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It’s spring day, the sun is just peaking out behind the clouds. All of the neighborhood children are outside playing, and yelling. It is 4:45 on a Thursday night. Dad is in the kitchen cooking, or trying to, becoming irritated and annoyed. The three boys are all outside doing various activities. Mom is still out coaching her lacrosse practice. Shay is still not home, past her expected set return time. Home from school due to a long weekend. Laxer, the 7 month old yellow lab puppy is outside in the back yard.
Dad: (yelling out the back door) Dinner!! Let’s go, it’s gonna get cold!
Jack and Liam: (from a distance) Comingg!
Garage door opens swiftly. Jack and Liam plow into the kitchen, tracking mud into the house, pushing past on another to get to the table first.
Dad: (shouts from the living room) Woah Woah slow down!! Take your shoes off and close the door. Backpacks in the mud room. Jack finish setting the kitchen table. Liam get the puppy inside and feed him. No complaints from either of you. Then get your homework out and sit in the dining room and get started. (Walks into the kitchen) Have either of you seen Sean? He won’t answer any of my texts yet again and my calls go right to voicemail. (irritated) I don’t know why I pay for this kids phone bill, he never uses it when I need him to! He’s probably off with AJ and Stevie in the woods down the road again, who knows what bikes they broke this time. Jack, I told Shay to be home no later than 4:30 tonight right?
Jack: (eagerly) Will she get grounded now?! I will take her phone!
Dad: Not my point. I will deal with that when she gets back.
[Dad takes out his phone and sends a text message to Shay, “please let me know where you are, I need help around the house since your mother is gone. Have you seen Sean?]
Liam: (from the back door) Daaaaadd! Come look at the dog, I swear I don’t know what happened!
[The puppy is sitting on the edge of the back deck, covered in head to toe in mud and dirt. A yellow lab looking more and more like a dalmation. Laxer’s tail is wagging and lays on the deck as happy as can be]
Dad: How the?! Who left the hose running from the sprinklers earlier?! Sean!! This is the third time this week! Your mother is going to lose it. Laxer, stay out here for now, Sean will clean you up after he eats and gets an ear full from me.
The garage door opens, you can hear a hesitation in the footsteps that enter
Dad: Well, where have you been? Why aren't you responding to your texts? I am sick and tired of the lack of responsibility from you, have you finished homework? Have you done your chores? Did you go for a run? Shoot with your sister?
(Sean attempts to respond but hesitates)
Dad: Exactly. Get it together. Have you heard from your sister?!
Sean: I know, I know. Jeez. No, I don’t know where she is, not my responsibility, isn’t she out with Joey? She told me she just wanted some peace and quiet, don’t we all?!
Liam: (mocking) Ooooooo- Joeyyyy
Dad: Knock it off JJ. Yes I knew she was with Joey but I told her to be home no later than 4:30. You two need to go get a workout in while mom and I run the little boys to practices and we have meetings.
Sean: But Dad!! I wanted to go riding with Stevie and AJ!
Dad: Not until you are done with homework and workout with your sister!
Sean: Jeez c’mon!
Dad: Enough. (yells) Jack and Liam let’s go sit down, dinner is finally ready.
[Ding… Dad receives a notification on his phone, Sean lacrosse practice at Yale]
Dad: Well Sean, you don’t have to workout with Shay, because I totally forgot that you have practice at Yale tonight! Lucky you (yells again more annoyed) C’mon Dinneerrrr!!
It seems almost as though the ground shakes when those words are called every night.
Dad: Alright, I made steak tips, roasted broccoli, a pasta side, and some corn.
There is a collection of mixed emotions regarding what is being served for dinner.
Jack: Dad! You know that I don’t like steak! I never eat steak, I don't like steak, I want something else!
Dad: Stop it, you like steak. funny
Jack: I will not eat steak.
Dad: You will eat the food on this table or you will go to your room.
Jack: Fine! Only one piece .
Liam: I like steak! I don't want broccoli though; it’s so gross. Thanks though Dad.
Dad: JJ, thank you for being appreciative compared to someone I know!
Sean: I don’t want anything but pasta. This sucks. I do not wanna go to stupid practice.
Dad: You are all to eat the steak and at least one vegetable, no if ands or buts. If you don't, you can stay in your room for the remainder of the evening. No negotiations about that.
(The boys at the table fall into a deep sulk, you can see the wheels inside their heads turning, contemplating whether or not to leave the table) funny
(The back door opens with a loud creak, Shay tries to sneak in without making too much of a scene)
Dad: Well, look who it is. (Irritated) Well where have you been? I told you 4:30, didn’t I?
Shay: Yeah, but I swear I was just at the High School shooting with Joey, I needed a break from this chaos, It’s so loud all the time!!
Dad: I do not care, It is now 5:15. I told you that I needed to get the two little boys to practice tonight, and Sean to Yale for his lacrosse practice. I needed you home to watch the puppy while I was gone. Just because you are home from school on a break does not mean you can disobey the rules I put in place. Now sit down and eat your food before it gets even colder.
Jack and Liam: HA-HA you got in trouble!
Shay: Shut up and leave me alone. Liam move your chair over, I never have my personal space at this table.
Liam: I am practically falling off the edge!
Shay: Just please please be quiet!
Dad: Don’t even start right now, you two!
(The Back door opens again)
(Mom enters, hands full with bags from her lacrosse coaching, groceries, backpacks, etc. You can see on her face and with her body language that she is exhausted and stressed out)
All the kids: Hi, mom!
Jack: Mom!! Dad made steak and I do not want any of it
Liam: Yea! I don’t want broccoli, but he is making me eat it!!
Sean: I do not want anything at all, I hate everything on this table, but I am starving and have to eat before practice!
Shay: I got grounded for being 45 minutes late, which is so stupid because I was working out like you guys wanted me to do. And no one has shut up since I walked through the damn door.
Mom: Hi everyone, listen, I am too tired to deal with any of this right now. You are all to eat what is in front of you, or, your father is right, and you will be going to your rooms unfed and will suffer the consequences of missing your practices tonight.
Dad: Thank you; how was your day?
Mom: (annoyed) Fine. You guys are all already late!! I told you to have the boys fed and out of the door before 5:30! Get your water bottles filled right now! Jack and Liam where are your soccer balls and shin guards! C’mon you guys were supposed to have this done!!! Sean get your sticks into Dad’s car. Do I even ask about homework?? Jesus Christ, Jonathan, you must have done all the cooking yourself, because yet again every pot in the kitchen was used!! Guess I get to clean that up later, too!
Dad: I promise I tried getting this all done; they just don’t listen to me!
Mom: Let’s go! (opens door to leave) WHAT THE, did anyone know what the dog got into?! He isn’t even yellow anymore! Why does this place go to hell when I am not home for 3 hours in the afternoon?! (clearly frustrated) Shay, please take care of the dog, clean up from dinner, and fold that laundry on the couch please?
Shay: I thought I was supposed to go for a run, but I guess. I mean yeah, I will get it done. Kinda just wanna eat. In silence.
Mom: You will figure it out.
(puppy comes into the house, pees on the carpet, then bolts back outside. Kitchen is still destroyed, laundry unfolded, forgotten water bottles and soccer balls on the counter, and Shay sits down to enjoy her cold, silent dinner)
(then the fire alarm goes off… Dad left the stove on...)