We had planned on greeting my parents as soon as they got in, so we could break the news gently, but we all slept pretty late on Sunday. And being the sound sleepers that we are, we didn't hear them laughing and giggling when they first came in. And we didn't hear Mom scream and faint when they got upstairs. And we didn't hear Dad standing in front of each of our doors (as well as the living room hole, which Mike was using as his entranceway these days) yelling his head off at us.
We didn't even stir until dinnertime, when we awoke to the delightful smell of Mom's Chinese cooking. We all jumped up and wandered sleepy-eyed into the kitchen like rats drawn by the pied piper.
As we congregated towards the kitchen, each of us thought it was just as well that we hadn't been there to greet them. By now they must have pretty well calmed down.
Well, maybe not. They were eating, and apparently Mom had purposely only made enough for two.
I looked at the empty pans in the sink and I knew we were in trouble.
"OK, so how much did you make ripping out and selling our souls like that?" Mom whispered slowly, not raising her head.
Dad was seething. He couldn't even talk, he just grumbled vague animal sounds. Maybe we had sold a few too many clocks.
"A little less than two
hundred fifty thousand dollars," Suzie yawned.
"A little...huh?" Mom gasped. She blinked a few times in disbelief.
Dad scratched his head. Did you say two hundred fifty THOUSAND dollars?" he stammered.
They took it much better than we had anticipated. Mom even cooked us dinner.
"So, tell us, how was New York?" David yawned as we helped chop vegetables.
Mom was beaming. "Oh, it was great. Uncle Bill was really happy to see us. Peter's got a lovely bride. Your father and I danced all night. Gosh, we hadn't danced together in thirty years. We stayed at Uncle Bill's, of course. He's got a wonderful place. I couldn't believe how big it is! We had a really great time. Didn't we George?"
Dad nodded absently as he continued poring though the boxes, counting bill after bill with bulging eyes.
"Good, guys, you deserve it," I said as I dumped some chopped carrots in the bowl. And then I asked the question we'd all been dying to hear the answer to. "And what did he think of the book?"
"He loves the idea!" Dad beamed, peering over stacks of neatly piled money. "He said we've got a real winner, and he's giving it to his friend Tom Morgan on Monday. We should know in about a week. But Bill says there's nothing to worry about. There's no way this won't work."
I can't explain how great we all felt to hear those words. This was like a dream come true.
"In the meantime," Mom continued, "he suggests we plow ahead as fast as we can and get as many books ready as we're able."
Things were looking pretty good for the Adams family that night. Mom and Dad could now pay off their debt, and we could work on the books without having all those money worries hanging over us like a dark cloud.
We all had a good night's rest -- that made two nights in a row! The next morning we were roaring and ready to go. Now that we had the format for the books down, and were working together like a well-greased machine, this was going to be a snap.
In our morning meeting we picked out the first ten names we'd be doing books on, and then we headed off to the library.
We put in a good day's work and headed home, happy and elated. We'd definitely treat ourselves to some television tonight, we decided -- even if it was still summer reruns.
If we had shocked Mom and Dad when they came home the day before, they shocked us even more.
Mom was standing at the front door, bubbling with excitement. "Come on in, guys, wait till you see what we've got..." she giggled.
"Huh, what do you mean, Mom?" we stammered as we stepped inside.
"HUH!!!" we gasped.
The living room was no longer a living room. The couch was still there. But instead of facing a TV, it faced three copy machines. Really fancy copy machines, I might add!
"Look!" Mom laughed. "We've got three fax machines, four water coolers..." Then she pointed to the far wall at giant bookcase. "We've got all the major reference books you use at the library -- you don't have to go there anymore! Oh, and look..." She dragged us over to the other side where four cubicles were set up. Mike was sitting at one. He just looked up with an "I-had-nothing-to-do-with-this" look and shrugged.
"And see, you've each got your own computer terminals..." Mom was saying. "You're all hooked up to the Internet. It'll be a snap doing research now!"
To put it mildly, the three of us were in shock.
"What happened to the living room hole?" Suzie managed, turning to Mike.
"Dad said it was too dangerous," Mike sighed. "What with the new employees and all."
"The what!" the three of us gasped.
"Hey, I tried to stop them !" Mike interjected. "You should have seen it before. They were interviewing people the entire day. At one point they were going to hire a dozen people. I talked them down to four..."
"Oh, yeah. But they're great!" Mom giggled. "They stayed late to meet you three. You'll love them. There's Veronica, Colby, Felicia...and Ricky, you'll never believe who else."
At that point I could care less.
I nearly fainted. Feona Fitzenwahler. Old Fire Fists, my fifth grade English teacher! Of all the people to haunt me from the past, she had to pick this one!
Fifth grade had been quite a year for me. Truth is, I learned a lot that year. But she was the toughest teacher I ever had. Once in a while, I still dream I'm back there again. I felt three feet tall as Mom dragged us across the living room towards the spare bedroom. I started to shake, like I was coming to class late, or had forgotten to do last night's homework and had just now remembered. This is all a nightmare, I told myself as we stood in front of the door.
Before Saturday, if you had opened the spare-room door you might have been buried alive. This morning before we left, the room was completely empty. I couldn't wait to see what was in there now.
Mom turned the knob, and it slowly creaked open. Four faces turned our way.
Everything was a blur for me. I listened and tried to smile while Mom introduced the two college kids, Colby Masterson and Felicia Simpson. I nodded when Veronica Carlisle, a very attractive woman in her mid-thirties, shook my hand. Then I looked over at the end, and I swear my heart missed a few beats when Feona Fitzenwahler squinted at me and said, "Oh, now I remember you!"
We stood together in the living room while the new employees waved their good byes and see-you-tomorrows.
"Mom..." I stammered when they were good and gone. "Mom, you didn't pay off the mortgage and the credit cards, did you..." I managed. Suzie and Davey threw themselves onto the couch.
"Well..." Mom started, and the four of us shook our heads. "We paid off all the overdue bills, but your father and I decided we should use most of the money to plunge ahead. You know, invest in our future. With four researchers, you guys can concentrate on the writing, and we'll be able to rattle the books off much faster."
"It makes sense, Mom, but..." Suzie sighed.
"Want to try your new computers?" Mom bubbled. "They're the top of the line. Lots of um...mega-bytes, or well, whatever, they're so user friendly you don't have to know anything about them. Your father's upstairs right now working away on his. He's so excited. He's bought about a million fascinating programs. You'd never believe all the things you can do with computers. First he played with a Date-book program. Then he found a program to figure out what time it is anywhere in the universe! Boy, does he love that computer! And me, too!"
I had a terrible headache by this point. "Maybe tomorrow, Mom," I grumbled, and I went to hide in my room. Susan and David followed suit.
What a day!