Off the Wall

Raising teenager no picnic for parents

"Mother!" Rosalyn yells from inside the refrigerator, "there's something bleeding in here!"

Foaming at the mouth, Rosalyn emerges from the fridge with a marinated tenderloin dangling off of a pair of tongs. Along with the usual teen-age symptoms, we suspect Rosalyn has rabies.

"How could you?" she demands, shaking the roast at us.

Biting her lip, Rosie racks her brain trying to figure out what on earth she's done wrong other than have unprotected sex 19 years ago.

Ears blowing in the potpourri-scented breeze, Rosie's Pomeranian flies across the no-wax linoleum, skidding to a stop under the dripping roast. Tongue hanging out, Mr. Skittles stands up on his back legs and dances around the pork like a U.S. senator.

Ranting something about a conspiracy by the meat industry to get us all addicted to fat, Rosalyn stomps out of the kitchen, taking the roast and Mr. Skittles with her.

"I take it Rosalyn is a vegetarian now," I say as we watch the fruit of Rosie's loins plant 20 bucks' worth of USDA Prime in the rose garden.

"Last week she was an anarchist," Rosie sighs, pulling a jar of peanut butter out of the pantry. "She burned my voter registration card."

Tapping the peanut butter jar with a knife, Rosie grunts and strains trying to give the lid a twist. When that doesn't work, she bangs it on the kitchen counter.

"Tell me again why we had children?" Max asks, taking the jar from Rosie and twisting it open on the first try.

In Rosie's case it was because her football player ex-husband assured her she wouldn't get pregnant as long as she wasn't enjoying it. Back in those days, the beef industry wasn't the only one spreading bull.

We're halfway through our peanut butter and banana sandwiches when Rosalyn storms back in the kitchen. Seeing the open Skippy jar, she lets out a scream.

"Do you have any idea what happens when you process peanuts?" she demands.

Mouths full, Maxine, Rosie and I stare at her.

"Billions and billions of bacteria are slaughtered!" she says as serious as a fat-induced heart attack.

Then, glaring at us like we're too stupid to live, Rosalyn picks up our sandwiches, kicks open the trash can, and tosses them in.

"Honestly," she huffs, "sometimes I can't believe you're my mother."

You can see the light go out in Rosie. Muttering something about filling the bird feeder, she rushes out the kitchen door.

Meanwhile, Maxine looks like a bull that just saw red.

"Rosalyn," she says, head down like she's ready to charge, "if you ever talk to your mother like that again I'll tenderize you like a round steak."

Wide-eyed, Rosalyn turns to me.

"Now, get out there and help your mother dig up that tenderloin!" I bark like a drill sergeant. Needless to say, Rosalyn cannot get out of the kitchen fast enough.

"That ought to keep her in therapy until menopause," I say, taking a sip of coffee.

"It takes a village," Max says, cracking her knuckles. (Copyright 1999 P.S. Wall. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.)

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