Nick went around to the back of his home. It was one of the ground rules for Nick and his two younger sisters. Nick was six years older than Laura and eight years older than Stella. Laura was in middle school and Stella in elementary school.
Nick scuffed his shoes on the outdoor mat, another ground rule and opened the door. His mom stood in front of the stove working on dinner. Nick knew what he was having for dinner before he opened the door. It was Friday and Friday’s were always the same, the family was having bean soup. That’s what Nick called it. His mom and dad called it pasta fagioli.
“Hi mom,” Nick said taking off his backpack and setting it on a chair. He walked to the refrigerator, opened the door and stared into it.
“Don’t ruin your dinner, Nick. We’ll be eating when dad comes home from work. It’ll be another hour. Have an apple or orange. How was school?”
“It was okay,” said Nick reaching for a small to go box he knew contained two pieces of pizza.
Nick’s mom’s back was turned to Nick. She said, “If your trying to take the pizza, don’t. Dad wanted to eat it while he watched the Celtics play on TV.”
Nick didn’t know how his mother could always tell what he was doing, even when she wasn’t looking at him.
She said, “If you’re really hungry, on the top shelf, is a Tupperware bowl with three meatballs in it. Heat it up in the microwave for a couple of minutes. You know where you can find the bread.”
“Thanks, mom. I’m starving,” said Nick.
Nick made himself a meatball sandwich, put it on a plate, and said to his mom, “I’m going to my room to study.”
“Okay, but you need to relax a little, Nick. Give your brain a break. You have the whole weekend,” said his mom.
“The SATs are next week. I need to ace them to have real chance for a scholarship,” said Nick.
“You know you can always live and home at go to college in town. It’s as good as any other university,” said his mom, her back still turned to Nick.
Nick couldn’t count the times he’d been down this road. He knew he’d never win the argument. He said, “I know.” Then he walked out of the kitchen with his backpack over one shoulder, and the plate with his meatball sub in his left hand.
Nick sat on his bed. He placed the plate to his right, took his laptop out of his backpack and text his girlfriend, Cara. “Hi, want to study for the SATs with me tomorrow?”
Cara text right back, “Sorry, Nick. We’re all going to visit my nonna in Providence. We’re going to spend the night. How about Sunday night?”
Nick text back, “C U Then. Love U.”
An hour and a half later, there was a knock on his door, “Nick? Dinner’s ready,” said Laura.
“Okay, Laura. Tell mom and dad I’m on my way.”
Nick’s mom and dad sat at the ends of the table. Laura and Stella sat on one side and Nick on the other. Nick’s dad said, “Nick, it’s your turn to say grace.”
This was another family rule, no ate until the family said grace. The family joined hands. Nick said, “Lord, thank you this food and bringing us together to share it. Please bless the food and each of us. And, let me make a high score on the SATs.”
Each member of the family made the sign of cross. Nick’s dad looked at him, “Don’t worry about it, Nick. Do the best you can. You know you can always live here and go to college in town.”
“I know,” said Nick.
Nick’s mom ladled soup into each bowl. A platter of hard crust Italian bread was passed around as well as a small dish of parmesan. Nick’s mom asked the obligatory question, “What happened at school?” Nick and his sisters gave the obligatory answer, “Not much.” The meal was unusually quiet. Normally, Nick’s dad liked to talk about politics or sports, not tonight.
When the family finished the meal, Nick said, “May I be excused, I want to study?”
Nick’s dad said, “Stay for a minute, there’s something I want to tell the family. I already told your mom.”
Nick and his sisters looked at their dad. Their dad took a deep breath. He said, “Christmas is in three weeks.”
Laura and Stella nodded with great anticipation. Nick listened.
His dad continued, “It won’t be as great as other Christmas’s. I got laid off today. I wasn’t the only one. They cut two-hundred jobs. We’ll all have to tighten our belts until I can find work. Nick, if you don’t mind, I talked to Tino Martini. He likes you. It will be a big help. You can work Saturdays and Sundays and be on call for the week after school when he needs you.”
“It’s not fair, Dad. I have SATs, I going to train hard for the 800 meters. If I qualify for states, I have a chance at a scholarship.”
“Nick, life isn’t fair. Stuff happens over which we have no control. We have to pull together. Everything will work out the way it is supposed to work out,” said his dad.
Nick’s heart sank. “Okay, dad. I’ll see Tino tomorrow.”
“Could you go over now?” asked his dad.
Nick took a deep breath and nodded.
Are Nick’s dreams evaporating? What will his dad do?