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It was a beautiful morning. A bluebird sat on a small branch in the flowering cherry tree and swayed gently back and forth. A crocus pushed his golden head through the tender green grass and blinked in the sudden sunlight. Mrs. Carmody hummed as she laid slices of bacon in the black iron skillet. "Spring is my favorite time of year," she said to Mandy the dog who was lying in the kitchen doorway scratching a flea and waiting to trip somebody.
Mrs. Carmody plugged in the toaster, got out the raspberry jam then went to the front hall and called up stairs to her husband, "Jordan, breakfast!" and to her little boy, "Phillip, are you up?"
Phillip who was ten years old and still under the covers, called out sleepily, "Practically all dressed, Mom. Be right down."
Constance, his sister who was eleven and three quarters, yelled from the bathroom where she was testing how lipstick would look when she was thirteen, "Phillip isn't even up, Mom. He won't be down for about ten hours."
Phillip shouted, "Old spy. Tattletale."
Constance said, "Be quiet, little boy. You bore me."
Mrs. Carmody called again louder, "Phillip get out of bed this instant. Connie, wipe off that lipstick. Hurry, Jordan, dear, while the toast is hot."
She went back to the kitchen and gave the percolator a little shake to hurry it up. Then she walked over and stood by the open back door breathing deeply of the fragrant early morning air. Her pleasant reverie was suddenly broken by Mr. Carmody who came grumpily into the kitchen, tripped over Mandy and stepped heavily into her water bowl which was onthe floor beside the stove.
Mrs. Carmody grabbed the sink sponge and began wiping up the water.
Mr. Carmody growled, "Well, that's certainly a nice morning greeting."
Mrs. Carmody said, "Oh, Jordan, dear, I'm so sorry. Did you get wet?"
"It doesn't matter, " said Mr. Carmody mournfully. "Nothing matters any more."
"What do you mean 'nothing matters any more'?" asked Mrs. Carmody as she squeezed out the sponge.
"Just that," said Mr. Carmody sadly pouring almost the whole pitcher of cream on his shredded wheat biscuit.
"Are you sick?" asked Mrs. Carmody peering anxiously at him.
"No, I am not sick," he said. "Or at least I'm not physically sick. just sick at heart."
Mrs. Carmody buttered the toast, put the plates in to warm, stirred the eggs, lifted the bacon on to a paper towel to drain, checked the color of the coffee, refilled Mandy's water bowl, then said, "What in the world are you talking about, Jordan? You don't make sense."
"He makes sense to me, " said Connie flouncing into the kitchen. "Because I feel the same way. I'm so ashamed I could die."
"What in the world are you talking about?" said M rs. Carmody. "Are you ready for your eggs, Jordan?"
"I suppose so," said Mr. Carmody dolefully.
Quickly Mrs. Carmody took the plates out of the oven, divided the eggs into four equal portions, added a dash of paprika, laid on four strips of bacon and two pieces of toast, carried two of the plates to the table and snapped them down in front of her husband and daughter. "Now," she said folding her arms, "tell me what this is all about."
Connie picked up a piece of bacon and began nibbling at it. "Well," she said, "if you really want to know."
"I do, " said her mother.
"Well," Connie said, "the point is that Phillip is ruining all our lives and you won't face it."
"Ruining our lives! Phillip?" said Mrs. Carmody. "Don't be ridiculous."
"I'm not being ridiculous," said Connie. "Phillip is such a disgusting little show-off I'm ashamed to bring my friends home any more. What about last night? He disgraced poor Daddy."
Mrs. Carmody gazed at her daughter intently for a minute then said, "Connie, you've got on lipstick again. Go upstairs and wash it off."
"Oh, honestly," Connie sighed heavily. "Every single girl in the whole United States of America wears lipstick but me. I'm just a freak. A poor freak with a disgusting little brother."
"Yes, yes, I know," said her mother. "Go up and wash the lipstick off."
When she was sure she could hear Connie's furious footsteps on the stairs she turned to her husband and said, "Now, Jordan, dear, what is all this?"
Mr. Carmody said, "Meg, Phillip is an obnoxious little show-off. Last night was the worst I've ever seen him, and Bob Waltham is my most important client and frankly I wouldn't blame him if he never came into this house again."
"Oh, Jordan," said Mrs. Carmody laughing. "Phillip was just trying to be entertaining."
"Do you call putting a whole baked potato in his mouth entertaining? Do you call drinking an entire glass of water without stopping, then choking and turning purple and spitting water all over the table entertaining? Do you call looking cross-eyed, touching his chin with his tongue, wiggling his ears, standing on his head, reciting the alphabet backwards and forwards and sideways and upside down, entertaining? Well, I don't. AND NEITHER DID BOB WALTHAM I"
"Now, Jordan," said Mrs. Carmody. "You know that Bob Waltham is a stuffy old bore. You've said so yourself, and after all Phillip is only ten. He's just a little boy. You shouldn't be so hard on him."
"You mean, he shouldn't be so hard on me," said Mr. Carmody angrily ripping a piece of bread in half.
"Meg, something has to be done about that boy. Now! Today I"
just then Phillip came rattling down the stairs and skidded into the breakfast room. "Hi, Dad. Hi, Mom," he said cheerfully.
"Morning," said Mr. Carmody grumpily.
"Good morning, Phillip, dear," said Mrs. Carmody.
Phillip sat down, grabbed the sugar bowl and began dumping sugar on his shredded wheat biscuit.
"Not so much sugar, honey," said his mother.