The Biggest Loser

My son raised his hand at the kitchen table.
            “This isn’t school, sweetie,” I said. “What?”
            “Why’d you give me a tiny glass with my smoothie?”
            I waited till he took a swig. “Um . . . I seem to have lost something.”
            His eyes bulged. His cheeks puffed. “Like what?”
            I busied myself wiping the stove. “Don’t talk with your mouth full,” I said. “Like the mango pit. The shot glass is for the pit pieces.”
            I turned when I heard him gag. A peach-colored smoothie stream filled the little glass.
            “Sorry,” he said as he nudged both glasses across the table. “I can’t.”
            “Aw, c’mon. It tastes way better than the time I lost the plastic measuring spoon. And the extra fiber, it’ll . . .”
            He made his lips disappear, shook his head violently.
            I sighed. “Do you have a quarter?”
            One of his eyes got smaller. “Yeah. Why?”
            “Let’s make a bet. Do you think Daddy’ll figure it out or not?”
            “He totally will,” my son said. “It’s like drinking a stick.”
            My little guy and I tried to keep our faces straight while my husband sucked down his shake. He wiped the corners of his mouth with the back of his hand then kissed me on the cheek.
            “That hit the spot,” he said. “I’m going for a run. See ya later.”
            I waited till I heard the front door catch then I held out my hand, palm up, in front of my son.
            “You owe me twenty five cents.”
            “Gambling’s evil,” he said. “You know that, right?”
 
~~~
 
I searched everywhere for the receipt, to figure out how much the watch cost, the gift he gave me for our twentieth wedding anniversary. I found the credit card statement in the bill pay drawer and used my pencil eraser to go line by line. I found the store name then followed the dots over to the right to figure out how much he— My palms, underarms, and the divot under my nose felt suddenly damp.
            “Did you find it yet?” my husband said when he came home from work.
            I reached for his lunch bag and shook my head. He sorted through the mail pile, slicing the top of each envelope with an old butter knife.
            “It’s probably gone forever, you know.”
            I crouched beside the foyer’s settee and ran my hand underneath.
            “I don’t think so,” I said as I withdrew a dust fluff in a pincer grip. “I’m pretty sure I’ll find it when I change my closet over. It’s probably in a pair of shorts.”
            The next week I was at my desk—writing, editing, checking Facebook. I heard a voice. Well, I didn’t really hear it, not out loud or anything but it was definitely there, inside my head. Lift up the printer.
            There it was—a small hill of silver links and a barely blue pearlescent face. My throat felt tight. I blinked a couple times to keep my eyes from spilling over.
            I fished my cell out of my pocket, slid it open, typed a text.
            “Guess what I found?”
            “No way.”
            “Way.”
            I closed my phone, leaned back in my chair, gazed up at the ceiling.
            “Thank you so much.”
~~~
 
After I dialed my husband’s number, I plugged the sink and ran water, squirted in soap and tugged on my Playtex rubber gloves.
            “Hello, Sunshine.”        
            “Um, we have a problem.”
            I heard his breath hiss out through his nose. “What now?”
            With one hand I bobbed my favorite pottery mug in and out of the bubbles. I admired its pale aqua beauty, the ditch for my thumb, the dragonfly impression beneath the handle.
             “I kinda sorta  . . . misplaced the—”
            Another angry nose noise. “What did you lose now?”
            I rinsed the cup and placed it on the drying rack, stroked the dragonfly with my yellow-gloved finger.
            “The tax return,” I said. “I sealed it, stamped it, drove it to the post office . . .”
            Huff. “Tell me you’re kidding. Wait a minute. Is this April first?”
            I shook my head. “It’s not April Fool’s Day. No such luck.”
            “Dang it!  We’re getting back, like, $2,000.”
            I pushed my lower lip out, pinched the bridge of my nose to stop its prickling.
            “Did you call anybody?”
            I straightened and nodded. “I did, the High Street post office lady, the one who always wears a Pittsburgh Steeler jersey on Fridays. She said maybe somebody’ll find it, be nice, and stick it in the outgoing mail.”
            Snort. “Yeah, right.”
            Days later I grinned and paced as I waited for my husband to answer his phone.
            “Guess what?” I said.
            “What?” His voice was still flat, even though the missing tax return debacle was a week old.
            “Please don’t be grumpy,” I said. “I have good tidings. She has it!  The Pittsburgh Steeler post office lady has our tax envelope. The guy who changes the rugs every week found it this morning. It was under the runner in front of the outgoing mail slot.”
            “Thank God!  And . . . sorry. I was—”
            “I did. I know.”
 
~~~
 
Brrriiiinnnnnggggg!
            I slung my jean jacket on the foyer settee before I answered the phone.
            “Hello?”
            It was my friend, Diana. We’d said goodbye not even five minutes ago, at the high school down the hill.
            “You missing something?”
            I tilted my head, pondered for a moment. “I don’t think so,” I said. “Like what?”
            “Uh, like your son?”
            My mouth fell open. I laid my hand over my heart. Pound, pound.
            “My little guy?”
            I spun in a circle, pointed at people: oldest daughter, husband, middle child, her best friend. No son, no man boy of mine.
            “You left him down here,” Diana said. “At the school, after the show.”
            I slammed my forehead with my palm. “Dang it!” I said. “I counted heads, got the right number but the wrong kid.”
            I grabbed my keys and jean jacket. My husband stepped between me and the door. 
            "I'll get him. You stay here with the others."
            I whimpered but moved aside, watched him flip through the keys on the fish-shaped key rack then plunge his hands deep in his pockets—pants, coat. All the while I heard his mutters, words like loser and responsibility and grown up
            I followed him into the kitchen. He dumped his lunch bag on the counter, batted the empty Tupperware containers this way and that. He stood in front of the key rack by the back door, sorted through each peg. That's when I got it. And grinned.
            I walked into the dining room and ran my hands along the top shelf of the antique mantle. It’s where I stash extra front door, back door, and car keys.
            I returned to my husband, dangled the spare key to his car. "Here."
            He enclosed it with his fist. Thirty seconds passed before he lifted his eyes to mine. 
            "Thanks. And . . . I'm—”
            "You're welcome and . . . I know."
 

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