Dispose of the Evidence

By Kathryn Schleich

This flash fiction piece won an Honorary Mention in the WOW! Women On Writing Spring 2008 quarterly flash fiction contest. At the time, flash fiction pieces were less than 500 words.

The cab pulled into the driveway and while Jerry paid the fare, Lois assessed the house. This was the first time they had left their two teenage sons home by themselves. Like any mother, the prospect of Tim and Kyle on their own for five days had caused Lois apprehension. At 18 and 17 respectively, the boys had made the argument they were too old for grandpa and grandma to babysit. They promised to check in with their grandparents daily.

Jerry unlocked the double-front doors and they stepped into the foyer. “Hello! Anybody home?” No response. Carrying their suitcases up the steps into the master bedroom, the odor of ammonia stung Lois’ nostrils. She knew immediately something was amiss. In the boys’ bathroom, she flicked on the lights. Nobody’s towels were strewn across the floor, no toothpaste spattered on the mirror, even the toilet seat was down. The bathroom was show-home perfect. With growing alarm, Lois viewed both bedrooms where beds were smoothly made, furniture dusted, floors vacuumed.

She walked back downstairs into the kitchen. No dirty dishes were piled in the sink or food left on the counter. The vinyl floor squeaked from a fresh scrubbing, glossy under the light. On the uncluttered kitchen table, the mail had been sorted into orderly piles by date. Lois knew you didn’t leave two teenage boys alone for several days, no matter how responsible, and return to a house cleaner than when you had left.

Jerry bounded down the stairs, in search of the newspapers the boys knew to stack by his chair in the family room. Lois was about to relate her suspicions when Jerry called to her. “Hey Lo, come here.” He was laughing, shaking his head in amazement and pointing toward the floor. Under each piece of Early American furniture were ovals of foil. The boys had had the carpets cleaned.

“They’ve also had the entire house professionally cleaned,” Lois added.

In the lower-level with its walkout basement shiny ovals dotted the carpet in gold, even under the massive pool table.

“They were probably rolling the beer kegs into the basement before we’d left the driveway,” Jerry surmised.

The observant parents were waiting in the family room when their sons returned.

“How was your trip?” Tim asked.

“Yeah, how was your trip?” Kyle repeated, a shade too enthusiastically.

“Fine,” their father replied with a mischievous gleam. “But more importantly, how was your party?”

Standing before their parents, the flaxen-haired, blue-eyed brothers looked at one another, expressions trapped between “What are you talking about?” and “How did you know?”

Tim asked meekly, “What party?”

“The party you hosted while we were gone,” their mother replied, an extended index finger drawing their gaze toward the foil coasters dotting the carpet.

Slack jawed that their secret had been discovered through their own ineptitude, the boys were in wide-eyed panic.

“You’re both grounded,” Lois continued sternly.

A sly smile crossed their father’s lips. “And next time, I suggest you dispose of the evidence.”