The Full Effect — Bring It: Chapter 30
Once everyone was dressed and assembled in the foyer, I fetched the van from the garage and drove it around to the front. Everyone else climbed inside while I helped Claire with her lift. I noticed Pam was less animated than normal and when she climbed into the passenger seat of the van it seemed to require more effort than usual.
Having closed the side door, I went around the driver’s seat and prepared to take us across town. But first I turned to Pam. “How’s your pulled muscle.”
“It’s a little better this morning. I’ll be fine by this afternoon.”
“We can do something other than playing tennis, you know.”
“Are you trying to weasel out of it?” Pam asked, forcing a smile.
“No. I’ve accepted you’ll beat me. So, what’s to avoid? If I’m going to get better at it, I need to take a few lumps in the process. I’m just concerned about you.”
“I’m fine. Let’s go.”
When we arrived at the Roberts’ house, Theodore and Theresa were already awake, greeting us at the front door.
“I went out to get you a copy of the Springfield Sun,” Mr. Roberts told me.
While the others went to the dining room to eat breakfast, I settled back on the sofa to read what ‘Bullshit’ Bill Winters had to say.
Apparently, he overheard the reference to ‘The Magnificent Seven’. The front-page headline of the Sunday Sports section reprised the moniker, ‘Countryside’s Magnificent Seven Win State Mat Crown’.
The article alluded to a side story about a block of cheering supporters in coordination with the Countryside cheerleaders. Neither Catherine nor Pam mentioned having talked to a reporter, but their names appeared as friends of the wrestlers.
“This time they spelled my name right,” I said as I joined the others in the dining room. “And they got Catherine and Pamela right as well.
“Did they?” Mrs. Roberts took interest from the kitchen peering into the dining room.
“Nobody mentioned talking to any reporter.”
“Well, there were several people who came over to talk to us. I think they spent most of the time talking to Aunt Claire.”
“Now it makes sense,” I said with a chuckle.
“She’s never met a stranger,” Mrs. Roberts said.
“They didn’t say anything bad, did they?” Claire asked.
“No, it just says friends of wrestlers.” I carried the paper into the kitchen, opening it to the sports section and letting Mrs. Roberts read it.
“I’ll have to get a copy and clip that for the family scrapbook,” she said when she finished.
“Here,” Mr. Roberts came into the kitchen as well, opening his paper to the sports section and spreading it across the kitchen table. “Your efforts received a headline here, too.”
I smiled as I read the article. The coverage was nothing quite as elaborate as The Springfield Sun’s, but it stated the facts.
“You’re famous,” Mrs. Roberts suggested.
Her assertion startled me. My new mission is to avoid fame. “Maybe for a day or two.” I discounted the possibility that it was anything serious or enduring, hoping it would go away.
She laughed. “That’s a day or two more than most people get.”
“How’d you sleep?” Mr. Roberts asked.
“Fine. I was really tired last night.”
“How late were you up?” He directed to all of us.
“It was after midnight,” Stephen said.
“I think it was 2 AM,” Catherine said.
“I saw the pizza boxes,” Claire said.
“I called in a special late delivery,” Catherine explained.
“When Catherine worked there, she used to bring home a pizza every night,” Mrs. Roberts said.
“I kept warning the boys they’d be wrestling heavyweight if they didn’t watch about eating so late,” Mr. Roberts revealed.
I laughed. “It was good pizza.”
“The best in town,” Catherine boasted.
“Costello’s is the best pizza in Springfield,” I said.
“We’ll have to go there next time we are over that way,” Theresa suggested.
“The one by Wittenberg’s campus on North Limestone is the closest. But there is one on South Burnett close to Community Hospital. That’s where I usually go.”
“Two locations, they must be good,” Catherine said.
“I suppose you’ll learn a lot about Springfield if you start going out with Brent’s friend,” her mother ventured.
“It’s a little early to be planning that far ahead, Mom.”
“Well, you invited the boy to dinner with us as a first date.”
“It seemed like the only time I could spend with him before going back to college.”
“You could spend next weekend together.”
“I have a killer term paper I need to finish.”
“She’s doing what she needs to do,” Mr. Roberts said as he jumped in before an argument erupted. I sensed there was some history between mother and daughter. It was none of my business, but I guessed it probably involved a past relationship with some guy her mother liked but Catherine no longer did.
Pam looked at me. I smiled. She shrugged.
When she and I finished, we washed the dishes. Catherine and David dried them, and then Stephen put them away. I could tell Pam was hiding her pain and that bothered me. But each time I mentioned it she insisted she was fine.
After finishing the dishes, everyone hurried to get dressed for church. Already we were running a few minutes late.
* * *
After morning services, a few of the people who knew me through the Roberts’ offered congratulations, having read the morning paper. One wished I had moved to Tipp City a few years ago. I laughed.
Because of the afternoon of tennis ahead, Pam didn’t want to eat anything heavy. Neither did I. Instead of burgers and fries we enjoyed canned peaches, fresh apple slices, and unsweetened iced tea. Following lunch, Pam and I helped Aunt Claire out to her van. David and Stephen began filling a cooler with ice. Into it, they placed jugs of water and cans of pop before carrying it out and loading it into the trunk of Catherine’s car. They intended to come a little later to watch their baby sister playing her other favorite sport.
When we pulled up to Claire’s front door, Pam stepped outside and operated the controls on the lift that lowered her aunt and the chair back onto the ground. Once disengaged, Pam stored the lift and escorted Claire inside while I pulled the van around to the garage and entered the house from there.
When I entered the house from the garage, I followed the sounds of Pam and Claire’s voices to find them in the foyer.
“See, he didn’t get lost,” Claire said, apparently there had been some concern. But it wasn’t like I didn’t know my way back from the garage.
“We showed him a lot of the house last night,” Pam responded.
“It’s quite a house,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. I can see why Pam thought it was like an indoor amusement park.”
“Now you know why I always wanted to come to Aunt Claire’s and never wanted to leave.”
“I spoiled all my nieces and nephews,” Claire said as she followed along behind us. “I couldn’t have children of my own, so I shanghaied Theodore and Theresa’s as often as possible.”
“I think it’s time to convert the playroom for another use,” Pam offered. “All of us are grown-up now.
“What for?” Claire asked. “It’s ready for the next generation, my great-nieces and great-nephews.”
“You never needed to go to the carnival,” I said.
“Oh, we did anyway, of course,” Pam said, but as she laughed, I detected a slight response to a twinge of pain.
“I would have loved to play here when I was a kid,” I said, then pulling Pam to the side I asked her again if she was feeling okay.
She nodded. “Just sore. I must have done something when we were cheering yesterday.”
“So, you’re gonna make it my fault?” I asked playfully.
She smiled, slapping my shoulder. “Anyway, now you can see why I was always popular at school,” Pam said, loud enough for Claire to hear. “Everyone wanted to be my friend once word got out about the parties they attended at Aunt Claire’s.”
Claire wheeled ahead along the hallway explaining as she pointed to the elevator along a wall adjacent to the kitchen, “There used to be a smaller circular stairway, like the one your house has on the back deck, Brent. It was a little wider and wooden, but the same idea. Pamela doesn’t remember that.”
She shook her head as confirmation.
“When Catherine was little, whenever she was here, she used to run up the stairs and slide down the pole a hundred times a day.”
“That’s why I was always in such good shape,” Catherine said from behind us as she and the two brothers carried in the coolers from her car.
“Catherine was quite the tomboy,” Claire explained.
“I needed to be — out of self-defense with these two knuckleheads,” she laughed, putting her arms around her brothers’ waists.
“Catherine is a good wrestler,” Stephen said.
“Until we were in high school and began bulking up, she could beat us sometimes,” David admitted.
“After my accident, I had the kitchen remodeled for easier cabinet access.” Claire continued onward stopping near the kitchen’s center island.
As I observed Catherine opened a large cabinet along one of the walls that served as a pantry. Inside were hinged shelves that stored canned food and dry goods, including snacks like chips and crackers. David retrieved the bread from a roll-top unit on the counter while Stephen opened the refrigerator to retrieve cold cuts, cheese slices, and condiments for stacking sandwiches.
“I noticed the size of this place last night,” I said. “There’s a lot of room in here. Mom would love this.”
“The counters are lower for me on this side. The other side is regular height. All the cabinets were custom built. The uppers are all façades. That adds to the effect of a wide-open room with much storage space. Whenever someone comes here for the first time, they believe it is the largest kitchen they have ever seen, but it’s well-designed illusion.”
“I’m not sure how much tennis you’re going to get out of me,” Pam said to me as she leaned against me for support.
“It’s fine. We can do it another time. We’ll watch movies or something.”
“You can play with Catherine and the guys — do doubles or something,” she suggested.
“You probably should go to your room and rest.”
“No, it’s better to keep moving, I think. I’ll sit out on the patio and watch everyone play.”
“You’re sure?” I asked, to which she nodded, then smiled and tightened her grip around my arm.