It wasn’t the “Mom” part—it was the preceding “uh.” It’s something he says when he has bad news. And in this case, there was a tone to his voice that was worrisome indeed. Then he added, “Don’t freak out or anything, ‘kay?”
This ranks right up there under THINGS YOU DON’T WANT YOUR CHILD TO SAY TO YOU. Even if said child is old enough to attend college and vote and fight in armies and legally drink. In fact, maybe especially if he’s that old.
I looked up from my computer and stared at him. In retrospect, I bet I know what my face looked like, because my dad used to give me that same blank stare whenever I dropped a bombshell on him. He’d look up from his reading, his face completely impassive, and then his eyes would go: Blink. And then: Blink.
I now know that those two blinks represent a sort of slip into Matrix mode, where time slows so much that hundreds of possible kinds of bad news flit through the brain like bullets that can be plucked out of the air, Neo-style.
Then he said, “It’s my laundry.”
At first I was relieved. Laundry! And then those bullets again: My son’s laundry…! My son’s laundry. Oh. And…oh. It could be pretty bad, after all.
And it was. At least, in a sort of curious, almost scientific way. Neither of which should ever be said about laundry.
Turned out he’d bought a new pair of shorts and worn them jogging. I know you’re supposed to wash new clothes before wearing them, and I bet he knows this too. But. He does, in fact, do his own laundry, so I am not about to rock that boat by offering helpful laundering suggestions. So he had dumped the shorts along with a shirt on the floor of his old room as if the room is a big empty laundry basket.
His “new” room is the entire basement, which he’s staked claim upon little by little, squatter-style, until he’s converted it into his own apartment that he takes over when he’s home from college along with the garage and the pantry. He tries to take over the kitchen too by marking it with his flip flops the way astronauts leave their footprints on the moon—and to be left there about as long—but my daughter and I throw them down the basement steps lest we get home one day and find the whole house littered with video games and cereal bowls with blue milk in the bottom and Dorito bags and a stray sock or two.
So sitting on top of the shorts (along with a shirt) in the middle of his upstairs room was—urk—a pile of ant eggs, along with some adults running around and apparently trying to bury them down in the pockets and folds of my son’s laundry.
I hesitated telling you this because I don’t want you to think I have bugs. I really don’t get ants in this house much. Used to see a few every spring when it rained, but since the exterminator who was clearly the Walter Mitty of exterminators—the one with a personal vendetta against bugs who I think fantasized that he was more terminator than exterminator—there’s been nothing but the occasional basement spider. Even the crickets we used to get every fall have been noticeably scarce. But there was no ant trail whatsoever and no sign of ants anywhere but in that one spot perched on top of the shorts.
How did that happen? We don’t know. We’ve been Googling ants to see if it’s possible that a stray queen just flew into his shorts while he was jogging, or if she could have set up housekeeping before he bought the shorts, or what. And we still don’t know. The good thing was that they were very easy to scoop up and flush, sitting in a neat little pile like that.
Come to think of it, was it a ploy to get me to do his laundry? Because I did wash the heck out of those shorts. I don’t think so, honestly. He knows my payoff is that I will forever get to tease him about the time he had ants in the pants.