Good Cover – Short Story

Brianna stares at the middle-aged bank representative in a black polo and dress pants asking for her parents, then looks just left of his bearded face into the tall bushes of big red hibiscus flowers for a good lie.

“No,” she replies on instinct, recalling her mother’s voice deep with exhaustion through two pillows and a thick, cream-colored comforter groggily allowing her outside, “she’s at work.” And it’s almost the truth. Mom had only just gotten home after a night shift spent serving at the Royal Pacific hotel bar. A bushy, brown eyebrow raised silently judges absent parenting.

“No one else is home?” he asks incredulously.

“Just my brothers.” She meets his eyes again as the lie finds a truthful basis to stand on. Only three years older, but infinitely more annoying, Matt was playingDestroy All Humans!on the Xbox he got last Christmas, and probably would stay glued to their huge, brown couch all Saturday. Joel, the baby of the family, was asleep with mom and had been since he crawled into the warm spot his dad had left in favor of work only an hour ago. And Tab, who was alternating between watching their older brother play games on the fuzzy tube TV, and playing on the carpet with an assortment of hot wheels with bright orange tracks woven like spaghetti. 

After guiltily creeping into her parents’ room for permission, Brianna had taken the three nubs of chalk scattered in the brick and dirt decorating their small backyard, gone down the concrete stairs leading to their carport covered by a thin, white roof, and, in the space where her stepdad’s black sedan usually sat, started to draw. She started with the half-used yellow chalk engraved to look like a crayon and a wide, wobbly oval. Then came the antlers, legs, wings, and whatever else Brianna had thought about in the five minutes it kept her attention. Now, as she talked to the man, she could only guess worked with their neighborhood’s Homeowner’s Association, the bank, or whoever it was that house payments actually went to, there was a red stick figure family with six figures vaguely matching her own, and a blue approximation of the Monsters Inc. doll Matt had, purple spots, horns, and all.

The representative cast a skeptical eye up the street, then at the mom van sporting a pink sticker proudly displaying four kilometer ran, still peeling at the bottom from when Brianna had decided to test its strength one morning, and finally up the stairs to the screened back door.

“Right,” he finally says, then gives a patronizing smile down to Brianna, “I’ll go ahead and knock just in case.” She sees the loaded first page of a packet full of charts and numbers attached to a black clipboard as he takes a step past her.

“Wait!” she blurts. She really didn’t want Mom to find out she was lying again, and besides getting caught in a lie wouldn’t do her any good in the present situation either. The man turns around at the base of the grey stairs, his left hand grabs the railing with peeling black paint leading up it, and he questions her with his blue eyes.

The door creaks suddenly. They turn to see a younger boy in Spiderman pajamas closing the door behind him with a blue and white soccer ball in his arms. Joel stops at the top of the stairs and carefully eyes Brianna through his curly, brown hair before turning to face the man as he gives a polite wave and restarts his sales pitch greeting.

“Hey, bud, are your parents home?” Joel doesn’t miss a beat.

“Nope.”

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