Penance

Sometimes the best laid plans blow up in your face. Sometimes you think you have a brilliant idea, but there is hell to pay.  And sometimes the ones who volunteer to collect in behalf of hell are your very own family members.

First, Lorrie glared at us for the rest of the night.  Mel kept sniffing and asked if we were sure that she wasn’t going to jail for not doing her homework.  They both told on us and Martha came storming in to give us her two cents worth.  And my lovely wife, coward that she is in the face of ankle biters with runny noses and perturbed expressions baled on me and said it was my fault, entirely.

See if you get any tonight Ms. Walters!

So what happened was this.  Mel was crying because we were making a point about her not doing her homework and misleading us to think that she’d done it at school.  I guess that’s why it’s called homework, right? You do it at home.  Maybe that reminder would have been enough.

But, we went all out and made up a story about a guy who tried to swindle us and for his neglect when it came to fact checking property rights; he got caught and ended up in the slammer for at least 15 years. Sounds plausible, right?

It was plausible enough that poor Melanie ran crying to her sister and pleaded with her to not let the sheriff take her to jail. She promised to do her homework, in between sobs and wiping at her runny nose, and I’m not sure which thing set Lorrie off the worst. That we freaked out her baby sister, who she is very protective of, or that it caused her shirt to be covered with tears and snot.  Of course, our deception was mixed in there somewhere, and the little turd got a full confession from Lex, who was an emotional mess, even worse than Mel, for causing her baby such distress.

But it didn’t end there.  At dinner, Lex insisted on holding Melanie on her lap and fed her bites in-between kisses on the forehead and enough apologies to last a lifetime.  I reluctantly apologized, too, and admitted that we made up the story to teach Mel a lesson. 

Trouble was, our Lorrie is brilliant at holding grudges.  She is positively the best at figuring ways to get even. It reminds me of when Jeannie and I were kids and I’d do something to piss my sister off. She took extreme delight in making my life hell until she figured I’d suffered enough. Then she gave it to me again just for good measure.

So, the next afternoon, I was putting away Eddie’s clean clothes and straightening up his diaper bag when Martha and Charlie followed Lex into Eddie’s room. 

“Amanda Walters! How dare you scare that baby girl like that! You should be ashamed!”

You know, Lex nodded her head in agreement.  “Hey, you’re just as guilty as I am.” 

“Both of you should know better,” Martha insisted. “Remember when you were trying to teach our sweet Melanie to tie her shoes? Amanda, you told her that she wasn’t going to be able to turn five years old if she didn’t know how to tie her own shoes, because every kid had to learn that before Kindergarten.”

“She learned, didn’t she?” I thought it was a brilliant suggestion at the time. Twenty minutes later, Mel was demonstrating her skill with her shoe laces.

Martha harrumphed.  She never harrumphs.  But she harrumphed just the same. “And the time that you told her that she couldn’t start school until she could say her address?”

I was feeling particularly picked on, while my wife tried to blend in with the paint on the wall.

“Well, Ms. Walters. You’ve gone too far!” Martha nodded at Charlie, who leaned into the hallway and whistled. I looked at Lex to see if she knew what Charlie was up to. We heard Lorrie’s voice telling someone to come on up the stairs. Suddenly, Jeremy, who succeeded Charlie as sheriff, came in dangling two sets of hand cuffs.

“I’m sorry to have to do this,” Jeremy said. “But relating a false police activity is a misdemeanor.  I’m afraid I’ll have to take you both in.”  He held out one of the pair of hand cuffs and gestured for me to go first. “I hear you’re the ringleader,” as he snapped the cuffs around my wrists. “I’ll put you in the squad car and come back for your accomplice.” And he marched me down the stairs and led me outside and stuffed into the back of his car. Then he went back inside and emerged a few minutes later with Lex.

Lex and I looked at each other. “Any more bright ideas, Lex?”

“Nope. None. I’m sure this is a mistake.”

Martha and Charlie came out to the car to bid us goodbye and to promise to look after the children. Martha still had an indignant expression on her face and Charlie’s face was unreadable. Lorrie was looking a bit too smug, though. I smelled a rat.

Guess what happened next?

Melanie had been on a play date and got a tummy ache so Wanda brought her home early. They pulled up to the house within seconds of Lex being put into the back of the squad car.  She freaked.

“Please don’t take my mommies to jail!”

Suddenly, it occurred to me that there were a couple of family members that were about to get their come-uppance. “It’s okay, sweetie. We did a bad thing when we made up that story about a police case, and now we have to go to jail, just for a little while.”

Mel screamed, “No!” and she pulled at Jeremy who gave it up right there and helped us out of the car and removed the handcuffs. Without a word, he got into his car and drove back down the drive like a bat out of hell.

Martha suddenly had an intense interest in an ant hill a few feet in front of where she was standing. Charlie seemed to be preoccupied with the weather. And Lorrie was stealthily sneaking up the porch steps.

Melanie, the poor traumatized kid, threw herself into our arms and cried, which of course made the guilty parties feel even lousier.  We wiped her face and Lex picked her up and carried her inside, right past Charlie and Martha.  I stared at them both until they looked back at me.

“Couldn’t that be called, false arrest, sheriff?”

Charlie rubbed his stubbled chin while trying to figure out what to say in his defense.

“I’ll let it go this time, but don’t let it happen again.”

Penance is such a lovely word.

For the next week, we had all the cookies, cakes, and pies Martha could turn out.  She baby sat the kids so that Lex and I could have a few romantic nights alone.  And Melanie has not missed even one homework assignment.

As for Lorrie—the stables have never been cleaner.

Amanda.

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