“Mom, do we have any socks that don’t match?” Chance yelled. He slammed his dresser drawer closed. It was sadly devoid of any loose socks. Him mom had to have been cleaning in there again because there was no way all of them would have been rolled into pairs. He preferred the shove it and slam it way to keep things clean. Drawer slamming should be an Olympic sport.
His mom didn’t answer, but Chance heard the roar of the dryer starting. He was on his way to the laundry downstairs when he got a better idea. He went down the hall again and ducked into his mom’s bedroom. She wouldn’t have any socks brave enough to ditch being matched, so Chance didn’t even look at her dresser. Instead, he went to his Dad’s tall dresser with its shiny handles and grumbling drawers.
He jerked open the sock drawer, only to find flannel pajamas. Startled that he’d remembered wrong, Chance pushed the drawer back in fast. Too fast. The drawer got stuck with a jarring thump that shook his elbows. Chance bit his lip. Jiggling the drawer side to side, he got it loose. This time he moved slowly as he slid the drawer back home. It closed without a problem.
Chance stared at the dresser. He could remember wrestling matches on the bed and running around the house with his dad’s undershirt on as a basketball jersey. He could remember the smell of the mouth wash and the feel of his dad’s favorite slippers poking him away for an early morning hike . Why couldn’t he remember where the socks were? He counted the drawers again. It was the second drawer he wanted, not the third one.
Opening it, he found a small ocean of rolled up socks. Light blue, dark blue, a few white and black, the bobbed along as he fished through them. He didn’t want to break up the sets. His project needed ones that were not identical. He snagged a loose tube one, stretched and white. Next was a blue with a hole in a heel. It took forever to find the next, a brown. Recreating a pirate battle didn’t help speed things along. He lost track of time.
“What are you doing?”
The fifth-grader spun around at the sound of his mom’s voice. The four or five socks in his hands dropped to the floor. He bumped back against the dresser, closing the drawer. “Hi, mom,” he said, smiling. It felt like it might crack his face. “How are you?” There weren’t rules about going in his mom’s room. There weren’t rules about getting into Dad’s stuff. It just felt wrong.
She looked him up and down. “If your socks are too small, all you had to do was ask. I’d buy you new ones. You don’t have to steal old ones. Growing is not a crime.”
“These aren’t for my feet!”
“I thought we were past the stage where you wore them on your ears.” Her words were a joke, but her face wasn’t. Oh boy. He didn’t like making her upset. Making her sad was worse. This could be one, the other or both.
“It’s homework,” Chance blurted. “Honest.”
His mom let her breath out slow. “Science fair already? I thought we had at least another month on that. Socks are going to top your tornado in the bottle?”
He wanted to tell her everyone did tornadoes in a bottle and that even a four-decker tornado was not weird enough. “No, not the science fair. This is for reading.”
She got a whole different look on her face. The one that didn’t know how to back down, give up or take a break. “Show me your assignment notebook. Mr. Carlson did check it before you ran out of there today?”
“I don’t need to get my assignment notebook,” Chance whined, picking up the socks. “I know what I’m doing.”
“What are you supposed to do?” His mom brushed her hair out of her eyes. She had an apron on. He suspected cookies were occurring more than laundry. Sometimes his mom put of chores more than he did.
“Retell a story. Where’s grandma’s button jar she gave you? And can we break the no sharp objects in Chance’s hands rule so I can sew?”
Now she laughed. “What sort of invasive symbiotic life form are you?”
“Huh?” No fair pulling out the science. Science was dangerous. His best camp friend Ali taught him that. Pulling science should be an illegal mom move. Even if his mom was a pharmacist.
“Are you an alien and did you steal my son? You don’t sew.”
“I do when I’m making sock puppets.” He pushed past her, dumped the socks on his bed and starting tromping down the steps to the basement. Unused things tended to end up in the maze of forts down there. He might have used the sewing basked at a cornerstone.
“Chance, when teachers ask for a story retelling they normally want words,” his mom said from the top of the stairs.
“Mr. Carlson said story retelling. He never said writing. Dig in the backpack if you want. It doesn’t say writing.” Nigel had agreed on the bike ride home. The retelling sheet said nothing about writing. Chance had been pretty sure, but if Nigel agreed it meant that was true.
“He probably meant writing though.”
“Meant doesn’t matter. It has to say it.” Chance found the basket. It wasn’t on a corner. It was holding up a drawbridge. He let the bridge fall to pieces. He’s just add Godzilla to the acting out and it’d be fine. Sitting down in what was a courtyard, he fiddled with the lock Mom kept on the basket. It only took a few minutes to pick it open.
“I don’t care, Mom,” Chance said. “I’m doing sock puppets. They’re going to act out A Wrinkle in Time.”
“Huh, the version I read with you didn’t have any blue people.” His mom ruffled his hair.
Chance ducked his head free and tried to brush his hair straight. That brought the needle very close to his eye. Mom twitched. “What’s that thing you say? Poesy lice?”
“It’s poetic license. Now pass me that needle before you stab yourself.”
Chance did so. “You can only do the first one. I gotta learn to do things myself.”