Where a cup of courage and a slice of adventure are served bright and early.
|Alex unlocked the door of their apartment, sighing as he slid his backpack off his shoulders. School had been trying and his classmates even more so.
“Aaaalex!” Sally Ann’s voice, high and excited disrupted the moments peace he had gotten after he had closed the door. But it was a welcome disruption, Sally Ann was worth it and more. Most of the time.
Maggie, their golden retriever, terrier mix came clicking into view on the hard wood floors, preceding his little sister. Alex knelt down and Maggie sat, placid as ever as Alex rubbed behind her ears, her large brown eyes soft and calm. Maggie always made Alex feel better, she was the last real thing he had of his dad, who had helped Alex train Maggie.
Sally Ann came running in then, her red hair flying and her teddy bear, King, clutched in her hand as ever.
“Come play wif me Alex” she said grabbing his hand “King and I want to play wif you”
“Sally, I have homework” Alex protested half-halfheartedly but went along with her anyway, homework was boring and he didn’t really want to do social studies. Maggie followed, her nails clicking in a gaited rhythm.
“Look at the drawing I made” Sally Ann said pointing to the drawing on the floor in her room, it was of a tree with a tire swing and the sun in the left-hand corner.
“Nice, Sally” Alex said automatically as he picked his way through her room. Room was stretching it a bit, but Alex preferred to think of it that way even though the only thing that separated his side of the room and Sally Ann’s was a curtain. Their mother was a nurse at the General Hospital and worked long and crazy hours. The small apartment they were in was all that they could afford since their dad had died of cancer. Alex wasn’t sure what sorts of bills their mother had to pay or how much each one was, but he knew from how much his mom worried over the envelopes from the hospital that they weren’t exactly fifty cents each. “Mom home yet”
“Was” Sally Ann said “but she had to go back to work. She said to make mac and cheese for dinner.” Sally Ann beamed, mac and cheese was her favorite, which was good because they had it a lot.
“Cool” Alex said again automatically and tried not to be mad and disappointed that his mom wasn’t there. He had gotten an A on today’s math test and he had really wanted to show her, to see her tired eyes light up. Maggie laid down next to Alex as he sat on the floor with Sally and laid her head in his lap as Alex held up Barbie clothes and held the Barbie's themselves as Sally dressed them and combed their hair, rambling on and on about whatever her mind wandered to. Alex would automatically pet Maggie whenever he had a free hand and she would lick his fingers every once in a while in return. After an hour of Barbie’s Alex had Sally Ann help him feed Maggie and then after settling Sally Ann to watch Dragon Tales on PBS, Alex started making dinner. His mother had taught him how, in case things like this happened, she had made sure that Alex could take care of himself and Sally Ann when needed. But as he spooned the cheesy mixture into paper bowls and set them on the table, Alex was mad that he was setting out two bowls and not three. He wasn’t sure who he was mad at, his mother, for not being there, the hospital for calling her away, or his father for getting sick and dying in the first place. It didn’t matter, he should be on the computer playing video games or reading comic books like the other boys who talked of nothing else, not taking care of his little sister, who still had innocent and happy thoughts.
After putting Sally in the living room again Alex did the dishes and then sat down at the table to struggle over social studies while at the same time thinking that his mom should be home by now.
Suddenly a voice came from the TV and not the voice of Clifford.
“ . . .research is still being conducted” said a man with a rough and rumbling voice.
“Aaaaaaalex,” Sally yelled “I pressed a buuttonnn”
Alex sighed as he got up, only halfway through his homework.
“Come on Sal” he said wearily. He took the remote she offered. “Go take your bath and I’ll have it fixed by the time you get out”
“But-” Sally Ann’s whine was cut off by Alex’s glare. The last time Sally Ann had whined and thrown a tantrum, Sally Ann had had to stand in time out for fifteen minutes. To a six year old that is like an eternity. And Alex was not afraid to do it again, no matter what the neighbors thought of the kicking and the screaming. She glared at him her lips forming a duck bill and Alex had to use all of his self control not to laugh. It was quite hard, but five years of babysitting, parental supervision or no, had given him a great poker face.
“Fine, meanie!” Sally spat and she slid off the beat up couch and lightly stomped, she couldn’t stomp as hard as she wanted or the neighbors would come up and start screaming like last time.
Meanwhile the scientist guy was rambling through the whole incident and Alex turned back to it,
“. . .cancer for instance. . . “ the man said and Alex turned the channel back to PBS, rolling his eyes. It seemed that every day someone had found a supposed cure for cancer and all of them seemed to be either duds or frauds. Alex went back to his homework and was finishing just as Sally came out of the bath in her favorite nightgown
“Hot chocolate!” Sally demanded as Maggie’s tail thumped the floor at Alex’s feet upon her entry.
“Sal, you know that hot chocolate’s for Saturday.” Alex said patiently and Sally pouted.
“Please.” she begged.
“No,” Alex said “Mom would ground me this weekend for giving you hot chocolate. Remember, we were going to go to the park tomorrow and it’s spring break, I don’t want to get in trouble and ruin it.”
“Okay” Sally conceded and huffed as she plopped in the chair next to him. there was a count of ten before she had to say something. “Can we watch a movie?”
Alex looked at her and decided that that didn’t sound too bad actually.
“Alright” Alex said and Sally beamed and ran, with Maggie by her side, to the living room. Alex followed at a slower pace. “something funny or something with lots of action?”
“I wanna watch Land Afore Time” Sally said and Alex shrugged and popped in the VCR and Sally ran to her room and came back dragging all her bedding and she threw it on the couch and jumped in the middle of it all and snuggled down. Alex waited as the previews played behind him, trying not to get too annoyed. He pushed some of her blankets over and sat at the end of the couch and almost immediately Sally stuck her feet under his thighs and wiggled her toes as Alex pulled her blankets over his lap.
They stayed this way for the movie and within the first quarter of the movie, Sally fell asleep and as the credits started rolling and Alex was standing to pop the VCR out, the door clicked and opened and their mother staggered through the door, looking haggard. Maggie stood and clicked over to her.
“Hey Mom” Alex whispered as he shut the TV off.
“Oh Alex honey” she sighed, dropping her purse and pulling off her shoes. “I’m so sorry. They called me in last minute.”
“Sally told me” Alex said, then yawned.
“You should be in bed” his mother said then copied him.
“So should you” he said and she chuckled and ruffled his hair and looked into the living room and sighed.
“There just aren’t enough hours in the day” she sighed.
“It’s okay Mom” Alex said
“No, hon, it’s not” his mother said and knelt as Maggie whined. “hi, lovely” she said to the dog and she looked back up at Alex “I promise I will get a day off this week and all four of us will go on a drive, perhaps to your grandparents or to the cove. How does that sound”
“Really good” Alex said but he didn’t get his hopes up. His mom tried, but it seemed that for some reason, the hospital couldn’t last a day without his mother. “Hey look at this”
Alex went to his back pack and pulled out his math test.
“You aced it.” she said and her face, though still tired, beamed with pride, the exact look that Alex wanted to see. “That’s my boy. Alright, it’s time for me to be the grown up. Get to bed, or no park tomorrow”
“Alright” Alex said and he hugged her. “Love you Mom”
“I love you too, Alex. Sweet dreams sweetheart” she whispered and kissed the top of his head and Alex went to his room and dressed for bed and crawled under the covers. It took only a few minutes for him to fall asleep.