Mornings were hectic with a preschooler and a second grader, one a girl, the other a boy, both insisting that they don’t need a shower, they don’t want oatmeal, and they will not put on their uniforms. The father is in New York on a business trip. He’s been gone for a week, but it really doesn’t matter because when he’s home, he’s not home, he’s already gone and at work ‘til seven, sometimes eight. But the evenings are easy. Feed them, read a book, say good-night and close the door.
But mornings! Faces squinched up with sleep. Tempers shooting out of fingertips. Shove. Push, Shout. Cry. Mom pouring Capt. Crunch for him, toaster waffles for her. Milk spilled.
When the carpool honk sounds, they pour out the door, boy, girl, mom. Barry’s old Jetta emits its morning death rattle. Doors open, the girl has her leg in, her backpack swinging over her shoulder, and the mom screams, the car is moving, but it isn’t. Barry yells. Kids scream. The mom looks around, the chimney dances, a brick falls, wisps through ferns, thuds dirt. Barry’s out of the Jetta. Behind the gate, the terrier barks, yelps, runs back and forth. Earthquake.
They stand on the grass, far from the house, the trees, the telephone wires. Barry and his kid, her boy, her girl. The jolt lasted a couple of seconds. Hearts drum. They catch their communal breath.
Barry asks, “What now?”
The mom says, “I don’t know.”
“Should we go to school?”
Their faces are pale, the boys shout. “Stay home. Stay home.” The girl plops on the ground. shreds the grass.
Barry says, “That’s probably it, don’t you think?”
“Could be a foreshock,” says the mom. “I don’t know.”
“Let me take them. I can bring them back.”
“If they’re here, they’ll just worry about it.” The mom hugs herself, heart racing. “Let them go.”
She watches as the old Jetta backs out of the driveway, and when the car is gone, she walks to the gate, opens it, and gathers the terrier in her arms, the two of them shaking in the sun.