Lacey wanted to get the walkway done before Jenna arrived. If she did, she could say Phil did it earlier and Jenna wouldn’t make a thing about it. Unfortunately, she was still shoveling when she heard Jenna’s Honda crunching the snow at the curb behind her. She turned to see Jenna, still in the driver’s seat, pointing her phone at her.

“I know that’s my good side, Jennabug,” Lacey said as her daughter got out of the car. “But I prefer when you include my face in the photos.”

“Mom, Stop. You’re 74 years old.”

Lacey leaned on the shovel. “Did you drive all this way just to show me you can’t do math? You could have called. I’m 76, dear.”

“No you’re not.” Lacey waited while Jenna did the calculation in her head. “Wow, really?”

“Hasn’t one yet snuck past me. And don’t think I don’t know why you took that picture.” Phil had promised Jenna he’d shovel out mom any time it snowed. The photo would be proof that he wasn’t delivering on that promise. She’d point out to Phil, again, that his apartment was three blocks away while her house was seven miles, and that mom shouldn’t be doing strenuous activities, and by the time her lecture was over, it would be a thing. Lacey wanted to nip it in the bud. “So don’t.”

“That’s between me and Phil, mom.” Jenna was taking slow, careful steps that made it look like she was walking a tightrope hidden under the snow.

“Yeah? Then why am I the only one in the photo?” Jenna could make a thing out of anything if her brother was involved. She and Phil had been like that since they were little, constant friction that Lacey had mistakenly expected would wear smooth when they grew up. Now they were both past forty and neither one had. She could stand a little bickering, but she was annoyed to find, too often, that she was the subject of that bickering. Lacey understood that the uptick stemmed from her father passing four years prior – dying, Jenna would insist, because she didn’t think death deserved a euphemism – but she was tired of Jenna dismissing Lacey’s own assessment of her health as immaterial. She felt great, she’d lost a few pounds, and she wanted Jenna to stop assuming that her mother was ignorant of the hazards of being 76.

“I don’t want to get into it, mom.” Jenna reached her mom and tried to take the shovel but Lacey tilted it away from her. “By the way, Greta Johnson says hi.”

“By the way of what?” Greta was ten years older than Lacey and she didn’t like the implication.

Jenna took a deep breath and sighed. “I saw Greta. That’s all.”

“Don’t sigh at me. I mean it, Jenna, don’t go starting something when there’s nothing to start. Phil shovels every time it snows, and he will again today after the Michigan game. I’m just clearing a path so he can get to the shovel on the porch.” Just as Jenna was reluctant to let her mother live life on her own terms, she refused to let Phil be Phil. He was 41 years old. He’d never been called a go-getter before, and it wasn’t likely to apply in the future, either.

“Ohhhhhh,” Jenna said like she’d had a revelation. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know football was involved. I’ll stay out of it, at least until the day someone invents a machine that allows you to watch something on television after it airs.”

“This isn’t about you, Jennabug. Phil called. He said he’d come over and shovel but had to leave right away to watch the game. I told him to come after the game.” This was mostly true. “It’s not like I had someplace to go.” Lacey waited for her daughter to tell her that wasn’t the point. It was about Phil living up to his word.

“That’s not the point mom.” Lacey turned her back. She’d heard enough. “He said I didn’t have to worry about it.”

Lacey laughed. “He’s right.” She was about to put the shovel back to work but decided against it. She didn’t want the neighbors to see her wrestling her daughter for a shovel. Instead, she started toward the front door. “Where’d you see Greta?”

“At Folson’s when I was getting the patio stones. Poor planning on my part. They’re just going to sit in the garage all winter. Anyway, she was buying an arborvitae.”

“You didn’t tell her she was too old to plant it, did you?”

“Mom, are we changing the subject or not?”

Lacey turned around. “Just leave this alone, Jenna. If I hear you brought it up to Phil, I’ll come out and shovel Marilyn’s sidewalk, too.” Marilyn was Lacey’s neighbor to the south. It was a funny threat considering she already did shovel Marilyn’s walk, but Jenna didn’t know that.

“Fine, I won’t send the photo.”

“That’s not what I said. Leave it alone entirely, okay?” She put her mom face on when she said it, just to be make sure her meaning was clear.

“She said Paul Evans died, and that makes six from the old neighborhood. I assume you know what that means?”

Lacey nodded. “I heard about Paul. They said he knew about the cancer for a full year before he said something, and by then it was too late.” Lacey leaned the shovel against the edge of the steps. “Who knows, might have been too late a year earlier, too.” She shrugged. “I can certainly see why he wouldn’t want people fussing about things it made no sense to fuss about.”

“Are we still talking about shoveling?”

Lacey smiled as she kicked the snow off her boots. “I made a pot of that fancy coffee you got me. Let’s see if we can taste the hints of grapefruit.”

“If not, let’s make a pot of Maxwell House and see if we can taste the hints of mediocre.”

Once inside, Lacey turned on the TV and handed the remote to Jenna. “I’ll get the coffee, you see if you can find the Michigan game. I want to know what kind of mood Phil’s going to be in when he gets here.”

Lacey smiled all the way to the kitchen. She’d actually made Maxwell House.


© 2016 WPReagan. This is one story in the 2016 series, Everyday Stories: 30 Tales in 30 Days Inspired by 30 Stranger’s Photographs.

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