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Radio Shack

By Jean Southworth

March 2002

Normally, were inundated on weekends. During Spring Break, theyre here everyday, some overnights and more late into the nights, like tonight:

Boys filter in. Girlfriend calls. Invites Zach and his "two cutest friends" to downtown coffee house to meet Girlfriends friends.

Alex decides to go home. Probably his chemo fatigues him, but he claims, "Im not as cute since I got cancer," his dry humor intact, not a trace of self-pity. Boys laugh.

"Im not leavin, I overhear Cameron say. "Zach, you should put cots in the garage so wed never have to leave."

Zach and "cutest boys" leave. "Less cute" boys continue downstairs. Theyre still here. Without Zach.

Certainly, we give the local youth centers a run for their money. Where else can you get free video games, plus snacks? A couple evenings ago they blew a fuse downstairs from all the electronics. Zachs friends refer to our house as "Radio Shack." I consider it our video game ministry. The boys can get into only so much mischief here.

Still, we did have a bit of trouble with water balloons yesterday--

Boys return with a couple intact balloons after bombarding innocents on the streets of Salem. Zach nails Ryan on patio; Ryan seeks revenge. Zachs avoids hit at frontdoor, balloon sails past, well into house. Explodes on my leg, splattering on entryway paintings. I scream. The boys scream. Im not mad, just concerned about Jims paintings, but they are fine. I make boys organize Zachs video game paraphernalia downstairs as retribution. Plus towel down entryway. They do excellent work. I am proud of myself for remembering that logical consequence stuff.

Last week I discover some fine new sweatpants in my closet. I wear them proudly to Courthouse, grocery store and on dog walks. Maybe Zach or Annie wants them back. I ask, "Are these yours?" Zach doubles over. They belong to his friend, Adrien. Oh, how the boys love this story, its still spreading. I wash sweatpants and relinquish them. Adrien forgets to take them home, but instructs Zach to please keep his pants away from me.

Boys (not Zach) call from coffee house to speak with boys (not Zach) in basement. They are returning soon.

Zach comes home. Gives me hug. "When do you want them to leave?" he asks. "Whenever you say..." he adds, sweetly.

They are vacuuming up the popcorn now.