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Grime and Punishment

Grime and Punishment

Titel: Grime and Punishment
Autoren: Jill Churchill
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    The alarm went off at 6:10 A.M.
    There had been a time when Jane Jeffry “hit the deck running.“ But that was ten years ago, back in the days when the children were small and she still held the naïve belief that motherhood had an achievable standard of perfection.
    But since then, she’d learned that children don’t necessarily grow up warped just because Mom can’t find it in her heart to be peppy and bright before the sun has come up. They aren’t exactly treasures themselves in the early hours. The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. “Hitting the decks running“ wasn’t a requirement.
    She staggered to the bathroom and tried not to meet her own gaze in the mirror. Bathrooms should never be equipped with mirrors or lighting fixtures after their tenants passed the age of thirty, she felt. She peeled off her T-shirt-style nightgown that said “Somebody in Chicago loves me“ across the front. The kids had given it to her for her birthday.
    As she came out she met her daughter Kate coming in. “I’m out of toothpaste.“ The thirteen-year-old’s grieved tone suggested that her mother had deliberately squeezed out the last bit just to inconvenience her. “Mom, aren’t you ready yet? I’ll be late.“
    “Katie, it’s only 6:15 in the morning. That’s not late by anybody’s standards. There’s not a single thing of importance that’s ever happened this early. Ever. In the whole history of the world,“ Jane said, slipping into a pair of jeans.
    “Oh, Mother!“
    “ Hold it! Give that toothpaste back. Are Todd and Mike up and moving?“
    “I don’t know. Are you really wearing that?”
    Jane looked down at the sweat shirt she’d pulled over her head. No stains, no frays, no messages, obscene or otherwise. “Why not? Who’s to care?“
    “Everybody’ll see you!“ Katie wailed.
    “Katie, ‘everybody’ is a bunch of other half-asleep mothers who have also stupidly allowed themselves to be dragged into the cheerleading practice car pool. We’ll all be ashamed of ourselves. There is no eye contact in the junior high parking lot at 6:30 A.M. Take my word for it.“
    “Ellen Elden’s mother always has on makeup and a skirt.”
    It was Jane’s opinion that Ellen Elden’s mother didn’t have the sense God gave a macadamia nut. If she did, she’d have given her daughter a sensible name instead of something that sounded like a musical tongue twister.
    “Put that toothpaste back where you found it. With the cap on,“ Jane warned as she hastily dragged the bedclothes back into order. Tomorrow, when she tried out the new cleaning lady, she’d strip the bed. Maybe the woman would be able to do a neater job of putting it together than she could. Somehow the bed had never gotten into this kind of mess when she was sharing it with her husband Steve, not even when they made love. Of course, if they’d made love in such a way as to wreck the bed, he might still be in it.
    Seven months now, and she still couldn’t get through a day without thinking about him.
    She was ready to go downstairs, but paused for a minute before starting down and listened suspiciously to the quiet. She could hear Mike’s alarm buzzing faintly and banged on his door. “Rise and shine, kiddo! You’ve got marching band practice before school,“ she shouted, waited for the answering groan, then went to the next room. This door wasn’t closed. It was Todd’s room, and he hadn’t reached the age where he wanted to shut his mother out. In fact, given half a chance, he’d have just camped out at the foot of Jane’s bed and abandoned his own room altogether. During thunderstorms this was, in fact, her ten-year-old son’s modus operandi.
    She gazed fondly at him for a minute. “Todd, honey, time to get up,“ she said, ruffling his blond hair. Willard, their big yellow dog, was sleeping between Todd and the wall. Belly up, paws the size of coffee mugs stuck straight into the air, he thumped his tail and made a pleasant dog groan in greeting.
    “MOTHER!“ Katie shouted from downstairs. “Yes, yes.”
    As she flew through the kitchen, Jane noticed that Katie had spilled some milk on the counter (which one of the cats was obligingly licking up), left the donut box open, and hadn’t put the carton of orange juice back in the refrigerator. Oh, well, the boys would just mess it up again by the time she got back,
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