by Bernie Silver
My seventeen-year-old son arrived home from Central High football practice and announced he had something important to tell his mother and me over dinner. He then went upstairs to shower, leaving us in the kitchen wondering what now.
"He got a D in math," I hypothesized.
"Impossible." Grace headed for the dining-room table carrying a tray laden with pot roast. I followed in her wake.
"Did Pythagoras get a D in math?" she asked along the way.
She set the tray on the table and theorized. "Maybe he's started drinking."
"Impossible," I said. "He's obsessed with remaining clear-headed at all times. Where he got that from I don't know.
Besides, if he's drinking why would he tell us?"
Grace shrugged and returned to the kitchen while I came up with an alarming thought.
"Oh God," I said after she reentered with bowls of salad and mashed potatoes. "He's gotten Annie pregnant."
"Impossible," Grace said, setting the bowls down. "You know, you could make yourself useful."
I ignored the subtle hint. "Why impossible?"
"Because he's still a virgin."
We stared at each other as the dawn broke.
"Oh crap," I said.
"He wouldn't," Grace speculated. But being a man, I knew better.
"Why not?" I inquired.
"Well, for one thing, Annie wouldn't let him. For another . . . you did have the talk with him, right?"
I did. I'd had the talk with my son, just as my father had had the talk with me. So I knew firsthand how much good the talk did. But this was 1961 and the pill was in vogue. Not only had it proved more user-friendly than rubbers, its use was up to the girl, not the guy, which was a good thing, given what I knew of guys.
And speaking of teenage hormones, that racket they call rock 'n roll could be exacerbating the problem. At least back in the day there was no lewd music and jiggly dancing leading us into temptation. But today, all that guitar-twanging and indecent hip-swinging and . . .Elvis. I knew it would come to this. He's responsible for getting Annie pregnant. Not Bing Crosby. Not Nat "King" Cole. Not Frank Sinatra. But the Pelvis.
Grace fetched glasses and silverware and placed them accordingly on the table, then removed her apron. "Well, now that dinner is served and I've set the table, I'll go fetch Nick. Unless you want to."
"No, that's okay, I'll just sit here and ponder the disaster."
"The one he's about to reveal."
"Oh, that one."
She started up the stairs but then stopped. "You know, we could be jumping to conclusions."
"No, something bad has happened. I can feel it."
"You can feel it." A skeptical Grace continued up the stairs. Meanwhile I sat there wondering what kind of grandparents we'd make.
I watched in wonder as Nick scooped enough food on his plate to feed a football team.
"Well?" I asked him.
He stopped scooping long enough to say, "Well what?"
"You said you had something important to tell us over dinner. This is dinner. Tell us."
"Oh yeah." He cut off a large chunk of pot roast and put a forkful in his mouth.
I glanced at his mother, who looked her usual cool self. How I envied her.
"I've got some good news," Nick said through a mouthful. "Great news, in fact."
Knocking up a girlfriend is great news in fact? Where had we gone wrong?
He washed the food down with a long swallow of Coke, then paused to look at each of us in turn. Maybe my son should take up acting. He certainly had a flair for the dramatic.
"I got it!" he said at last. "The football scholarship to U of M!"
So unexpected was this revelation I could barely digest it. "You . . . I . . . I mean . . ."
Not for the first time, Grace came to my rescue. "What your father means to say is, that's wonderful news, dear. We're so proud of you! When did you find out?"
"Just this morning, when I read yesterday's mail before going to school. You two were at work or I'd have told you then."
Though the news he'd finally spilled was a relief, I continued to stumble about. "So you haven't . . . I mean, Annie's not . . ."
"What's Annie got to do with this?" Nick asked while shoveling in a load of mashed potatoes.
Grace gave me one of her looks. To our son she said, "Never mind. We'll have to celebrate. Your father could go to the store for some cake and ice cream and—"
"Mom? Dad?" He said this with such solemnity I braced myself again.
"What, dear?" Grace asked, though I wished she hadn't.
"There's something else. Related to celebrating, I guess you could say."
"What's that?" I didn't really want to know but felt it my paternal duty to ask.
"The thing is, Annie and I wanted to celebrate the occasion this afternoon, so we skipped a couple classes. Neither of us had ever done that before."
"That's not good," Grace said, "but I'm sure you'll make up the work."
"Of course we will. Only we did more than play hooky, even though you warned me not to do what I . . . we . . . ended up doing. Look, most guys wouldn't even tell their parents about this, so I hope you'll take that into account."
Up went the red flag again. "What? What're you trying to say, Nick?" I may have sounded panicky.
"Annie and I went back to her place, her parents' house I mean, and . . ."
"And what?" I knew damn well what, but again felt obliged to ask.
"See, Mr. and Mrs. Singer were both at work too and Annie said they always keep a bottle of champagne in the liquor cabinet for special occasions, so we got out some ice cubes and had half a glass apiece. But I promise, I swear, I'll never drink again, at least not until I'm twenty-one."
Now I felt like celebrating with some bubbly.
"Really, I promise," my son said, pouring it on.
"It's okay. I mean, it's not great, but at least you told us and promised not to do it again until you're of age. And by the way, let me repeat what your mother said a moment ago. We're damned proud of you. For winning the scholarship, not for skipping school and drinking champagne."
"Thanks. I mean you're being so understanding and supportive and . . . hey, may I be excused to call Annie. I said I would after I told you and—"
"By all means, son, call Annie."
You can't blame me for feeling charitable. Nick rose and bolted up the stairs as only the young and hopeful can.
"Well," Grace said.
"We were wrong," she observed.
"Not for the first time."
"Nor will it be the last, I suppose."
"Bet on it."
She got up and started clearing the table. I felt so good I actually made myself useful.
Bio: Bernie Silver is a semi-retired reporter and editor who in his dotage has turned to part-time caregiving and fiction-writing, not necessarily in that order.