Vinnie’s mom vacuumed all the rugs, twice. She washed windows, inside and out. She washed and waxed the floor. She scrubbed the shower, washed out the tub, disinfected the toilet, cleaned the bathroom mirror three times. And, it wasn’t yet lunch time. She checked her iPhone every five minutes expecting a call from the school. A half dozen times she opened the refrigerator door and stared at celery, spinach, three bottles of beer, two hummus containers, left over Pad Thai, four different types of Greek yogurt, and two pieces of left over pizza promised to Vinnie and Vinnie’s dad. She thought of eating the pizza and blaming it on Rupert and Dexter. It’s what Vinnie would do. The last time she was this nervous was when her dad had open heart surgery.
She used her last bit will power and closed the fridge door. She picked up a dust cloth and starting dusting in the living room. An hour later, there was nothing else to clean or dust. The only time Dexter bothered to move was when she opened the refrigerator door. Rupert sat on the breakfast bar and smiled at her as she cleaned the house. One time she said, “Rupert, I’m worried about Vinnie.”
Then, making her own falsetto voice for Rupert, Rupert answered, “He’s got this one, Mom.”
She said, “Do you really think so, Rupert?”
Rupert answered, “It depends on how long Mrs. Mavis lets him talk.”
Vinnie’s mom felt her heart starting to race. Calm down, take it easy, it’s okay. The school will call if they are sending him home. So far so good. She walked into the bedroom and picked her rosary beads off the night table. She goes out onto the back deck and sits down and prays and prays and prays. When she finishes praying she returns inside and microwaves leftover Pad Thai. When she finished eating every bit of the Pad Thai she walks to the freezer and takes two Eskimo bars. She closes the freezer, peels the covering off the Eskimo bars and tosses the paper in the trash. She turns to Rupert and says, “How would Vinnie eat two Eskimo bars?”
Vinnie’s mom uses a falsetto voice for Rupert. Rupert says, “Vinnie will bite one, then he’ll bite the other trying to see which one is better. He says it’s the only way to eat two Eskimo bars at the same time.”
Vinnie’s mom responds to Rupert, “That’s what I thought, thanks, Rupert.”
“Not a problem, Mom,” says Rupert.
Vinnie’s mom ate the two Eskimo bar with the zest of a woman on a water fast for ten days. Twenty minutes later the guilts set in. Vinnie’s mom starts calculating how much time she is going to have to spend on the trend mill. She pushes the thought out of her mind that Vinnie and Vinnie’s dad will enjoy chicken broth for dinner with a side of celery sticks.
At 2:45 p.m. Vinnie’s mom decides to stand on the sidewalk and wait for Vinnie. It was earlier than usual, but she’d been in the house all day and a frozen bean burrito was sounding pretty good at the moment.
She calls to Dexter, “Leash. Leash. Let’s meet Vinnie.”
Dexter spins in a circle before becoming dizzy and toppling over. He momentarily lies on his side staring at Vinnie’s mom, his tongue hanging out resting on the tile. He slowly stand up on all fours, and does the beagle wakeup shake. The beagle wakeup shake starts with a vibrating tail and works its way forward to the nose. When Dexter finishes with the beagle shake, Vinnie’s mom snaps the leash on his collar and starts walking toward the front door. She stops at the door, turns around and looks at the breakfast bar. She says, “Rupert, do you want to come with us to meet Vinnie?”
Using her falsetto voice for Vinnie, “Rupert answers, “I was hoping you were going to ask me, Mom. I can’t wait to see my Bro.”
Vinnie’s mom starts laughing and walks to the breakfast bar and picks up Rupert and presses him to her chest. Together, Vinnie’s mom, Rupert, and Dexter walk outdoors to the sidewalk. She stops in front of the Johnson’s house and hopes no one is home. She’s sure Dexter will leave his trademark. All three turn toward State Street and watch for the yellow school bus.
Five minutes later, Laura, Megan, and Tommy’s moms pass by on the sidewalk. Laura’s mom motions the other two moms to stop. Laura’s mom turns and says, “Is that a stuffed bear your holding?”
Vinnie’s mom looks at the three moms and says nonchalantly, “Oh no, Rupert is real. Rupert introduce yourself to these nice ladies.”
Rupert says, “Pleasure to meet you. Mom says we live in the best neighborhood.”
Laura’s mom gives a feigned smile and says, “Cute. Have a nice day.” The three moms hurry down the street. All thee occasionally looking back and talking at the same time. Each time they look back, Vinnie’s mom is laughing and talking to Rupert. Dexter is barking, and Rupert is smiling and listening to Vinnie’s mom.