“But still he checked each lottery ticket which littered/the empty lot next door, praised their silver latex glitter,/praying to the beautiful unscratched, like little gods.” – Richard Michelson, “More Money Than God”
You drank all the champagne last night but you forgot until you woke up this morning – well, closer to noon – and you saw the six empty champagne bottles lying on the carpet. The green shag carpet in the basement rec room of your mom’s split-level in the suburbs. Who was it last night, Margaret and Tanya and Jeremy and Peter, they all came over to celebrate the solstice, at least that’s what they said last night, even though the winter solstice is still a month away. Thank goodness your mom’s in Baltimore visiting your sister, that’s why you had the place to yourself last night, so that you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone else, and by the time she gets back you’ll have the place back to normal-looking, six champagne bottles in the recycle bin – maybe even off the premises, so she doesn’t get suspicious.
But then your cell phone rings, and it’s a Facetime call, and it’s your mom. Your mom. You click the button, “Accept,” and you put on your normal-happy face and drop into your cheerful nothing-going-on-here voice.
“Mom!” you say. “How’s Baltimore?”
She’s wearing bright purple sweats and a yellow scarf. “Just went for a jog,” she says. You see your sister’s fifties-style ranch house kitchen in the background, pink appliances and all.
“Jog?” you say. “You never jog, Mom.”
“Your sister took me around the track at the high school,” she says. She pauses. “Right after we watched the video.”
“What video? You mean NetFlix?” you ask. Your mom has just recently signed up for streaming NetFlix and you’ve already caught a season or two of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on the TV upstairs.
“The video. The party video,” she says, pleasantly enough.
Your head is spinning. Is it the champagne hangover making you groggy?
“Mom, what party?”
“You know. Jeremy, Tanya, Peter, and . . . what was that other girl’s name?” In the background, your sister says, “Margaret,” all echo-y in the kitchen.
You pause. She’s not supposed to know about that. She’s not supposed to know about the champagne and all. She’s in Baltimore, for chrissakes.
“How did you -” you manage to say.
“Nanny cam, sweetie. They put them on the Internet these days.”
It sinks in. You glance around the rec room, searching. Where is the damned camera?
“Just thought I’d let you know. You’ll probably want to tell your friends you’ll be busy for the rest of the week.”
“And if I don’t?” The words are out before you’ve even thought about them.
“Well, there are new videos going up on YouTube every day,” she says sweetly. “Your sister’s going to show me how just as soon as we’re done here.”
“We’re done, Mom,” you say wearily.
“I thought so. Love you!”
As your mom’s face winks out, you silently curse your sister for being more net-savvy than you – she always was – and your mom for being the all-around sneak that she is.
By the time you’ve washed up the dishes an hour later, you’ve got a plan ready for the rest of the week. It takes less time than you expect to set up a new subscription to Amazon Prime, and your mom’s Amazon account still has the same password from when you lived at home full-time in high school. Binge-watching premium movies is a great way to spend the week, and you’ll look innocent enough on any hidden camera in the house. Interstellar. The Hunger Games. The latest Mission: Impossible movie.
And she may not even see the bill for a month or two, who knows?