The phone rang, for the eighth time that hour, but instead of answering it, she carried the baby through the house to his bed. She knew he was tired from his shrill scream and they way he was rubbing his eyes. She finally got him to take his nuk, and the static coming from the toy giraffe seemed to pacify him. She tiptoed out of their shared bedroom and pulled the door shut with her. The phone rang again. She cringed. Dread and exasperation filled her. She checked on the other two boys one more time, grabbed the phone and went to make them a snack. While she opened the pantry to find the crackers, she hit dial. The phone on the other end rang and she got out the cheese and two small, plastic plates.
"Hello," her mom said.
"What's wrong, Mom?"
"You've called nine times in the past 45 minutes, and I talked to you twice already since noon."
"I just wanted to remind you that we have a family reunion tomorrow." Her voice was slow and confused.
"Mom, the reunion is Saturday. Today is only Thursday."
"Oh," she said.
"Mom! I'm hungry!" Her oldest son's voice sounded through the house.
She wanted to yell to him to shush. Instead, she closed her eyes and prayed the baby would sleep through it, if he'd even gone to sleep at all yet.
"Me, too!" Not to be outdone, her middle son had to be heard, too.
"I'll be right there, boys," she whispered loudly down the stairs. She cut an apple and placed the slices around the crackers and cheese. "Are you okay, Mom?" She asked, though she knew it was pointless. While listening to silence on the other end of the phone, she filled two cups of water and balanced the plates on one hand and wrist and took the rim of the cups with the fingers on her other hand.
"I'm fine. I was just outside mowing the grass and it was so hot. I'm fine."
She headed downstairs to where the boys were playing football and watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Halfway down the steps, the baby let out a shrill scream. Her nerves tightened.
"Mom, I'll come over and mow next time, okay?"
"No, I can do it myself. I mow it every three days, and I'm just fine. It's just hot today."
She knew her mom hadn't mowed the grass more than once all summer, and that she hadn't been cleaning or doing her laundry, or even keeping up on her bills.
She handed the boys their plates and headed up to the screaming baby, planning to nurse him again to settle him down. "I'll call you later, Mom, okay?"
"You don't have to. I know you're busy."
After nursing the baby and finally tackling the piles of laundry that made it impossible to enter the laundry room, the phone rang.