Lester felt terrible.
His mother would barely look at him. He silently followed her through the house, into the kitchen– but before he could offer a word of explanation, she stated bluntly, “Lester, I can’t right now. I need a moment.”
The words were crushing. It’s not as though he had anything extraordinary to say in his defense, but he was desperate for his mother’s forgiveness.
“Just go to your room and think about what you’ve done.” With that she left Lester and exited to the porch. Lester watched as his mother sat on the swing and stared out at the graying horizon.
Reluctantly he turned and trudged to his bedroom. His head hung low in shame. “What was I thinking?” he thought. Then moments later, “I wasn’t thinking.” He hadn’t meant to hurt his mother, but his actions had repercussions. And now, intentional or not, he was in trouble. He stood in his bedroom doorway and wiped a tear from his cheek. “What if she doesn’t love me anymore?” he thought. “Or what if she doesn’t ever speak to me again? Or what if she decides she’s better off without me and makes me go live at the YMCA?”
He took a deep breath and looked around the room. What to do?
He picked up a train engine from the rug and put it in the red bin. He collected seven PusPocket wrappers from the cushions of the window bench and threw them away. Then he made his bed, even tucking in the corners of the sheets and fluffing up the pillows like his mother always did. In twenty minutes the room had transformed. Finally he walked to the closet to hang up yesterday’s pants and something caught his eye.
There it was. The only possible solution to his problem. Baby blue, starched ruffles, bell-bottomed. Lester’s mom had picked it out with great pride for Aunt Debbie’s wedding. For Lester, it had been a miserable affair. The tuxedo was itchy, stiff, and frilly. The wedding photos were a comic strip of boyhood disgruntlement. At the end of the evening, Lester had practically torn himself free from the outfit, his mother sighing and saying, “But you looked so handsome…”
For Lester to wear it once more would be the ultimate gesture of sacrifice. One that his mother could not ignore.
It took twelve long minutes to put it on and by minute three he was sweating and itching. He even put in the cufflinks and the collar stays. Fully dressed, he tiptoed painfully downstairs. His mother was still swinging gently outside even though it had begun to rain. He crept into the kitchen and started the kettle. He pulled his mother’s favorite over-sized mug from the shelf and put an earl grey teabag inside of it. He scooped out three tiny black ants from the golden FancyAnts tin and placed them on the saucer next to the spoon. He knew that she liked to stir them in herself.
He watched the kettle and waited for it to boil. He waited. And he waited. And he waited.
Finally the low whistle began. He turned off the stove and carefully poured the boiling water into the white mug. Then he opened the screen door and stepped outside.