"Dad, Mom, get real. It's just a party, okay? Mr. and Mrs. Taylor will be there all night. I'll be spending the night with Danny so there's no chance of me getting a ticket for driving while under the influence of Dr. Pepper, right? Come to think of it, I won't start driving for years. What's with the third degree?"
"Eric, it's your first sort of, well almost, grown up party. We're your parents. We're paid to worry. It's why we signed up for the job." Jim Allman examined his son, a slight smile on his face.
Marilyn Allman was downright grinning. "Besides, dear, think of all the tales you'll be able to tell your friends about your demonic 'rents!"
Eric stood silent, his arms folded across his chest. He knew this part of the game. His parents would now enter the 'silent zone' in hopes he'd speak up first. They stared at him, and he stared right back at them. For a good two minutes nobody moved but to breathe.
"Jim, dear," said Mrs. Allman, "I do believe the boy is on to us."
All three laughed.
"We talked to Annie and Doug Taylor already, so we know the rules," his mom continued. "No alcohol, no drugs, and violators will be ticketed and towed. Not by the parent patrol, but by the police. You're sure you'll be okay?"
"Mom, get real. It's just for fun and blowing off steam now that school's out. In the fall we're officially in high school, and that's something to celebrate. We're not stupid, okay? Besides which, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor'll be safely stuck away downstairs in the basement so we'll have to scream real loud to get their attention."
"Well, if you say so. No 'spin the bottle'?"
"Yeah, right. I think that went out in the Stone Age."
"So it's 'spin the iPhone' now?"
Eric crossed his arms, put his finger to his lips and pondered. "Good suggestion, Dad. I'll see what people have to say about that one."
His mother interrupted. "You'd better get underway, Eric, before we have to shut you down for good! Have a good time, dear. Call if you need us."
"Thanks, Mom. You guys are great." He started for the door, then stopped and spun around.
"What is it, son?" Mr. Allman had started to return to the family room when he saw his son's quick move.
"Forgot to put the rest of my stuff in the laundry."
"No problem. We'll take care of it. You go have fun."
It was a fifteen minute walk to Danny's house, which Eric had travelled more than a thousand times in the eleven years the boys had known each other. Since their first meeting in kindergarten, they had been inseparable. Many of their classmates found it odd that they didn't share a last name. Of course it would have been fraternal, what with Danny's bright blonde hair and blue eyes and Eric's black hair and hazel eyes, but they were near identical in every other way. They were enthusiastic about, if mediocre in, soccer. They balanced each other as first baseman and shortstop on the diamond. And they never excelled academically despite hard work, but were far from the class dummies.
Eric crossed the final street dividing his world from his best friend's, strode up the path, opened the door with a flourish and hollered, "MomTwo! I'm home!"
Mrs. Taylor and her perpetual grin were there to greet him. "Hi, sweetheart. We've missed you. It's been almost a week since you strode into our place."
"Sorry about that. Working with my dad on cleaning out the garage, and this time he really meant it. I can't believe all the cra… er… garbage we had in there."
Annie laughed. "Don't worry. We have a lot of cra-er-garbage in ours too. Perhaps you could inspire Danny and his father to undertake the same task."
"No can do, MomTwo. We swore never to find make-work for each other back when you slave drivers handed us lawn mowers and told us to get down to business."
"So you finally caught on to us, eh? Well, his highness is up in his room. I'm finishing up the last of the refreshments for your gang. Pizzas should be here soon, speaker volumes have been checked to make sure you don't wake up the dead or too many neighbors, and all of the legal beverages are set up." She paused and turned serious. "And you know that you and Danny are expected to…?"
"You bet. We let you guys know if there's any booze, drugs, or wild sex. Um. Pick two." He grinned, and Mrs. Taylor swatted him on the butt with her spatula.
Danny was lazing in his room, having spent most of the day preparing for tonight's event. His parents had rented chairs and tables for the thirty or so teenaged guests expected, and between setup and decorating, he was exhausted.
"I hope I can make it through the night. I'm about beat," he whined. Classic Danny.
"Yeah, well you go tuck in nighty night and I'll offer your apologies to the guests. Your work here is done, my friend."
"In your dreams, bucko. I'm in excellent shape and ready to rock and roll."
"Did I accidentally walk into the 1960s here?"
"Something like that." Danny looked around. "I should ask, just to make sure, you brought the necessaries in case you get lucky tonight? Not that it's going to happen, but Be Prepared, eh, Boy Scout?"
"You should know as well as me. And yes, I came prepared." Eric reached into his pocket to demonstrate, but his face suddenly wrinkled up.
"What's the matter?" Danny sat up and watched his friend's face. "You didn't forget, did you?"
"I didn't forget, but I think I left them in my other pants."
"Yeah, right. I also believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but this time you're lucky." Danny walked to his dresser and pulled out the bottom drawer. A large box with a distinctive logo sat there quietly. "Only the best. Trojans, my friend."
"Well that's great, but mine were in my pocket. In my other pants. And mom is doing the laundry tonight!"
The room was quiet for a few moments, but Danny couldn't hold it in for long. He burst out laughing at his friend's predicament. "Dude, you are so busted! We're talking dead meat here."
"Your support is noted, asshole. What am I going to do?"
"My suggestion, Eric? Live for tonight. I have plenty here for everybody. Enjoy. Then tomorrow you get castrated, but at least you have tonight."
"You're not really too comforting, but you are right, unless my mom drives over and drags my ass out of this whore house."
"Relax. Here. Take a handful. You won't use them all, but it'll be fun to imagine you could. And forget tomorrow."
"Thanks. I guess this is one of those 'friends in need' moments." Eric reached out and hugged his friend tightly.
"Don't sweat it," replied Danny. "I got you covered."
It was well past two o'clock in the following afternoon that a bedraggled and exhausted Eric Allman dragged his weary bones homeward. The night was a fantastic blur in his mind and he couldn't really separate the facts from the fantasies. He remembered boatloads of pizza and snacks, swimming in Danny's pool, and dancing. He vaguely recalled somebody had brought their parents' game of Twister. And vegetable oil? And he knew that he had experienced a wonderful time.
But heading homeward he was aware that the piper must be paid. This would be his last party until he was out of his parents' home. He would be grounded forever. And even if he stayed in the same school, there would be no extracurricular activities. Of that he was certain.
He hoped that it had been worth it. He wondered when the memories would come flooding back.
As he opened the front door, his mother was standing in the entryway.
"Glad to see you made it home safely." She nodded slightly. "And we already heard that there were no drugs or drinking. That's a relief."
"Your father is waiting in your room. I think he has something to say to you."
Eric nodded feebly and trudged up the stairs. He walked down the hallway and entered what he had always thought of as his refuge from the world. His father was sitting on his bed, and several telltale foil packets lay on the bed alongside him. His father gazed up at him, an inscrutable look on his face.
"Good afternoon, son. Have a good time last night?"
"Yeah, Dad, I did. It was great."
His father nodded his head slowly. "Good."
Silence hung in the air.
Eric stood there, unsure of what to say. His father finally picked up the slack.
"You, um, in your hurry to leave, last night, you seem to have forgotten something important." In his hand he held a small box.
"I can explain, Dad," blurted Eric.
"No need to explain, son. I think I can figure things out pretty well. I presume Danny was able to make up for your loss?"
Eric nodded, saying nothing.
Mr. Allman stood up, towering several inches over the boy. Eric trembled. His father had never hit him in his life. He was afraid that the record was about to end. He heard a noise from behind him and knew that his mother was there to witness the event.
"Eric," his father continued, "I have just two words for you. There were girls at that party last night. If these were on account of them, well, let me just say that your mother and I are nowhere near old enough to be grandparents. Not yet."
He paused, cleared his throat, and continued.
"And there were boys at that party last night. And if these were on account of them, well, your mother and I want you to know that we will never be old enough to stand at your funeral."
Eric thought he knew his parents pretty well. But they weren't out of surprises. His father suddenly opened his arms and embraced his son. Eric felt his mother's arms around him from behind.
His father continued. "Those two words, son? Thank you."
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