“DON’T SAY A WORD!” the eight-year-old screams at me from the other side of the bathroom door, where she has been trying to put her hair in a ponytail while the clock ticks closer to the first bell.
The ten-year-old is at the front door with his backpack, playing with the dog. “You want to come with us? You want to come with us?” he repeats as the dog jumps and barks.
“Don’t get him riled up,” I say.
“You want to get riled up? You want to get riled up?” he says to the still-barking dog.
The bathroom door opens and she is frantic. “What time is it? Why didn’t you tell me it was so late?”
“She does have a point,” he says, and I can’t even tell if he’s being sarcastic.
I suggest, strongly, that he and the dog wait for us in the car. He leaves.
She grabs gloves, jacket, homework, backpack and stomps out the front door.
I open the car door and he is in the driver’s seat with the back reclined, feet up on the steering wheel, dog in his lap. “Can I ride shotgun?”
“Yes,” I say. “In two years. Get in the back.”
“Can I ride in the trunk?”
“First bell just rang,” I say.
He throws himself over the headrest into the back seat, kicking his sister.
“Ow,” she yells. “That was my FACE.”
“Sorry,” he says, like he doesn’t mean it.
We pull out of the driveway ten minutes before the late bell rings. We are one mile from school.
“I don’t get why I can’t ride in the Thule,” he says. “When Mitt Romney’s dog rode on top of the car was he in like a carrier?”
“Can you change the station?” she says.
I ignore her. The morning DJ uses the word douchebag. I switch stations to Taylor Swift singing Blank Space.
They yell at the same time. “No!” Yes!” I leave it on.
“Hey, remember that dude with the yellow hair at the assembly?” he says.
“He read that poem about bacon!” she says.
“That was hilarious.”
“I know, right?”
(Sounds of wrestling and laughing.)
“Guys! I can’t concentrate on driving.”
“Why is that car honking at you?”
“Were you honking at him?”
“No, I wasn’t honking.”
“Who was honking?”
“The dog is drinking your coffee,” she says.
“Can I climb out through the window when we get there?” he says. “I can do it in like two seconds. I’ll totally clear it.”
“Yeah, right,” she says.
(More wrestling and laughing sounds. A screech.)
“Okaaaayyyyyy!” they say in unison.
“Is that clock a minute fast or just a half minute?”
“What’s a douchebag?”
“The dog is drinking your coffee.”
“Did I pack my library book?”
“Can Derek sleep over tonight?”
“That’s so not fair. You’ve had like two million sleepovers!”
“So what? You have, too.”
“I don’t want to have one. I just want you to not have one.”
“You have chocolate on your face,” she says.
“Yeah I get that a lot,” he says. “Mom, what’s an example of an NC-17 movie?”
“Why aren’t we moving?” she says.
“Why aren’t we moving?” he says.
“There’s a garbage truck in front of us,” I say.
“So, when we get the late slips, should we check off that it was because of traffic?” she asks. “Or oversleeping? Or that there was a family issue.”
Family issues, I think. Plural.
He says, “They really should have an option for ‘All of the above.'”
“The truck is moving,” she says.
“Why aren’t we going?” he says.
And then, we are there. We pull up just in time to hear the late bell ring. “Bye! Love you! Have a great day!” I say as they unbuckle and clamor out with the dog barking in protest.
Their overstuffed backpacks bob as they run. They are laughing.
The dog watches them and whines, missing them already.
“I know how you feel,” I say.
Photo credit: Megan Dempsey