An Old Song On The Radio

Twelve.

Years of age, that is. She grabbed a couple of ice cubes out of the ice maker and plopped them into a glass of sun tea, her third glass that day. Her mom warned her after she gulped down her second glass not to have any more, Drink water if you’re still thirsty. But her mom was, at the moment, napping.

She stepped outside, barefooted. It wasn’t too warm, but it was bright, as though the sun were a three-way lamp light and God had decided to use the highest setting. She decided to sit on the front stoop and wait. For her older brother, Michael, who was supposed to be finishing his second year of University. But he’d just been kicked out and was due home at any moment now. Her parents were furious when they were informed. The juicy information, why Michael was kicked out, was kept from her. Though from overhearing whispers of phone conversations, she’d been able to pick out the words drinking, prank, and streaking.

In any case, she wasn’t too thrilled about Michael moving back home. He was, as she’d heard relatives describe him, uncouth. Acquaintances said he was a ’70’s tree-hugging hippie. There’s just something plain wrong about that boy, Uncle Ted summed at the family reunion last summer. Her mom and dad looked at each other from across the picnic table, each cracking the slightest amused smile that others always mistook for a nervous twitch. But Uncle Ted was certainly one to call someone else uncouth. He’d been arrested twice for disorderly conduct, was known for sitting on his roof late into the night watching for aliens, and was rumored by some of the neighborhood kids to be growing marijuana in his backyard. In the end she simply wished for a better brother, sometimes dreaming she could trade him in.

“Did I not tell you to drink water if you’re still thirsty?”
She jumped in surprise. “I don’t remember.” That was a lie.
“I want you to go clean up your brother’s room before he arrives. Put clean sheets and a quilt on the bed, vacuum the floor and open up the windows to air it out.”
“But why do I have to clean it? He’s the one who got kicked outta school. Make him clean it.”
“Because I told you to clean it…and no one said anything about Michael getting kicked out.”

She balked while her mother stood holding the front door open for her. “Hurry up! I haven’t got all day!” Her mother was exasperated. Probably more so at Michael. It had to be at Michael. She hoped it was at Michael.

Heading into Michael’s room, she flipped on his stereo and turned the radio to the oldies station. She walked over to the front window. Michael had pulled into the driveway. Her mom walked out to his car, arms flailing. Michael popped out of the car, his arms flailing. My whole family is uncouth she thought to herself while tossing the clean bed sheets in the middle of the floor. She walked out of Michael’s room leaving the radio on. He hated it when she used his stereo and most of all, he hated the oldies.

She went over to the fridge and poured herself another tall glass of sun tea. Thanks to Michael, her mom would never know.

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