flipping through a mental Rolodex of chores with which to humiliate him.

“Let me make you something to eat,” she chirps with a bright smile and off she goes, expertly swinging the laundry hamper under the other arm, humming a quiet tune.

My mouth falls open. I lift a limp hand, point a useless finger at the empty doorway. Wait! What just happened?

I turn and gawk at my brother, my mouth still hanging open. He grins back at me and shrugs.

“You see,” he begins, folding his hands in his lap, a sombre expression on his face; looking much like our father when he’s about to pontificate on the meaning of life. “If you keep your standards low, it really takes no effort to exceed expectations. Take Mom, for instance.” As though cued, we glance at the doorway in unison to be sure she isn’t listening.

“She likes things done a certain way; her way, if you will.” He waves his hand in the air—a dismissive gesture. “Me sleeping in on Saturday throws off her routine. When her routine is re-established…” he gestures with a sweeping motion along his body “…her automatic response is to reward what she thinks is good behaviour. Never mind that I should have been up hours ago; the fact that I’m up at all sends her into convulsive fits of ecstasy.”

He presses the forward button on the channel selector. Grover and Cookie Monster are replaced by Casey and Finnegan. Donald sets down the remote and slouches back into the sofa as Mr. Dressup walks over to his Tickle Trunk.

I nod—a slow bob of my head—as comprehension washes over me. I am no longer angry at my kid brother, I decide. No…I am awed.

It appears that I have much to learn from the Golden Child.

1 comment:

glnroz said...

It like the Saturday Evening Post everytime I read one of your stories.