The evil of this day had started with the month. On October first, which happened to be a rainy, depressing Sunday, one of the football team parents had called with a distressing bit of information. Nancy was her name. (The name of the parent, of course, not the name of the information.)
“My son, Jefferson, just told me that he saw your son, Mark, smoking weed on the canal bank the other day. I don’t like being a tattle-tale but just thought you’d like to know.”
Betsy got the feeling that Nancy did like being a tattle-tale and that she looked for opportunities to snitch, but thanked her anyway. Betsy felt pretty certain that her son would never be dumb enough to do any kind of drugs. He came from a model family and everyone knew that children from model families didn’t do drugs.
On October 3rd, however, a crack started down in the corner of her veneer. While in Mark’s room looking for dirty dishes to put in the dishwasher, she saw an apple with a hole in it. What was that all about? A pen was nearby under some putrid socks. Well, not a pen exactly. A shell of one, though, with the insides out of it. What use would that be? She had seen a similar apple and pen in his room before and had thought nothing of it. But another set? Hmmm, things were looking a little fishy. She wished she had gone to the school meeting that informed parents of what drug use looks like. But, as she had thought then, why take valuable time learning about someone else’s problem? Now she was wondering.
On the sixth of October, which was not a P-Day, Betsy received an e-mail from her missionary son, “Mom, this is too hard. I really don’t want to be here anymore.” The crack was growing.
On the ninth of October when she was into a great deep-cleaning mode trying to get ready for the Book Club ladies, the school had called to say that Benjamin, her youngest and most lovable, was having too many difficulties in the regular classroom and could Betsy come that afternoon to discuss putting him into some special needs classes? Betsy felt the crack in her armor continue its upward creeping.
On the eleventh of October, her wonderful, hardworking husband sat Betsy down at the table, strewn with the remains of dinner. “I got news from the top today,” he said, “and it’s not good.” Betsy wanted to put her hands over her ears and go running into the night, but she’d only have to come back. “You know they’re downsizing ,” he continued, “so when I get back from New York on Friday….Did you remember that my plane comes in really late on Friday night?...well, I might not have a job . Just wanted to give you a heads-up.” The crack was growing and Betsy didn’t know how to stop it.
And on the twelfth, Elise had eaten her breakfast and run to the bathroom to throw it all up. She didn’t look sick but suddenly Betsy was aware of how thin Elise was looking. And Betsy wished she had gone to another school meeting that informed parents of what eating disorders look like. That school was busy. There could be a meeting a night talking about all the maladies waiting to afflict her children. The crack continued “with a low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe.”
And now it was Friday. Friday the 13th. Someone should have taken all the thirteens out of the calendar long ago to save humanity from days like this. The disappointing meanness of the month climaxed on this day and this hour of 5:00 in the afternoon with her house cleaner, Nelda, calling in sick. Nelda might have been sick, but she couldn’t be as sick as Betsy felt. “All sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades.” She had specifically arranged for Nelda to come in at 5:00 after the kids got home and were assigned out again to friends and activities. Now what was she supposed to do? The ladies were coming. She was supposed to have refreshments ready. Her house was a disaster. She was a disaster.
What had happened to this last precious day? She had been called to the school for Benjamin. Elise had forgotten her homework. Betsy’s sister had called and they’d talked for an hour. A repairman had come to fix the ice maker. She had made the mistake of walking outside to bring in the garbage can when Mr. Phillips was retrieving his. He then took up thirty minutes of her prized time to delightedly tell her all about his new grandbaby. Then she had gone shopping at Costco for the groceries, but since she had failed to return her wallet to her purse when she’d paid the repairman, she had no money. She had to go all the way home to get it and by the time she had paid the disgruntled cashier and finally returned home again, Betsy and all the day’s allotted time were completely spent. She thought about canceling the Book Club due to tuberculosis or some other horrible made-up disease, but that was something wimpy Sister Sheffield would have done and Betsy couldn’t stand to be compared to her.
She considered pulling herself up by her bootstraps. But what did that even mean? How does one pull oneself up by bootstraps? What are bootstraps anyway? She gave that personal conversation up and just planted her feet firmly in front of herself where she had been slopped on the family room couch and with the help of the arm of it, pulled herself up. Who needed bootstraps?
“Ok everybody,” Betsy bellowed as she gathered her strength and clapped her hands together as a sign of authority. “They are coming. The Book Club ladies are coming. Let’s get things done around here.” She walked past the piles that had grown around the sink, on the counter and by the stairs. “You have got to take care of your stuff.” That sentence started out like a trumpet and ended like a piccolo, for there wasn’t anyone around to listen to her tirade. They had already disappeared as planned, leaving their residue to be hauled and re-dumped by a frantic mother. “As usual!” she yelled at the walls with great emphasis. The walls didn’t comment. “As usual!” she yelled again, even louder this time. Silence.
It was growing. Betsy could feel it. The crack. She had held herself together for a good twenty-five years and now she could feel the fissure and the repercussions were going to be terrible.