(scene opens in cluttered kitchen)
Alpha: (preparing to wash dishes, soap and sponge at the ready)
Me: (enters, notices mug in Alpha’s hands) What are you doing?
Alpha: Getting ready to wash dishes. Its my chore for the day.
Me: Did you just dump out that coffee mug?
Me: Was it hot?
Me: (gestures to a counter full of glassware) Every glass we own is dirty and you start with the coffee mug I just put down while in the bathroom?
Alpha: (defensively) It was dirty!
Me: It was seasoned! You never wash a coffee addict’s coffee mug! They might still be drinking it!
(scene opens in mini-van on ride home, math & physics discussion in progress)
Me: And that’s why I’m glad you decided you wanted to go to band camp. Music, language, and math all use the same part of the brain.
Beta: So I guess this means I’m really smart.
Me: (smirk) Kinda.
Beta: (offended) Kinda?!
Me: Intelligence isn’t a black/white issue of you’re either dumb or smart but more of a sliding scale. I think I might be moderately educated, but someone like Stephen Hawking probably thinks I’m a moron.
Beta: (dawning awareness) So you’re smarter than some people and some people are smarter than you! So Gamma is smarter than Delta, I’m smarter than Gamma, Alpha is smarter than me, you’re smarter than Alpha and dad is smarter than you!
Me: (narrow side eye)
Beta: Uh, reverse that?
Me: (stern lecture voice) Okay, now we talk about how it isn’t “age brings wisdom”, despite the fact I’m older that your father, but age brings the opportunity for more experience and experience brings wisdom.
(scene opens in cluttered kitchen, lunch in progress, Irish folk played offscreen)
Alpha: This music reminds me of something.
Me: (cutting tomatoes) Oh yeah?
Alpha: Yeah. Ornica of Time. Legend of Zelda.
Me: (processes that for a moment) It’s pronounced ocarina. Ocarina of Time.
Alpha: (incredulous) Really?! You played Legend of Zelda?!
Me: No, I played an ocarina.
Alpha: Those really exist!?
(scene opens in dim basement, children eating candy before the tv)
Husband: What are you eating?
Alpha: (mumbling) Nothing.
Husband: (sees open bag on the bar) Did you guys get into mom’s stash of Skittles?!
Alpha: It’s Beta’s fault. But he only took a handful and his hands are small.
Beta: (holds up hands, wiggles fingers) It’s true. See?
Gamma: Mine are smaller.
(scene opens up in parlor, bearing strong resemblance to a sweatshop)
Me: Alpha? I need a pen that will write on fabric.
Alpha: Where would I find that?
Me: Pen cup. Kitchen.
Alpha: (many hilarious failed attempts to produce anything resembling “fine tip” or “marker”)
Me: (exasperated) You know that nice pen that you have in your Boy Scout binder? Something like that.
Alpha: Where would I find that?
Me: Hooks along the stairs.
Alpha: (off screen) It’s not here.
Me: (stabs mouthful of pins into tomato, one at a time, mouthing curses) Hook. Stairs. Under jacket.
Alpha: (still off screen) I’m looking! It’s not here!
Me: (goes to basement stairwell. Stands on stairs. Stares at hooks.)
Alpha: Oh! I thought you meant the other hooks. (points at tiny key rack next to side door.
Me: Hooks. (points to hooks) Basement stairs. (points to stairs) Check under jackets. (removes hoodie from hook, reveals blue shoulder bag zipped organizer)
Alpha: Oh. Thanks mom. (takes organizer)
Me: You need to learn how to look for things. When the apocalypse comes, I won’t be here to help you find your survival gear.
(scene opens, one line in montage flashback)
Alpha: I wish I was an only child!
(scene cuts to sunny driveway)
Me: (waves goodbye to Grandma P and an excited Beta in shotgun)
Alpha: (gloomy alongside)
Me: You okay, Alpha?
Alpha: Beta will be gone all week?
Alpha: (kicks rocks) I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight without Beta to talk to. (turns, goes back into house)
Husband: (watches him go) Huh.
(scene opens in sewing room sweatshop, violin practice off screen)
Alpha: How was that? Am I all done?
Me: (puts down bodice) I think you could play a little bit longer, but it sounds good. I have to talk to you about something.
Alpha: (approaches hesitantly)
Me: Have you talked to Girlfriend recently?
Alpha: (wary brave face) Yeah. A couple of times.
Me: (tactfully lets it pass) We need to discuss the “Care and Feeding of the Girlfriend”. They’re not like houseplants where you talk to them once a month and everything is fine. Put your violin away then go upstairs and call her. You don’t have to plan anything, we’re probably busy this weekend, maybe you can meet at the park on Monday, but just tell her “Hey, thinking of you, wanted to see how things were going over your summer.”
Alpha: (tension ratchets down) You think so? Okay! (volin snaps into place, pounding upstairs offscreen)
Me: (licks finger, hash marks the air for a win)
(scene opens in rough finished laundry room)
Me: (sorting dirty laundry hip deep)
Beta: (shouting from kitchen above) Mom! We’ve got a problem!
Me: (already through) Then solve it, Beta! I’m working!
Beta: That’s the problem. I don’t know how to solve it!
Me: (mutters curses, extracts from dirty laundry, climbs stairs to kitchen)
Beta: (waiting by door, holding moldy strawberry)
Me: (stares, incredulous)
Beta: What do I do with it?
Me: (heartbeat) Eat it.
Beta: No way! (throws it in the garbage can)
Me: Really. You called me upstairs for that. You couldn’t figure it out.
Beta: (sheepish smile)
(scene opens in toy strewn parlor, summer school work in progress)
Me: Okay, twenty minutes of baritone. Let’s do some scale work.
Beta: I only know four notes.
Me: (pause for mini-stroke) A year of band and you only know four notes? (flips through book, finds scale) Here – start at G and play the octave.
Beta: (obligatory suffering, starts playing)
Me: (listens to the audio equivalent of a bucket of legos dumped out) What the hell was that?
Beta: (defensively) I’m playing the scale.
Me: (takes baritone, runs the scale) The notes go in order, lowest tone to highest then you go back down. Not a grab bag of sounds. What day were you not paying attention where you missed this part of music theory? How is the sound of it not audible common sense?
Beta: (cue more suffering)
(scene opens in tossed dining room)
Alpha: (suffering) Why are we doing this!? We’re the only kids in the whole neighborhood doing summer work.
Me: Because I want you to be smarter than you are now.
Alpha: I don’t want to be smarter, I want to be like everyone else.
Me: (dies a little)
Beta: “The lowest point in the US is in California. What is the name of this point?” Duh, California.
Me: Death Valley.
Me: Get back to work.
(scene opens in moderately clean kitchen)
Beta: (snaps off dish gloves) Done!
Me: (surveys work) Thank you, Beta,for all your hard work and for abiding by the contract.
Beta: What do I get out of it?
Me: You continue to get fed.
Beta: I can feed myself.
Me: With my food.
Beta: Fair enough.
(scene opens on the sidewalk, mother trying for patience with a toddler’s pace)
Neighbor Lady: School’s out already?
Me: ‘Fraid so. Please don’t judge all the empty wine bottles on the back porch in a week.
Neighbor Lady: (laughs, points to her house) His last day of work is today and tomorrow he starts his retirement. I might be over there helping you.
Me: I’ll order extra.