By, Ashley Ellen
“Gregory, how many times do I have to tell you not to play with Nana’s collector spoons,” the pretty woman growled, dragging her acrylic fingernails across the antique refinished 1918 schoolmaster’s desk. It was from Warther’s Township in Kings Brook and was turned inwards, away from the wooded view beyond the oversized windows, instead, facing a large, 1940’s era chandelier in the center of the room.
“Mom, how many times do I have to tell you my name is Gus? I go by Gus now! I’ve gone by Gus forever. For more than almost two whole months!” The boy shielded a blow towards his neck from a long, twisted, Queen Anne bar spoon.
Without moving her head, the pretty woman raised her eyes over the top of the computer, “I’m not calling you that dear. I named you Gregory. I will call you Gregory. It’s a respectable name. It’s your Grandfather’s name.”
“It’s a snobby name. I hate it.”
“For god sake Gregory I told you to put Nana’s spoons away!” The pretty woman began jerking and slamming drawers in search of something.
“But these are metal, they sound like real swords!” The boy grunted, taking a blow to the kidney and gurgling onto the Victorian sofa.
“Gregory! I swear in two seconds I am going to ground you if you don’t put those spoons away! I don’t even know why I bought you that toy fencing set for your birthday.”
“I hate fencing!”
“David! Your son is destroying your mother’s spoons again!” She glared at the ceiling and shook her lock of pressed, so blonde they were practically white, curls. When there was no response she returned her blank stare toward the glowing screen before her. She watched the curser pulse at such a calm rate it began to irritate her.
“Gregory, you know you’re just making more work for Lola. She hates buffing those spoons every time you scratch them.” The pretty woman laid her heavy head into her palms and massaged her porcelain temples. The boys continued their savage dance across the marble floor, in between, under, over and atop pieces of antiquity that furnished the room. The sound of clanging utensils shot the pretty woman in the head like a handgun— it entered through one pale ear, echoed through the senseless frontal lobe of her brain and slipped through the opposite canal, muffled, garbled and out of tune.
“Her name is Lolita and she said she didn’t mind. I watched her buff them two days ago and she told me about her Grandma and she taught me the word maize and—”
The boy stared at the pretty woman, unblinking as his friend stabbed him in the heart. The boy’s spoon-clenched fist slumped to his side and his eyes sank to the floor. The pretty woman’s white fingers trembled over the keyboard, then slammed repeatedly on one in the upper right. The boy turned his pastel cheeks toward his friend, whose mahogany eyes stared widely ahead. With a furrowed brow, the boy grabbed his friend’s arm, and lead him to the spoon rack to the right of the monumental faded portrait of Great Great Nana and Poppa Hathworth that towered above them in a frame of gold. The boy forced one spoon into its wooden prison, turned to look at his mother, then, while placing the second, accidentally tore the rack from the wall, letting all of the spoons clatter into a pile of silver and gold on the sterile marble floor.
“Gregory! God damnit!”
“Oops.” The boy said, and walked passively into the kitchen.
“What was that?” The boy’s father shouted from upstairs.
The pretty woman scored her nails across the wooden desk in a frustrated tantrum. “Gregory! Get back here! You are going to clean this up right now!”
“There’s no Gregory here! I don’t know who you’re talking to!” The boy turned to his friend. “Do you know who Gregory is?” The boy’s friend shook his head no. “Me neither.”
“Gregory John Hathworth the third, I am not getting up from this desk. Get in here and clean this mess up right now, or, or—”
“You’re crazy! There’s no one named that here,” the boy taunted and ducked into the broom closet.
“David! Will you please come discipline your son and his little Somali friend!”
The brown boy stepped into the room. “My name is Sam Sam.”
“I know what your name is. Where did Gregory run off to?” The pretty woman looked past the brown boy toward the kitchen.
“I don’t know. I’m sorry Ma’am. I’m sure it was an accident,” he said, seating himself on the crimson chaise lounge.
The red of the chair reflected in the pretty woman’s eyes. She blinked and turned her stiff cheeks toward the kitchen, her taut lips were like a microscopic blood stain on her perfectly painted face. A sigh of vacant air slipped from her nostrils like the exhaust pipes of a 1971 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. After a long silence she cleared her throat. “So—will you be joining us for pork chops tonight Samuel?”
“I don’t eat pork Ma’am.”
The pretty woman became as solid and motionless as a doll. A moment later her long eyelashes blinked. Her head rotated to the right.
“I’m sorry Samuel. What did you say?”
“I—I, I think I should get going.”
“What?” The pretty woman’s neck was frozen and her shoulders were as compressed as a tension rod in a miniature window frame.
“Sorry about the spoons Ma’am.” He pushed himself to the edge of the chaise lounge and reached his toes to the icy marble. His bare, brown feet stepped lightly on the cold stone as he made his way to the rack, tracking small steamed footprints atop its surface that dissipated the moment they were formed. He knelt, turned the wooden frame skyward, and placed the spoons into random slots. On tip toes, he heaved the shelf with his strong grip, and placed it askew on the screw that was permanently fixed in the bronze papered wall.
A pewter teaspoon slunk forward, slipped through its notch and dove in an arch like an amateur high diver. The spoon shivered midair, flipped twice, then belly flopped against the frozen marble. The pretty woman’s forehead flinched as the sound shattered her inner ear. Her left eye winced as its peripheral caught the four and a half degree slant of the shelf that dangled on the bronze wall.
The brown boy retrieved the spoon and lifted it high into the air, but the empty slot was out of his reach. He carried it to the pretty woman’s curvy desk, and stopped a foot from her chair. His eyes narrowed as he peered at a white rectangle, filled with type that hovered on the glowing screen in front of her. He slowly scanned the serif lettering. His lips moved as he formed the letters into meaning “Guh—reg—ir-ee John H—Hath—w—worth” he paused at the last inscription “Three?” He looked up at the solid woman. “Ma’am what are you working on?”
She gasped as if the voice had come from a void behind her. “Oh you scared me. This—this is Gregory’s resume for Bollingbroke Junior Academy.”
“I thought Gus said he was going to Green Leaf next year. He hates uniforms.”
The woman rotated her head left, meeting the boy’s mahogany eyes for the first time. “No. No, no. Gregory won’t be going to any public school. I’ll make sure of that.”
“I’m going to Green Leaf.”
“I know.” The pretty woman blinked and rotated toward the screen. “Samuel, is your mother picking you up?”
“It’s Sam Sam. And no. I’ll walk thank you.”
“I know.” The boy let the spoon drop on wooden desk and retreated to the kitchen. “Gus! I’m going home now. My mom said you are welcome to come for dinner.”
A cupboard slammed and a moment later the blonde boy ran into the bronze room. “Mom can I go? Can I go to Sam Sam’s for supper?”
“Absolutely not. The only place you are going is to your room! Now!”
“You never let me do anything! I hate you!” The boy sniffled and stomped all the way up the stairs. He folded his arms and sat furiously on the top step.
Sam Sam climbed the flight and sat down beside him. The two silently watched the arm of the grandfather clock tick on the opposing wall. The boy picked at the carpet, relieving his aggression, in hopes that it would detach, thread by thread like blades of grass.
“Gus, you okay?” Sam Sam broke the silence.
“No.” He had successfully pulled one carpet thread an inch above the rest.
“Did you know your mom is typing up your application for Bollingbroke right now?”
A tearing noise came from his side, the inch of carpet thread stretched into a foot, creating a thin line of baldness in its perfect cream colored weave.
“I saw it on her computer.”
The boy dropped the thread. Ms. Britches, a long-haired Persian cat, was peering around the corner of the study where the boys father was busy at work with an architectural draft. At the sight of the exposed thread, Ms. Britches pierced her eyes, locking the thread in pursuit. She scrunched low on her padded pink front paws and raised her rear, shaking it in anticipation.
“I am not going there!” Shouted the boy.
Ms. Britches leapt from her vantage point, attacking the thread, with her polished white teeth that the pretty woman brushed daily.
“You might want to tell your mom that. I don’t think she likes Green Leaf.”
“Ugh! She never listens! She claims she knows what’s best for me, but I hate those kids! It’s the same bunch of snots that are on my soccer team. They’re mean to me. So, I purposely mess up and give the ball to the other side to make us lose. Those kids are awful.”
“Can you talk to your dad about it?”
“Yea I guess, but my mom doesn’t even listen to him. She’s awful.”
“Why is she like that?”
“Well she claims that she had nothing growing up. Says her family had no money. Says I take everything for granted. Tells me I should think about how good I have it. Yea, real good. All this fancy crap. I hate fancy. I just want some mac and cheese or something different. You want to know the only fancy thing I like?”
Sam Sam laughed.
“Sorry Gus, about the spoons and soccer and school and all. But, speaking of ketchup, I really should go. I’m supposed to help cook tonight.”
“Thanks Sam. I wish I could come!”
“Why don’t you ask your dad?”
The boy turned around and raised his eyebrows at the open door of the study. Ms. Britches had pulled the carpet thread several more feet from its grounding. She lay with all four legs raised like limp columns, the thread was tangled around her mid-section, wrapped around both paws and remained, ravaged in between her clenched teeth. She nuzzled her head romantically on the floor and purred loudly. The boy saw the demented cat, shook his head and returned to Sam Sam, smiling.
“Yea I suppose I could ask him.”
“Well show up whenever you want, if you can, the side door is always open. I hope he says yes.”
Sam Sam descended down the stairs, retrieved his wet socks from the railing, and placed them in his coat pocket. He slid his bare feet into his shoes, and slipped out the door quietly. The rain was still pouring steadily outside.
The boy ruffled Ms. Britches head, provoking a purr so loud it attracted the attention of the boy’s father.
“Britchy what are you getting off on now?”
She mewed a seductively muffled response through her jaws, salivating on her lifeless prey. The boy heard a chair slide its wheels, squeak and bounce as its seat was released of its pressure. He lay across the carpet, beside the excessively fluffy cat, watching a pair of shiny black, square toed shoes firmly clap against the wood floor that paneled his fathers office until it kissed the cream carpet that was neatly tucked into its border, a few feet from the boy. The shoes stopped about six inches from the edge. One tapped a rhythmic, yet slightly agitated beat.
“Gus, you know I finished putting that carpet in only two months ago. Remember?”
The boys body lay entirely flat beside Ms. Britches, the under-side of his chin was reddening from its level placement on the textured surface. The boy wondered if he could see the reflection of his fathers disappointment in the black toe of his shoe, or the well greased floor, but he could not.
“Remember? You said your feet were always getting cold and you wanted a giant rug for your room, but we decided it would be nice, instead, to carpet all the bedrooms? Do you remember that?”
“Remember you helped me pick out this specific surface—not too stiff, not too soft, not too grainy, but right in the middle. Do you remember that?”
The boy was transfixed by the tapping of his fathers shoe.
The man stepped over the wooden barrier, knelt his left leg to the ground and bent his right into an acute angle, beside Ms. Britches. She hissed as he pulled the thread from her mouth, unraveled her paws and rolled her a full 360 degrees to detangle her fluffy body.