I knew 2016 was going to suck at about 8:30 AM on New Year’s Day.
“Seth!” Mom said on the other side of the door in her mad voice.
“Yes?” I said, pulling the covers over my head.
“I want to talk to you!”
I knew by the tone I was in trouble. It didn’t matter that I was 52, had been martyred for 28 years, raised three children, and was now a grandpa. I had gone home again and was in trouble.
I slunk-limped into the living room in my droopy pajamas, wiping the sleep from my eyes, and sat obediently in The Chair.
Mom had been up since four and probably had lain in bed awake a few hours before that, and every word in the prosecution’s case had been planned. She was made up and wearing the I-just-threw-this-on immaculate morning robe. The red fingernail paint looked fresh and shiny and ready for another coat of blood.
“Well?” She said in a voice that made that one word an accusation, a proof, and a unanimous verdict.
I looked up, hangdog, and raised my eyebrows, letting the sad wrinkles in my old face say, “Well, what?”
She jumped in with all fours and a pitchfork.
“Why did you even bother to come? What have I done to make you treat me this way? What is WRONG with you?”
I was too old to fidget so I drooped a little more. I imagined the worst newspaper headline ever: “Great-granny Reams Aged Grandpa for Character Flaws.” But I said nothing and raised my eyebrows another millimeter.
Tounces the cat licked his ass and gazed at me in contempt.
“I thought you were sitting around in that chair the last two days because of your leg, but the minute your friends show up you’re hail-fellow-well-met and the life of the party! I guess your old bike friends mean more than your own mother! What do you have to say for yourself?”
I paused, hoping Tounces might do something noteworthy like roll over or stand up or walk but he kept rasping away at the world’s cleanest cat butthole, pretending not to care but plainly enjoying my misery. Cats love it when you suffer.
My eyebrows couldn’t get any higher so I slumped deeper into the chair and looked at the dirt under my right thumbnail.
“I guess if you’re going to sit there and not say anything then you can go back to bed. And for goodness’ sake clean your filthy fingernails!”
I went back to my room without any breakfast but not before Flounces, the other sneaky little shit, had climbed on my pillow and infected it with cat hair, setting off a sneezing explosion the minute I laid down.
After a few minutes I heard them go off to church. Mom had found Catholicism a few months ago after a lifetime of scornful, hard bitten atheism that couldn’t withstand suicide, cancer, and the view of the yawning abyss. When they got home she was serene and filled with the grace and redemption of dog. This was ironic, surrounded as she was by the satanic cats.
“Hi, honey!” she said cheerfully. “Were the kitties good while we were at church?”
I glowered at Tounces and Flounces, who glowered balefully back.