Scott took another disdainful sniff at the splatters of crimson and orange spread across his favorite shirt like an African sunrise. He carefully analyzed the situation. He knew he had no choice. The shirt had been an anniversary gift from his parents for his fifth year of marriage to Dinah. He would have to find a way to save it. Unfortunately, things always seemed to have a way of taking a turn for the disastrous where food and Scott’s favorite clothing were concerned. He had dared to wear it last night for the massive and long-awaited family reunion dinner at his uncle’s. In retrospect, he knew he never should have risked it. Not with half a dozen kids running rampant about the place all night. Then again, he hadn’t known Aunt Suzie would be serving up her classic lasagna with the tantalizing sauce she was known all too well for.
It was now the morning after the dinner party. He, Dinah and their four-year-old son, Robbie, had spent the night along with his parents in the expansive living room and spare bedroom of his uncle’s log mansion.
Scott took his shirt to the bathroom and filled the sink with hot water. He gently lowered his shirt down into the steam, partially burning his hands in the process. He drained out most of the water and filled the sink again with lukewarm water, then began scrubbing at the patches of sauce. He rubbed together the sides of the shirt, hoping the friction would take out the stain. A minute later he stopped to observe the results: the saucy splotches seemed to have traveled across the shirt and now reached even the collar. Besides that, the colors almost seemed to have intensified rather than faded. Scott stared in dismay.
“I know what you need,” Scott thought out loud to himself. “A good bit of that fancy stain remover stuff that Tide sells . . . I wonder if there’s any of that around here.”
“Scott! Can you come here for a second? Help me with Robbie!” His wife’s voice echoed through the otherwise silent atmosphere of the still sleepy house, interrupting his thoughts.
Scott shook his head slightly, pulling the plug on the sink's drain, and carefully wrung out the shirt.
"Honey! Oh . . . !"
At the sound of a clatter from the kitchen, Scott dropped his shirt on the counter and hurried out to find Dinah. She was attempting to cook breakfast, but by the look of it, things weren’t going as smoothly as she had hoped. Scott entered to find her bent over a puddle of pasty white stuff that was slowly spreading across the kitchen tiles as she desperately swiped at it with a mess of paper towels. The towels didn’t seem to be able to keep up with absorbing the thick paste because she only ended up smearing it around further.
“What’s that?” Scott inquired, frozen in the middle of kitchen, rather unsure of how to help.
At the sound of his voice, Dinah’s head popped up and she stared at him wide-eyed. “Uh, pancake batter,” she replied hastily. “Can you check on Robbie though? He's . . . I heard him crying and calling for me. He’s in the living room!”
Scott turned his attention towards something he could do something about, walking in the direction of the nearby living room. He didn’t see Robbie, but he did hear a little boy’s voice, and it was coming from within the folds of what appeared to be a bed sheet, which was draped over several armchairs and a stool to form some kind of makeshift fort.
“Robbie? What you doin’ in there, buddy?” Scott bent down to investigate, pulling the sheet up to reveal a tangle of arms and legs within the confines of the stool’s four wooden legs.
“Daddyyyyy,” Robbie looked up at his father desperately from his furniture prison, squealing as he wriggled his body, panicking.
“Oh man . . . what have you done, you goof?” Scott quickly pushed back the sheets and blankets around the cave and then began helping his son to untangle his limbs in such a way that he’d be able to wriggle free.
“Nope, gotta move this arm first, buddy.” He directed his son as he worked until finally, Robbie was out from under the stool and collapsed in Scott’s arms, hugging his neck tightly.
“You’re getting way too big for hiding inside furniture, Mister,” Scott reprimanded affectionately.
Before his son could whimper a response, Uncle Tim strolled out into the living room in his robe and boxers and stretched dramatically, squinting his eyes in the sunlight flooding through the room’s giant Dutch windows.
“Mornin’, peeps!” He boomed in his I’m-so-totally-awake-now voice, making it known throughout the house that the man of the place had officially risen from his slumber.
Scott picked up Robbie, grabbing one of his little hands and waving it “good morning” to the kid’s great uncle. Robbie squirmed in his dad’s arms as soon as he heard Tim’s voice, so Scott placed him on the ground, letting him run to attack Tim’s legs with hugs.
“Hey, do you guys happen to have any of that stain remover bleach stuff for clothes? I’m sorta bent on doing something about the mess on my shirt from last night.”
Tim looked up from where he was now knelt on the carpet giving Robbie’s blond head a noogie and frowned in thought for a few seconds. “I dunno, but if we do, Suzie would keep it in the laundry room. Feel free to check!”
Satisfied that his mischievous son seemed to have forgotten the terror of his uncomfortable mishap, Scott made his way down the hall to the laundry room in search of his shirt’s lifesaver. He scoured the shelves and cupboards of the small room until he found something. “Now we’re talkin’,” he muttered under his breath, holding up a bottle labeled Bleach. He hadn’t found any Tide Stain Remover, so this would have to do. Scott quickly retrieved his shirt from the bathroom where it still lay on the counter and threw it into the washing machine. He picked up the bottle of bleach and untwisted the cap. The thought to read the instructions on the back of the label crossed his mind the way an old lady with a hip replacement crosses a freeway with her grandchild during rush hour in LA: It didn’t.
With a satisfied grin, he watched the clear liquid flow smoothly into the machine all over his shirt. After feeling that he had added a sufficient amount, he put the cap back on the bottle and tucked it away into its place in the crowded linen cabinet. “Look out, lasagna stain! You’re history.”
“BREAKFAST!” Dinah shouted from the dining room. Scott’s stomach growled as if in response, but he still had to figure out what setting to leave the washer on so his shirt wouldn’t be sitting in a pool of bleach for an hour. He had heard that this wasn’t a wise thing to do when using bleach on anything.
He frowned as he surveyed the rows of dials and knobs lining the face of the machine. There was a digital screen and several colorful lights as well. This wasn’t at all like the washing machine he and Dinah used at home. But it seemed pretty powerful, so Scott trusted it would do the job. “That’s not intimidating at all,” Scott mumbled under his breath.
Out in the dining room, Uncle Tim, Aunt Suzie, Scott’s parents and Robbie were already seated around the giant cherry wood table, eyeing the spread Dinah had laid out for the morning’s late breakfast.
“Where is Scott?” Dinah inquired grumpily, still frazzled from her adventures in the kitchen. She brushed away an unruly strand of hair from her face with the back of her hand and looked around.
“He’s gone to battle with last night’s lasagna stain! That’s shirt’s something special to him,” Tim explained with a cheeky grin. “Let’s eat, people!”
Dinah frowned, not bothering to make anyone wait a minute longer. It had already taken her the better part of three hours to prepare what she had, and the food was probably already cold. She’d have to find Scott herself while the others dug in.
She hurried off down the hallway, finding her husband still in the laundry room, now fiddling with the beeping panel of switches and lights on the piece of machinery housing his precious shirt.
“Hey, what are you doing? Let’s eat; everyone’s started already. Come on!” she attempted to drag him away from his tedious task.
“Nooo, wait a sec. Gotta figure this out . . .” Scott replied hastily, brushing her away.
“Honey, come on.” Dinah placed her hands on her hips and scowled at his back.
Scott finally got the machine to stop beeping and start making the telltale swishing sounds that meant water was on the way. Satisfied, he turned around to face Dinah, gave her a quick peck on the lips and led her out to the dining room.
“Mommy, what’s this??” Robbie was slapping something with the back of his kid-sized plastic spoon as his parents took their seats around the table.
“It’s apple sauce; you love that stuff,” Dinah replied impatiently. “Please, STOP doing that and just put it in your mouth.”
“It looks like poop!” Robbie insisted.
“It’s all-natural and it doesn’t look like—just eat it, please.” Dinah shook her head, grabbing her son’s chubby wrist to halt his spoon’s antics.
The table was loaded with plates of pancakes, hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, bacon, sliced strawberries and a sizeable jug of grade A maple syrup. The family set to work hungrily piling their plates with the food that had long-since grown cold. Scott was much too hungry to care and greatly appreciated his wife’s efforts. It was rare she took the time to cook up a morning meal this hearty. If she cooked like this every day maybe she’d be better at it. But Scott supposed his favorite shirt would fit him a little differently.
After breakfast, Aunt Suzie managed to convince Dinah to leave the cleaning up to her and Tim while Scott’s parents entertained Robbie in the living room. Dinah thanked her and went to change her clothes.
Scott found his wife in the guest bedroom a few minutes later. She was muttering something to herself. Scott thought he heard her say, "This is why I make cereal for breakfast every day . . ."
Scott quirked an eyebrow. Dinah turned around. “I smell like bacon.” She sighed, removing her shirt.
“You smell delicious.” Scott grabbed his wife to wrap her in a playful squeeze. He took an exaggerated sniff at her neck and exclaimed, “Ahhhh.”
Dinah squeaked in protest, swatting him away. But Scott picked her up and spun her around. His mood had been elevated by a full stomach and the satisfaction of knowing his shirt was well on the way to recovery.
“What are you doing?” Dinah complained sarcastically.
Scott put her down and planted a smooch on her lips, grinning.
“What? What on earth are you so excited about?” His wife rolled her eyes at him before giving in to kiss him back.
“I have a sexy wife and a beautiful kid and my shirt’s gonna be good as new in a few,” he announced in reply, still holding her close. “It’s a good day!”
“You’re ridiculous.” Dinah shook her head, smirking.
“I’m sexy and you know it.”
“Really? I gotta get Robbie cleaned up. The day’s half over already.”
“And we’re on holiday, remember? Robbie’s having the time of his life, don’t worry about him.” Scott started kissing his wife again affectionately, brushing aside her concerns.
Dinah gave in and let him push her down onto the tangle of blankets on the unmade bed. They fell together in a heap, playfully wrestling for several moments.
“Hey, what are you doing with that shirt exactly?” Dinah asked suddenly, pulling away from Scott’s incessant kisses.
“Huh? I threw it in the washer with a bunch of bleach. That’s what bleach is for, right?”
Dinah’s eyes grew wide. “Bleach is for white clothing, Scott. Your shirt is burgundy!”
Scott sat back, frowning in confusion for a second.
“You probably put that washer on a regular cycle too, didn’t you? That shirt is only supposed to be washed as a delicate!”
“I don’t know this stuff!” Scott wailed in despair, jumping up from the bed. He bolted from the room shirtless. Dinah heaved an exasperated sigh and pulled on a shirt, leaving the room to find him.
Five minutes later, Scott stared down at the sopping mess of cloth that had been his shirt, horrified by the large patches of pink and white that mapped the fabric’s surface.
“Oh God,” he sighed. “That’s that, huh?”
Dinah raised an eyebrow, studying her husband’s face. “That was your favorite, yeah?”
“Yup. Nothing I can do now though.”
“I’ll buy you a new one.”
“It’s fine. I’d probably just mess it up again. Or Robbie’s marker’s would find it.”
Dinah grabbed her husband and kissed him, smiling apologetically. “Your day’s ruined.”
Scott kissed his wife back, smiling slightly. “Nah. Those pancakes were the bomb.”
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