“I’m going to the grocery store,” Mother said. “I made a list, so I won’t be gone long. Use your time wisely. Past is in charge.” And then, she left.
Present and Future looked across the table at their sister. “Why are you always in charge?” Present asked.
“Because I’m the oldest and most responsible,” Past said.
“You haven’t done anything responsible lately,” Present said.
“I did my homework an hour ago,” Past said.
“Like I said,” Present said.
“Did you do your homework?” Past asked.
“I’m working on it,” Present said. “Future hasn’t even started hers.”
“I’ll do it later. It’ll be fine,” Future said.
“I still say it’s not fair,” Present said. “Oh hey, look at that squirrel!” Present jumped up and ran to the window. “Let’s build a squirrel feeder so we can see cute squirrels all the time. Let’s build a giant squirrel feeder and feed all the squirrels in the city. Or the world.”
“I can see it now,” Future said. “We’ll be invaded by rats carrying a resistant strain of the bubonic plague. It will take twenty years to find the cure, but the world will be so devastated that we’ll have five years of peace.” Future had a dreamy look on her face. “World peace, doesn’t it sound marvelous? I’m sure it would be worth two decades of pain and suffering.”
Present made a face. “I don’t want a squirrel feeder after all.”
“Look what you’ve done,” Past whispered to Future. “That’s the same face she made when you told her that if she took ballet class she’d fall off the stage during her first performance. Now she’s going to sing sad pop songs at the top of her voice.”
Present took a deep breath. “Unbreak my heart…” she sang loudly.
“Hey, maybe we could make cookies later,” Future said.
“See, I just drew a dog in a funny hat,” Past said. “What was I thinking?”
Present stopped singing. “Cookies? A funny dog?” She held out a hand for the scrap of paper that Past had scribbled on. She turned the paper sideways and upside down. “Are you sure this is a dog in a hat? I think that maybe it’s a flamingo on a motorcycle. Hey, let’s go ride bikes!”
“Pass. Last time you forgot you had brakes and ran into me. It hurt,” Past said.
“Why do you always remember the bad stuff?” Present asked. “The glass is half full.”
Past frowned. “If it’s half full, it’s probably because you drank half. Wait a moment. You did! Drink your own orange juice and leave mine alone.”
“I like orange juice,” Present said. She held up her spoon and let milk dribble back into her cereal bowl. “But I don’t like when the cereal gets mushy. Do you want it?”
“You’ll get hungry later if you don’t eat it,” Future said.
“But I don’t want it,” Present said.
“I ate all my cereal, and that’s all the cereal I wanted,” Past said. “I wanted all my juice, too.” She picked up her cup when Present reached for it and drank it quickly.
“We’re all done! Let’s ride bikes,” Present said.
“You didn’t finish your homework,” Past said. “Plus Mother said we’re not supposed to go out while she’s gone.”
“You’re boring,” Present said. She smacked her spoon into her bowl, and milk splattered on the table.
“You should clean that up,” Future said. “Mom will be here soon.”
“Cleaning up is boring,” Present said.
Future reached a hand across the table to Past. “I’ll put the bowls in the sink if you will help me with my homework.”
Past stacked her dishes and put them into the waiting hand. “I finished mine so I have time to help,” she said.
“Help me, too,” Present said.
Just then, Mother came in. “I’m home. Did you use your time wisely?” she asked. “What did you do?”
“We sat at the table and talked,” Past said.
“Past is going to help me with my homework,” Future said.
“I’m bored and I hate mushy cereal,” Present said.
“That’s great girls,” Mother said. “Why don’t you pause and help me put away the groceries. Present, you need to wipe up the milk first.”
“Hey! Let’s go buy a self-cleaning table instead. Right now. I’ll drive,” Present said.
“You don’t know how to drive. Clean up the mess you made, it will teach you patience,” Mother said.
“Patience is boring,” Present said. But she cleaned up the mess while her sisters put the groceries away.