Maria looked down at her 6-year-old sons. All three were covered in mud from the top of their curly heads to the bottoms of their Converse shoes. Her jaw dropped, but nothing came from her mouth. Her vocal chords felt paralyzed at the sight of them.
She rewrapped the raw chicken she was about to place in the oven.
Normally they were identical triplets. Right now, one was missing a patch of hair, the other had a puffy bruise on his cheek and a black eye, and the third looked the guiltiest of all with a bloody, now-crooked nose and small claw marks on his forehead.
“Where’s Benjamin,” Maria asked, unnerved by the family’s missing Saint Bernard.
The three sets of eyes simultaneously shot to the wooden floor.
Guilty, Maria thought. Lord, help me!
With a deep sigh, she mustered the last drops of remaining willpower from her reserves, and set about fixing everything. She knew her role–she was the family factotum–she could do this. Their father would have to pick up some burgers if they were going to have dinner on time, though.
“Outside,” she said with a weary sigh. “Let’s get y’all cleaned off, while someone tells me what happened and where our dog went.”
She now noticed that the youngest was limping.
“Just so you know, mom, all the other kids look worse than we do,” the eldest said, with a big grin.
Her son was now missing two of his baby teeth that hadn’t even been loose this morning.
“Yeah, we beat ’em real good,” said her middle son.
Maria stopped cold, feeling nauseated. Now she would have to add the role of lawyer to her repertoire.
The door bell interrupted her unnerving thoughts.
And now the proceedings have started, she thought, as she looked over her shoulder toward the door.
“Go sit on the deck,” she said. “Stay put and I’ll be there in a minute.”
Maria headed toward the front door with a pleasant smile plastered on her face, and prepared herself for battle.