By John Focht
Jack threw the ball with all his might. From the corner of her eye, Mom could see the ball heading straight for her grandmother’s antique vase. All in slow-motion, Mom yelled out a “NOOOOOO” as she flew across the room to save the vase from its ultimate demise.
The ball smashed the vase into thousands of pieces. Mom stood over the vase as though it were a carcass. She stared at it without saying a word.
Jack was four years old. He and his older sister Emily, who was six, had been in this predicament all too often. Mom always told them not to play ball in the house. Without saying a word, Emily and Jack looked at each other and both knew this was trouble.
“I’m sorry Mommy,” Jack uttered to his Mom. “I didn’t mean to break Grammy’s vase.” But Mom just stood over the vase without saying a word; she wasn’t even crying. The silence was the worst part. Emily and Jack could handle being yelled at, even at their young age. But this. They didn’t know how to handle silence from Mom.
Emily finally broke down and began to cry. She scooted over to stand next to Mom. Jack stood still.
“I hope you two are satisfied,” Mom said matter-of-factly at the two young children. “I have asked you, and asked you, not to throw that ball in the house, but you continue to do it anyway.” The more Mom spoke, the louder and angrier her voice became. Emily wished the silent treatment would come back.
“You two need to be on your best behavior for the rest of the day until your father gets home,” Mom told the children. “If there is so much as spilled milk in this house, you will both be punished for the rest of the day.” Now being punished for the rest of the day for a six and four year old was heavy stuff. That’s equivalent to an adult doing twenty-years hard labor.
Emily and Jack knew Mom was serious so they stayed clear of her and went about the rest of their day, mostly playing outside. It was a beautiful spring day. The other kids in the neighborhood were outside, so Emily and Jack just played along with them most of the afternoon.
As dinner time approached, Mom finally shouted to the kids that it was time to come home and cleanup for dinner. The kids came charging into the house as they normally do. Emily’s eyes quickly shifted to the living room where the vase once stood. In its place was a potted plant. Emily looked back at Mom. Mom smiled and told Emily to go clean-up.
Emily thought to herself Mom looked good. She wasn’t sad from the broken vase. It looked as though everything was going to be fine until Jack came running back into the kitchen bouncing the orange kickball. All at once Emily could see Mom’s expression turn from happy to furious. As Jack entered the kitchen, he dropped the orange kickball to his feet and gave it one giant kick pretending to score a goal through the table legs. The ball hit the one table leg and caromed back toward the kitchen counter directly at the two cups of milk Mom had just poured for the kids for dinner.
Emily shut her eyes in fear of what was about to happen. Jack was laughing as the ball popped into the air; completely lost upon him the events from earlier in the day. Emily thought Jack was in sure doom. Just as the ball was about to land splat at the cups of milk, Mom reached out and caught the ball. Emily peaked open one eye and saw Mom just staring at Jack. Jack’s expression turned from glee to horror as he saw his Mom’s face.
“That’s it,” Mom shouted as she slammed the orange kickball onto the counter. “I warned you earlier if you so much as spill a glass of milk tonight, you will be punished. Do you understand me young man?” Jack nodded. “No ball playing in the house.” The kitchen became just as silent as the living room had earlier in the day. Jack and Emily washed their hands and sat at their usual spots at the kitchen table. Dad was working late, so Mom just fixed-up some Hot Dogs, corn on the cob, apple sauce, and cups of milk for the kids for dinner.
“I am going upstairs for a few minutes. So help me if I hear one bit of goofing around down here you are both going to get it.” As Mom went upstairs, Emily and Jack looked at each other, shrugged, and then began to eat. Within a few minutes Buttons, the family cat, sauntered into the kitchen. Buttons loved milk and seemed to be able to smell it from a mile away. Buttons also seemed to know she could get away with stuff when Mom wasn’t around, so she hopped up on the chair, then onto the kitchen table.
The kids giggled as Buttons shuffled across the kitchen table. Buttons was definitely “top dog” when Mom wasn’t around. She shifted around the table until she sniffed down the milk in Jack’s cup. Emily and Jack laughed at Buttons, highly amused at the fat cat walking around on the kitchen table. As she leaned up on the cup to try to get her mouth and tongue inside the rim of the cup, Buttons began losing her grip. Down to the floor went Buttons and the cup. The milk spilled all over the floor. Emily and Jack just stared at each other. Emily could not believe what just happened. Of all things to spill it had to be the glass of milk?
Just then, Mom walked into the room. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The cat was licking spilled milk from the kitchen floor as the two young children sat motionless at the table.