Thanksgiving’s harmony turns out to be just the lull before the storm, as relationships begin to fall apart, beginning with Violet and Dylan. The presence of Clay’s mother, Brandi Wine, in New Liberty, is quickly becoming a bone of contention between the four boys. Mark and Todd don’t think she’s so bad, while Clay and Blake want nothing to do with her or her cockamamie reality show.
A family crisis draws Todd and his mother to Atlanta, and when they return, the news isn’t good, and decisions must be made. Blake and Clay face their own crisis when big mouths callously reveal secrets not meant to be shared. Todd’s relationship with Taylor has grown, despite the revelation that she is transgendered. But her psyche is fragile, and unable to bear the weight of Todd’s censure when he decides to withdraw his support. The aftermath of his words will shatter everyone’s world.
Sometimes you have to agree to disagree, and go your separate ways.
“Now wasn’t that one fine Thanksgiving dinner? Give me a hand up, willya boy? Todd, can you get the door?”
Todd responded with alacrity, pushing open the door to the Wittington house, standing aside to let Mark and his grandfather pass.
“…‘course now that Brandi sure livened things up,” George continued, easing his old bones into his recliner. “Sure am glad to be home, though.”
“George!” Katie groaned. She stood by his chair, hands on hips, shaking her head.
The old man cackled. “That was one hell of a fine supper. You boys have some fine friends. Real good of them to invite us along.”
Mark fairly beamed. “Yes, it was.” He glanced at Todd. “Dyl and Violet sure missed a great time.”
“That they did.”
Mark put his arm around his grandfather. “I told you they were good guys. Isn’t that some house?”
George snorted. “Eh. Too much to clean. At least they got that Greta to help out. There’s no way I could do all that by myself.”
Katie set her purse on the floor and removed her jacket. She took a seat on the sofa near George’s chair. “That was beautiful. I’ve never seen such a place in my life. You boys tired after gorging yourselves like that?”
Mark yawned widely. “I think I could use a nap. What time is it, anyway?”
Todd glanced at his watch. “Uh…wow, about ten-thirty.”
“Really? Geez, I didn’t think it was that late. Time flew by. I sure don’t wanna go to bed yet, though. Good thing we can sleep in tomorrow.”
“Who said anything about going to bed yet?” George chimed in. “I think it’s too early to go to bed. How ‘bout we play a game or something? It’ll liven us up. Maybe some coffee? I’ve got a hankering for some crackers, too.” He cast a hopeful look at Katie. She shook her head and laughed.
“Incorrigible is what you are, George Wittington. I can take a hint. Why don’t I make us all some coffee?” She headed toward the kitchen.
Todd leaned back into the corner of the couch. He felt something heavy hit his shoulder—Mark’s head. “Dude, wake up, come on. Stay up with me. You just said you weren’t gonna go to bed.”
“I can sneak a quick nap, can’t I?”
“You’re worse than George. Come on, let’s play a game. Maybe some cards? I like that idea.” He cleared his throat. “Hey, Mom? Is there a deck of—”
His words were cut off by a loud shriek, which startled everyone.
Todd and Mark quickly scrambled off the sofa and hustled into the kitchen. They found Katie cowering in a corner.
“Mom! What is it?”
She pointed to the base cabinet at the far end of the kitchen. “I went to get some crackers out and there it was! It’s a mouse!”
Todd reached for the door, but Katie yelped again. “No! Don’t open it! It’ll get loose!”
George hobbled onto the scene. “Tarnation, what’s the problem?”
“There’s a mouse in the house, Gramps.”
Todd began to open the drawer again, but Katie’s protests stopped him once more.
“No! Don’t open it!”
Mark and Todd shared an amused look. Katie grabbed the nearest kitchen chair and jumped on it.
“Can’t you just catch it and put it outside?”
“Mom, I’ll get bit. I’m sure the little thing’s rabid.”
“Maybe it’s not,” Mark suggested, tongue-in-cheek. “Maybe it’s cute, like that mouse in the cartoon. We can keep it as a pet, and feed it cheese. Whaddya think?”
Todd could barely contain his snicker.
“Todd David Benson, you get that thing outta here!”
Holding back a laugh, Mark grabbed the pair of rubber gloves from the side of the sink. “Hey, here. Try wearing these.”
Todd carefully inspected the gloves. “Okay, I’ll try that.”
“If anything, I can use my cane to get the varmint!” George offered.
“Whoa now, don’t start swatting at it. It’s all right…we’ll get it. You need your cane to steady yourself,” Mark replied matter-of-factly.
Todd pulled the gloves on and crouched down. “All right, now stay back. Don’t want anyone getting bit.” He slowly opened the door and craned his head, peering inside. He pulled out all the other boxes and looked again, but saw nothing. He spotted a small hole at the back of the cabinet, likely how the critter got inside. Todd groaned. “He’s taken off…left a nice crumb pile, though.” He sighed and lightly swatted Mark on the leg.
“Can you hand me that flashlight? I need to look behind there.”
A moment later, flashlight in hand, Todd rooted around in the adjoining cabinets. As he barely opened the door, he heard a tiny squeak. He grinned. I have you now. Two tiny eyes glistened back at him and he shook his head. “I see you, little mousey…come on out. No one’s gonna kill you. Maim you maybe, but not kill,” he joked.
He reached in and grabbed for it, but the mouse was too fast. The little gray furball traveled up the glove. Todd flailed his hands in the air and jumped up and down, imitating his mother’s frightened actions on the chair. He swatted at the mouse wildly, trying to get the little demon away from him. Raucous laughter surrounded him—Mark and George, no doubt amused by his impromptu dance.
“Geeezus! Get off me, you little psycho rat!”
Finally, his motions were successful as he dumped the animal onto the small kitchen table. Using it as a jumping point to the floor, it scurried off.
Katie hopped up and down on the chair, letting out another shriek. “It’s loose! It’s loose! Get him! Now!”
The teens looked frantically around. Todd picked himself up off the floor, with Mark’s help, and secured the flashlight in his grasp.
“Where’d it go?” Mark asked.
“There!” George pointed to the corner. The little mammal was scurrying away, attempting to get out of sight again.