Exceprt # 3 from Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: Skeletons in the Closet

I left the cart and searched along the brick wall and around the other corner too.
Someone had swiped my freaking wheelbarrow!
I pulled out my cell phone and called the house. Kenny picked up on the second ring. “Mom, where are you? Grandma’s been calling and she sounds real angry.”
“Kenny, is your Uncle Marty there? Or Dad by any chance?”
“Dad’s not, but Uncle Marty’s around someplace. Hang on.”
There was some scuffling and a bit of silence before Marty came on the line.
“Hey, Sprout, I need you to come pick me up.”
“You back in the slammer?”
“No,” I ground out between clenched teeth. I swore I’d never tell him anything again. “My van was dead, and I don’t want to steal a shopping cart, so could you come get me?”
Marty agreed to pick me up, and I ran through a list of things I had to do once I got home. The pies had to be made as well as the dressing and dip. Laura had sent me a recipe for a cheese filled puff pastry and stuffed mushrooms which I would try as appetizers along with the standard cheese and crackers and veggie platter because I knew the kids and my brother wouldn’t touch the other fare.
I saw the cloud of exhaust and heard the rumble of an ancient Chevy before I saw Marty careen into the lot. I waved him down, and he pulled in next to me. He rolled down the window, and Marilyn Manson blared as he informed us we’re all stars in the dope show.
“Damn, Maggs, how many people did you say were coming?”
“I didn’t want to have to go out again.”
“You get beer?” Marty didn’t leave the car as I loaded my bags into his trunk.
“No, it’s Thanksgiving.” I slammed the trunk and rounded to get in.
“Exactly. Turkey, football games, beer, the mighty trinity of an American holiday.”
“Neil’s parents are bringing a few of their clients, and I’m striving for a classy dinner.”
“Fancy-shmansy.” Marty snorted some phlegm and then spat at the window. The now closed window. It left a slimy trail as gravity worked it into the door frame. “What fun is classy anyways?”
“You are so vile. If Mom and Dad could only see you now—”
“I know, I’m a worthless scum-bum, but at least I’m not trying to be something I’m not.”
I didn’t like his tone. “What are you talking about?”
“You get all uptight around your in-laws and you’re so obsessed with impressing them that you become a total prig.”
I sucked in a breath. “I am not a prig!”
“Yes, you are. You’re usually lots of fun, but whenever Neil’s parents are around you walk like you’ve got a two-by-four lodged in your sphincter.”
“Better a two-by-four than my head,” I retorted.
“Laundry Hag.”
“Toilet Scrubber.”
“Shiftless layabout.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about!” Marty was smug as he turned the car into our driveway. “Your insults are all ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ now. So politically correct that they aren’t even good insults! You’re turning into Martha Stewart.”
“Take that back!”
“Yeah, I think that fits since you’re both jailbirds.”
“Bite me, Butt-Munch.” I reached across my brother and popped the trunk myself. I opened the door and looked over at him. “You have no idea how hard it is being responsible for other people. You get to just drift through life without a care, knowing Neil and I will always be there to bail your fat out of the fire. But, you know, I have to set a good example for my boys, and that includes you—it has for over a decade. I may not be as much fun as I was before, but I’m a better person. Can you say the same thing?”
I shut the door before he could whip out another smart ass retort and began to unload.

* * * *
Marty had driven off in a huff as soon as I carted my bags inside. Kenny and Josh were playing their latest PlayStation game and murmured a greeting at me. I deposited my bags and called Neil while I put the groceries away.
“Do you think I’m a prig?”
It took a moment for his laughter to subside. “No, Maggie, I don’t think you’re a prig. Why do you ask?”
“Marty.” I scrubbed out the sink and let it fill for ol’ Tom’s brine bath. “He said I’m different when your parents come around, that I turn into Martha Stewart.”
“Now, that’s total crap. First off, I would never marry Martha Stewart, mostly because I wouldn’t want to wake up like John Wayne Bobbitt if I forgot to put the seat down. And even though I can’t understand most of the things you do, I get that you want to make a good impression on them, although God alone knows why.”
I felt better. “I feel better, thanks, gorgeous.”
“All part of the service, love.”
Neil hung up, and I set to work. I ordered pizza for dinner and stopped long enough to have a slice with Josh and Kenny.
“Can we help, Mom?” Josh asked around a mouthful of pizza.
“Actually, you can. After you guys finish dinner I need you to pick a few loaves of bread into dressing.”
“What kind of pie are you making?” Kenny wanted to know.
“Pumpkin and Apple Crumb.”
“No chocolate cream?” My youngest son looked so crestfallen that I briefly considered trying to make his favorite dessert too.
“Sorry, sweets, I don’t have enough room in the fridge for another pie, but I’ll do my best to make one over the weekend, especially for you. Sound good?”
Kenny nodded and shot me a pizza lookie, which I returned. We finished dinner, and I had Josh take out the trash while Kenny started with the bread, and I tackled the pie crust and tried not to think about how harsh I’d been to my brother. He deserved every word, but the fact didn’t ease my guilt. The phone rang, and Josh finished washing his hands so he could answer it.
“Hi, Grandma, how are you?”
I shuddered and wiped my hands on my apron. I’d conveniently forgotten that Laura had been trying to reach me, and it was now reckoning time. Josh handed me the phone.
“Good evening, Laura.”
“Maggie, where have you been? Never mind, did you accept the delivery?”
“Delivery of what?”

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