simple arithmetic

Oil in Water

Pam Lazos

Chapter Eighteen

The walk-out basement was light and airy, one wall comprised completely of French doors, the opposite wall built into the bedrock below the house. Kori’s drafting table faced out to the back yard and the bucolic setting where, beyond the horizon a decomposing and noxious mountain hid at the edge of her tranquility, its spawn leaching exponentially into the groundwater while she worked.

Avery bounded down the stairs. “What are you doing?”

Kori was draped over the table. “A wedding invitation for Stacey Clinghoffer.”

“That cow?” said Avery. “Who would marry her?” Kori stifled him with a look. “Hey, Kori?” .


“Since you’re bringing home the bacon, I want to do something to contribute – other than every single menial, yet necessary, task that goes into running a household, that is.”

“Why can’t you talk in English? I’m not sure I even understood what you just said.”

“That means, I don’t mind cooking and cleaning and helping with the laundry, but you’re not sticking me with all of it.” Avery picked up the medicine ball and bounced it off the wall.

“I never said you had to be my personal slave. It would be nice, but….”

“I was thinking of selling off all that gas and oil out in back of the barn. We must have more than a hundred of those fifty-five gallon drums. It would take a long time for us to use it all. We may as well make some money with it. At least until Robbie’s checks start coming.”

“We don’t need any trouble, Avery. I just paid off the porch repair.” She paused to look at her work. “As long as I keep getting jobs, you don’t need to. We’ll be all right. Just worry about school. You need the grades.”  She flashed her steel blue eyes at him.

“I have the grades.”

“Yeah, well.” Unlike her average self, Avery was always a straight A student. Kori thought he could simply sleep with a book under his pillow and still get an A. And although he didn’t have Gil’s ingenuity when it came to inventions, he could recreate either from drawings or Gil’s verbal direction, anything Gil envisioned. Kori seethed at the ease with which Avery excelled, but then she discovered that art was her forte and forgave her brother his gifts.

“I was also thinking of creating a web page to sell some of Gil’s contraptions on the Internet. You know, he’s got that state-of-the-art juicer. And now that dog collar thingee,” he said, repeatedly tossing the ball. “A couple other things kicking around in the garage. Maybe some of the local hardware stores would want something.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Kori looked up at the incessant noise. “Could you please stop bouncing that ball. It’s hard to concentrate.”

Avery nodded. “I’m going to get started on the web page right away.”

“Let me know if you need help with the graphics,” Kori said.

Avery stood looking at her, but said nothing.


“I could help with the checkbook, too, if you want. Especially if I’m going to start selling stuff. I’ll need access to the house account. For the deposits.” Kori didn’t even look at him.

“Robbie told you to do that, didn’t he?” she said.

Had Kori not suddenly been swamped with the responsibility of raising her siblings, the fact that she couldn’t balance a checkbook wouldn’t have bothered her. She could care less how much money she had as long as it was enough for art supplies. But phone, gas and electric bills, not to mention groceries, cost much more than art supplies and the need to know exactly how much money she had in her checking account took on new significance. She’d already been denied the use of her Mac card at the grocery store once and had to use a credit card to buy the weekly groceries because of bad planning. She was furious, and later determined there were insufficient funds in the account as a result of a simple arithmetic error on her part.  Still she was too embarrassed to ever shop at that store again.

“Did he?”

Avery’s lips formed a tight line and he nodded once.  When Kori didn’t answer, he went upstairs. Kori could hear him banging around in the kitchen. She wanted to jump at the offer, but to turn the checkbook over with a zero balance and not look like a moron would be tough. He’d press her to sell off that stupid oil.

“Avery!” she yelled up the stairs.


“Let me think about it,” she said. Avery walked halfway down.

“Okay. Well do you mind if I take your car? I want to take a ride over to Cohen’s Hardware and see if I can unload a couple dog collars.”

Relieved to switch topics, Kori he tried to sound motherly, but remembered those first days, itching to get behind the wheel. She’d go anywhere with one of her parents:  the gas station, the grocery store, even the dump, just for a chance to drive .  “You don’t even have your license.”

“I have my permit.”

“For which you need a licensed driver.” She gave him a look, but wanted to giggle, and turned away before she lost her composure. “Take your bike.”

“Fine!” Avery stomped up the steps.

“Take Gil with you,” Kori yelled after him.

 copyright 2012

to be continued. . .

to read what came before click here. . .

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