“Hi baby, how’s your foot?” Rosemary asked. Rich had tweaked his ankle six months earlier playing racquetball and while it had healed without a problem and he’d been back to the game for nearly five months, his mother couldn’t quite let it go.
“Mom…Step…Away…From…The…Shoebox,” he boomed in his most threatening tone. Rosemary’s legs jerked slightly beneath the box, as if it might blow up in her lap.
“Um, Mom, maybe you should just set the box aside and I’ll come have a look at it.”
“Sweetie, it’s just pictures.”
“No, Mom, it’s not just pictures; it’s teenage angst and it’s stuff a boy never, ever wants his mother to see or know.”
“But Richie, you’re not a boy any more. For heaven sakes, you’re practically middle aged.”
“I wouldn’t go there if I were you, Mom. If I’m middle aged, what does that make you?”
“Well, semi-ancient, but that’s common knowledge. I’ve been semi-ancient since my hair turned white when I was 25.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“So who is this girl?”
“Laura’s looked in it.”
“Mom!” Laura wailed.
“He wants to talk to you,” Rosemary said, passing the cell phone to her daughter.
“Oh nice, really nice, LaLa,” Rich said.
“Nice yourself, Richard. Our mother just turned her children against one another and she’s sitting on the front step looking like the Cheshire cat in a blue work shirt.”
“When did you look in the box?” he asked.
“Oh baby, I looked in that damn box almost as often as you did.”
“You know, stacking it with the other shoe boxes was brilliant, for a 14-year-old, but none of your other dress shoes came in boxes covered with skulls and nuclear waste stickers.”
“That was pretty smart of me,” he conceded.
“Yeah,” Laura said.
“But why? What did you care?”
“Richie, you were so clueless. I wasn’t interested in your Baywatch babe — although I have to admit I tried out some of her hairstyles and bought a red bikini, though I never had the nerve to wear it. I had a huge crush on Brian…”
“Brian? My buddy, Brian?”
“Yes, your buddy Brian…”
“But, LaLa, he was a kid to you.”
“What’s a few years when a girl’s found the perfect specimen? Maybe you never noticed, but he was the perfect specimen.”
“Yeah, that, and he was gay.”
“But we didn’t know that, and truly, from my worldly 16-year-old’s perspective, nothing could have persuaded me that he was anything other than my future husband.”
“God, you must have been crushed when he came out.”
“Actually, by that time, I was over him and was starting to lust after men Dad’s age.”
“Oh ick yourself, screwball, you’re the age Dad was and I doubt that you’d spurn the advances of a hot 18-year-old. Um, listen Richie, I don’t want to change the subject, but Mom is slavering over your shoebox.”
“Slavering? Where do you get these words?”
“What do you want us to do with the box?”
“I don’t know. I don’t care. I really don’t remember what’s in there. Is there anything she shouldn’t see?”
“You expect me to remember?” Laura asked.
“I guess it’s okay. She can look in it.”
“Just wait til she takes a notion to clean the garage…”
“Gotta go, baby. Talk soon.” She snapped the phone shut.
“You’ve got the green light, Mom. But if I were you, I’d do this on the dining room table, not out here. The last thing we want is for this stuff to get whisked away on a breeze. Do you have any lemonade?”