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On the bench.

When the alarm rang at six a.m., Cassie leaped out of bed and ran to the bench outside the downstairs bathroom. Unfortunately, her sister Laura had already beaten her to it.

"First dibs," Laura told Cassie.

Cassie sighed. "I know."

When you're one of seven kids, it's impossible to talk to Mom in private. That was what the bench was for. Whoever got there first had first dibs on talking to Mom--through the bathroom door--while she had her morning bath. The trick was getting to the bench before anyone else.

On the way back to her room, Cassie was nearly run over by her brother Anthony. "Somebody's on the bench already?" he asked.

"Yeah. Laura."

"Aw, man! She's always there," Anthony groaned.

Laura was fifteen and always had some dumb boyfriend crisis. Cassie, on the other hand, had a real problem. Her problem was Erik.

Erik was a boy at school who always picked on her. Sometimes Cassie fought back. Other times she ignored him. But it didn't seem to matter what she did. He kept bothering her.

Mom would know what to do about Erik ... if Cassie ever got a chance to talk to her.

The next morning Marc was on the bench. Marc was seventeen. He was the oldest. He had dated the same girl for three years--unlike Laura, who changed boyfriends as often as she changed clothes. Cassie couldn't imagine what problem Marc could have. And she certainly wouldn't find out, because Marc threatened to tie her legs like a pretzel if she didn't get lost.

On Thursday morning, five-year-old Liz was on the bench. She complained about how unfair it was that she had to share her room with baby Andrew. "He makes my room smell bad, and he chews on Barbie," she whined.

Cassie listened impatiently from around the comer. She could have told Liz what to do. Keep your Barbies out of Andrew's reach and plug your nose whenever he has a diaper change, she would have said.

Cassie sighed. By the time I get to the bench first, I'll be in college and won't have to worry about Erik, she thought.

By Friday, Cassie was tired from getting up extra-early all week. When she saw somebody on the bench--again--she almost turned around without even looking. But out of the corner of her eye she saw who it was. Mom!

"What are you doing on the bench?" Cassie cried.

Her mother smiled. "Isn't this the place to sit when you've got a problem?"

Cassie laughed. "Not for you. This is our bench."

Mom's smile disappeared. "Sometimes mothers have problems, too," she said.

Mothers are supposed to solve problems, Cassie thought. They aren't supposed to have problems.

Cassie ran back up the stairs to her room. She shook her sister Amy awake. "Guess who's on the bench this morning," Cassie whispered.

Amy rolled over and pulled the pillow over her head. "Who cares?" she mumbled.

"Mom is on the bench!"

Amy poked her head out from under the pillow. "She is?"

"Come see," Cassie said.

The girls tiptoed down the first flight of stairs and peered around the corner. Mom was still on the bench, sitting like a lady in church, with her hands folded in her lap.

"What should we do?" Amy whispered.

"I think we should get everybody together and go find out what's going on," Cassie said.

Cassie woke Laura, Marc, and Dad. Amy woke Anthony and Liz. They left the baby sleeping, and trooped slowly down the stairs.

"What's going on, Jackie?" Dad asked Mom.

"I'm sitting here because I have a problem that I'm hoping you can all help me with," Mom said. "I'm so busy cooking and cleaning and listening to problems and helping with homework and getting up with hungry babies that I don't have any time for myself. The only time I get for myself is when I have my morning bath. But lately there's been somebody sitting on this bench every single morning shouting another problem to me."

"Well, it's the only time anybody can talk to you when your mind isn't on something else," Laura said.

"And it's private because everybody else is either sleeping or getting ready for school," Amy added.

"And everybody knows that the first person on the bench gets first dibs," Anthony put in.

"The only problem is, somebody else always gets there first," Cassie grumbled.

"No, that's not the only problem," Mom said. "The other problem is that I need a few minutes to myself to start the day. Can anybody think of a solution?"

Everybody started talking at once.

"If Laura would just get rid of all her boyfriends!" Marc said.

"What about you and your girlfriend?" Laura asked. "Why don't you get rid of her?"

"Now there's an idea," Anthony said. "I say we get rid of all girls. Who needs 'em? Yesterday I shot a spitball at this girl in my class and she told on me! Can you believe it?"

"What do you expect?" Cassie asked, with her hands on her hips. "This boy in my class does the same thing to me. It's obnoxious!"

"Why?" Anthony asked. "He's just letting you know he likes you."

"By getting my hair all full of spitballs?" Cassie shrieked. She was about to tell her brother a few things about girls when his words sunk in--Erik liked her? Now she really had to talk to Mom.

But Mom was gone. The bathroom door was closed and Cassie could hear water running.

"Hey! Mom's having her bath," Cassie said.

The others stopped talking.

Dad pounded on the door. "I thought you wanted to talk, Jackie!" he shouted.

"All I want is a quiet bath!" Mom shouted back. "It's the rest of you who want to talk. So go ahead. You're not bothering me."

Marc and Laura continued their conversation as they trudged up the stairs. Dad, Amy, and Liz went into the kitchen to start breakfast. Anthony sat down on the bench and motioned to Cassie to join him.

"A guy can't just come right out and tell a girl he likes her," Anthony said.

"Why not?" Cassie asked.


"Well, if you want the girl to like you back, you'd better learn to tell her," Cassie said. "No girl likes to get covered with spitballs."

"And no guy likes to get yelled at or laughed at just because he likes a girl," Anthony replied.

That actually makes sense, Cassie thought. Maybe she'd try being nice to Erik, just to see what happened. She looked at her brother with new respect. Who'd have thought he'd know so much about boys?
COPYRIGHT 2002 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Butler, Dori Hillestad
Publication:Children's Digest
Article Type:Short Story
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Previous Article:Still Me.
Next Article:Jokes & riddles.

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