This is a work of fiction.
“What?!” Stacey screamed into my ear. “Vincent! What a . . .” She swore blisteringly and then said, “Sorry Mom. I guess I’d better tell Chuck. I guess we’ll have to see if we can change our flight.”
“Rushing back here won’t help, and it’s probably exactly what he wants you to do. Those were all the messages so please call me back if there’s anything I can do.”
“Thanks Mom. Bye.” She ended the call without asking me to send her love to the kids. I decided not to read anything into that.
I put my phone away and opened the door.
I went into the living room where I found Lydia still knitting.
“I’m just going outisde to check on the boys.” She nodded, and I went into the kitchen and opened the back door.
All three boys were in the yard, but they weren’t shooting baskets or running around.
Curly was holding onto Sammy, and Freckles was on the ground, clutching his stomach.
“What’s going on here?”
“Sammy went in and came back out and punched Freckles,” Curly said. “He was going to do it again, but I grabbed him.”
“Sammy, would you like to tell me your version of what happened?”
“He told!” Sammy struggled, but Curly held onto him.
“Who told who what?”
He jabbed his finger at his younger brother.
“Him. He told about him and now Mom got fired.”
Now this was starting to make a bit more sense.
“Three things, Sammy. Freckles told only me, you must talk to an adult if something serious is bothering you, and you had no business listening at the office door.”
“Did Mom lose her job?” Curly asked, looking worried.
“Let’s all go inside and have lunch. There are some things I need to tell you, and Lydia should hear them, too. Thank you Curly for preventing more violence.”
Freckles got up and followed us inside.
After a quiet, hurried lunch, we gathered in the living room.
Lydia looked at her knitting and then at me.
“What would you like to ask me?”
“Can I knit more?”
“It’s better if you wait until later. I have a few things to tell you. Both your mom, Stacey, and your dad, Chuck, have lost their jobs. Do any of you know a man named Vincent?”
They all shook their heads.
“He called and left a message for them. He didn’t give a reason except that the company needed fewer workers. Do you have any questions?”
“I bet he told that friend of his,” Sammy said, glaring at Freckles.
“I didn’t,” Freckles said. “I swear I only told Grandma.”
“Liar, it’s probably all over Facebook by now.”
“Nothing is all over Facebook,” I said. “Freckles told only me. The company needs fewer workers is all Vincent said, and we have to believe him unless we learn otherwise. Sammy, if you have anything more to say, please talk to me, and only me, understand?”
“The same goes for you,” I said to Freckles, who also nodded. “I have some sad news. The kennel called. Popeye passed away peacefully in his sleep.”
Lydia looked confused.
“You mean he died?” Sammy said.
Curly started to cry.
Freckles looked away and tried not to cry, but couldn’t stop it.
Lydia started to cry.
I started to cry.
Sammy glared at us, got up, and left the room.
After a while, I explained to the others that I wanted to check the mail and call Stacey if there were any important letters, and then we’d go to the kennel. I decided to hold off telling them that Stacey had asked me to take them to get another dog, as Sammy hadn’t come back yet.
I left the three of them in the living room and went outside.
The mailbox was almost full.
I found two envelopes that I imagined contained the paychecks Vincent had mentioned.
There was also an envelope from a credit card company. Rather than going back into the office, I called Stacey from a patio chair.
“Hi Mom.” She sounded like she’d been crying. “I talked to Chuck. He says we’ll find better jobs and begged me not to try and change the flight.”
Way to go, Chuck, I thought.
“That’s right. I’m just calling to say I checked your mail. There are two checks and a credit card statement. Would you like me to open them?”
“Yes to the checks, and let me ask Chuck about the credit card.”
A minute later, I opened the checks and told Stacey the amounts.
Next, I opened the credit card statement.
Credit limit: $50,000.