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By Mary Oves

So, I had this presentation on Monday, right? Since it was virtual, I had to pull out every stop to ensure that the house would be quiet and unoccupied between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., so I began preparing before the weekend with a text to the boys:

Big presentation on Monday. No one in or out of the house between 12:30 and 3.

No answer. I text again.


Finally, after three hours, a text from a boy:

What? Is that fish?

Me: Huh?

“Capiche?” Isn’t that a fish?

Me, thinking: You mean “ceviche?” They’re not even pronounced the same. Enough, I’m just asking you if you understand.

Understand what? What ceviche means?


That would require too much energy. Three hours of silence, then a different boy:

Roger that Momma.

Me: Repeat it back to me.

No one in house between 12:30 and 3.

Me: Good.

Monday arrives, and I send an early morning text, even to the boy who works in New York during the week:

Me: No one around or bothering me between 12:30 and 3 today.

Another boy: We got it, we got it, jeez.

11 a.m., same boy: Can you pick me up? I rode my bike here, and don’t have my truck.

Me: Are you aware that today is my presentation?

Yeah, but if you don’t come get me now, I might be banging through the house later. It’s the best choice for both of us.

I pick him up, and read him the riot act. He is, as always, unperturbed and indifferent. When we arrive home, boy #2 asks me if I can make him eggs.

“No, I have to be ready in one hour. Have a quick bowl of cereal, or go out to eat.”

He looks at me uncomprehendingly, chewing a banana.

Noon arrives, two boys still skulking around the house. One looking in fridge for food, one barreling through the house fixing an old skateboard. I warn them that at 12:30, the house will be barricaded like NORAD in the movie “War Games.”

“No one in or out. The doors will be locked. Get everything you need.”

They emphatically assure me that they will be gone by 12:30. It is now 12:15, and a text comes through from boy in New York.

Did my gift card from my company come through?

I text back:

I can’t do this right now, you know I have this presentation in 15 minutes?

Can’t you just look real quick, it will only take two seconds.

I look in the mail.

Yes, it’s here.

Can you open it and take a picture of it?


I want to see it.


Can you get Tommy to do it? Please?

Fine. And no texting me after this, I need my phone to communicate while I present.

It is now 12:20. Two boys still banging in and out of the house, and one boy begins doing a load of laundry.

“Ohhhhh nooooo,” I say. “No laundry now. Are you out of your mind? I told you I want a quiet house!”

He looks at me. “I’ll put it on gentle cycle. I have no clothes to wear.”

“No. You should have thought of that earlier. What part of 12:30 don’t you get?!”

Mutters under his breath as if I am being unreasonable.

“Don’t mutter at me, you’ve had plenty of time. It’s time for you to skedaddle now, OUT!”

“I’m waiting for Tommy to finish fixing his skateboard.”


“Fine.” He slams out of the back door.

12:30 arrives. I lock all doors and get set up in front of my computer. Since my house is a fish bowl with windows that span around our entire corner, I can watch the two boys walking pathetically around the house, peering in dejectedly. One boy catches my eye through the side window, and raises one finger as if to say, “I only need one more thing.”

I shake my head and gesture ominously. I begin to get set up, and communicate with my supervisor as I watch them flop down onto patio chairs and gesticulate morosely to each other. By the time my presentation begins at 1 p.m., they have realized their fate and taken off.

The house is quiet, and I am safe. I begin my presentation.

Phone rings from boy in New York. I can’t believe my eyes. I don’t answer, then a text comes through.

I don’t want to bother you, just wanted to wish you luck on your presentation.


— Mary Oves

Mary Oves lives at the Jersey shore with her three sons: twins John and Dustin, 22, and Tommy, 18. Oves is a widow of four years and a professor of English at the local college. She devotes all of her spare time to travel and working on her blog,

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