CHAPTER SIX – Eighteen Thousand Shoes
Luann sat on the couch in the living room, studying her English book, trying to memorize the difference between colons and semicolons.
Some things just wouldn’t stick in her head, like the difference between ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ or ‘further’ and ‘farther.’ And there were some things that just wouldn’t UNstick, like the image of Aaron and Tiffany in the cafeteria. Right now, that image was on its 300th rerun, taking up all her brain space.
Luann glanced at the clock over the fireplace: 6 pm. She’d been staring at the same page in her English book for half an hour.
Dad came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a dish towel.
“Luann, it’s your turn to set the table.”
“No it’s not. It’s Brad’s turn,” said Luann, pointing at her older brother who was sprawled in the recliner, eating potato chips and watching ESPN.
Brad didn’t move his eyes from the screen. “Wrong, beandip.
You traded me Monday for Thursday ‘cuz you went somewhere Wednesday.”
Luann looked at her brother, which she normally avoided doing. He was three years older and, in her opinion, was a complete waste of perfectly good carbon.
“Brad, I didn’t trade you. You owed me from last Friday, remember?”
“I wasn’t even here last Friday,” said Brad, loading a handful of chips into his mouth.
“Yes, Brad. That’s why I set the table.”
“If I’m not here, how can it be my turn?”
“You just said you took MY turn when I wasn’t here!”
“That’s ‘cuz you were here right before it was time to set the table. Technically, you should have set the table.”
“The time I wasn’t here, I left at like, 3:30, way before the table setting time frame.”
Luann squeezed her eyes shut. “Table setting time frame?”
“Yeah. There has to be a time frame, otherwise how would we know when your turn ends and my turn starts?”
Dad decided to intervene. “Ok, I don’t –”
“Brad, you are such a moron. It doesn’t matter if you’re here or you’re not here or you leave here. Every other night it’s your turn.”
“Oh, so when I move away to college, it’ll still be my turn every other night? I’m supposed to fly home and set the table?”
“When you move away,” said Luann, “we’ll save so much money on food we’ll hire a staff of maids to set the table.”
“Ha ha ha ha,” said Brad, spraying chip crumbs on his chest.
Mom came out of the kitchen. “Brad, I told you dinner would be ready in two minutes! Why are you eating chips?”
“’Cuz I’m hungry NOW.”
“You put those away and then both of you set the table.” Mom went back into the kitchen.
“And tomorrow,” said dad, firmly, “we’re making a chart! No more arguments!”
“We did that,” said Luann. “We made a chart for all the chores.”
“Then why aren’t we using it?”
“Because we could never agree on who did what on which day and who substituted, traded or paid the other person to do their chores. We ended up arguing about the chart.”
“Oh,” said dad, now remembering a couple of major chart fights. “Well, go wash your hands and set the table. Dinner’s almost ready.” Dad went back into the kitchen.
“You know it’s your turn, Luann. I can’t believe you laid there on the couch and lied,” said Brad.
“I didn’t, Brad. I LIED on the couch and lied.”
Wait, that sounded wrong. Layed on the couch? Lay? You lay something down but you lie yourself down. Or do you lay down?
Now I lay me down to sleep…
Sheez, Luann thought. I am so going to fail this English final.
At the dinner table, the conversation turned to the coming summer vacation. Dad proposed some ideas for family trips, but like every year, no one could agree. Dad favored camping in the wilderness. Mom preferred the beach. Brad was a roller coaster freak and Luann’s dream vacation was a week at Mall of America.
“Speaking of vacations and stuff,” said Luann, “Bernice and Delta and I want to go to the mall this Saturday to get some summer clothes. I was hoping I could use the car.”
Brad snorted. “More clothes? Your closet’s already about to blow up.”
“Much like your gut.”
Brad took a swig of milk, leaving a white mustache on his upper lip. “I don’t get why girls have to buy new clothes every two weeks.”
Mom said, “Brad, wipe your mouth.”
Brad wiped his sleeve across his face. “I mean, guys don’t rush to the mall all the time to buy new shirts and pants.” He stuffed a dinner roll into his mouth.
“That’s true,” said Luann. “Some Neanderthal types wear the same disgusting clothes every single day of their life.”
“How long will you need the car, Luann?” asked dad.
“Oh, like, ten until, I dunno, five.”
“See? See what I’m sayin’?” Brad mumbled around the roll.
“Girls shop all day! Guys, we walk in, grab a six pack of socks — bam– outta there.”
Mom said, “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
“Good idea,” said Luann. “We’d never hear you speak again.”
Dad said, “I think women spend more time in the mall because it’s designed for them. The men’s section in a department store takes up three aisles. Women’s stuff fills three floors.”
“That’s ‘cuz women have totally different rules than men do,” said Luann. “We’re supposed to wear a different outfit every day, every season, every year. Our hair has to have bounce and shine. We’re expected to wear makeup, paint our nails, shave our legs…everything’s about looks.”
Brad took another swig of milk, creating a fresh milk-stache.
“You sayin’ guys don’t care about how they look?”
Luann said, “Wipe your mouth.”
“I care about how I look,” said dad. “But it’s a lot simpler for men. I run a comb through my hair, put on a shirt and tie, slip on a jacket and I’m off to work.”
“You really should start wearing pants, honey,” said mom. “And shoes.”
“Shoes,” said Luann. “A perfect example of what I’m talking about. Brad, how many pairs of shoes do you own?”
“Besides these?” said Brad, pointing at athletic shoes that looked like they’d been run over by a lawn mower. “Uh…I have one other pair like these ‘cept they’re not as good.”
“And you wear those shoes with jeans, right?”
“And what shoes would you wear with shorts?”
“These,” said Brad.
“And in P.E.?”
“What about with dress pants?”
Brad paused. “Dress pants?”
“Yes, Brad, dress pants. Like you’d wear with a nice dress shirt and a tie and–” Luann stopped, realizing that, as far as Brad was concerned, she was now speaking a foreign language.
Brad said, “How many shoes do you have, Luann? Twenty thousand?”
“Well, I have sandals for shorts, flats for pants, low heels for skirts, high heels for dresses, various styles for school, sports, walking, dancing and hiking. Then I have different colors of everything to match my outfits and different styles to go with the seasons.” Luann thought a moment. “But it’s probably only 18 thousand.”
Dad shook his head. “Between Brad’s food costs and Luann’s foot costs, I’m amazed we can pay the mortgage.”
Brad grabbed another roll. “Not just shoes, dad. What about Luann’s arsenal of makeup? Have you seen all the junk she slaps on her face to look ‘natural?’ The bathroom’s a chemical plant.”
“I need all that just to stay competitive,” said Luann. “TV and movies and magazines constantly bombard women with images of beauty that we’re expected to live up to. Ads are all about, ‘Be beautiful! Be sexy! Stay in fashion! Buy this! Buy that!’ Luann spread her arms. “It’s insane!”
There was a silence around the table while this thoughtful comment sunk in.
Then Luann said, “So anyway, can I use the car to go to the mall?”
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