Marsha put the third load in the wash. Even the dryer buzzer couldn’t wake him. Today was Charlie's birthday, so he deserved to sleep in. He would resume his job search tomorrow. Playing cards and hopping bars were wearing him out. Joyce too. Since COVID, everything had changed. She reassessed her future and considered greener pastures. Maybe London. Charlie’s father and sister had flown the coop years ago. Marsha had chosen to remain in the states and be a good Catholic wife to a husband who wasn’t there and an overindulgent Mom to her ne’er-do-well son.
Around noon, Charlie texted his dinner request. Joyce glanced at her phone. Calamari Carbonara at Lorenzo e Fauci. Sure Charlie. She was on her second shift. So she replied with a reasonable alternative. Meatballs and Spaghetti—Casa Gratis di Madre. Charlie didn’t get it, but he replied “Okay.” It was the most effort he had expended that day.
At 9:59 p.m., Joyce arrived with the cake. Tiramisu from the best Italian bakery she had been able to find on her break. Like that slouch really deserved it. He wasn’t looking so much like that cute boy from school who had swept her off her feet. Charlie helped his Mom with the dishes and awaited her sweet kiss on his forehead. Marsha smiled. He really was a good boy.
Another six years went by. One night his mother went to sleep and never woke up. At long last, rest for the weary. A couple of weeks later, Charlie relocated to London, where he mooched and sponged just as though he had never left home.
Joyce finally made it to Versailles. There was little or no contact for years— until the news was broadcast around the world. U.S. Ambassador Charles P. Moore the second has died. At forty-two, Charlie was an orphan. He made plans to reconnect with his soulmate. Joyce’s reply was curt. Sorry for your loss, but my husband doesn’t allow me to date. My children wouldn’t like it much either.
The estate included Intellectual Property that was of no particular interest to Charlie’s sister. So he published his father’s manuscript under Charles P. Moore the third. The literary world would never notice the subtle difference. Or care. It was a best seller on both continents. Charlie couldn’t wait to see his name with all those numbers etched in the annals of the Library of Congress.
He was an instant international success. His mother would have been so proud.