Phil concentrated. He was down by two and he refuses to lose to Chuckie. Principal Pangborn was in sight and his head needed a fresh makeover. One point if it lands on his back, two points on his neck and three points if it sticks to his head. It's an automatic win if it lands in someone's mouth, but Phil only had that happen once, and boy was Angelica mad. He placed a strip of paper in his mouth, chewing it, making sure it was extra saliva-ey, then placed the straw in his mouth. Steady… steady, and—
Bullseye! Pangborn didn't even see it coming! He was too busy flirting with Miss O'Keats to notice. Phil cheered while Chuckie groaned. "Yes! Three-pointer," he said, lifting his arms above his head. "I am still the spitball king!"
Lil coughed in disgust, urging him to put his arms down. "You're still the armpit king, too."
Phil let out an embarrassing chuckle as his friends all plugged their noses. "Guess my spoiled meat cologne is paying off, huh?"
"You think?" Tommy and Chuckie laughed.
"Hey, are we still on for Attack of the Brain-Eating Clown III tonight?" asked Tommy.
"I heard they use real blood for the bathtub scene," said Kimi. "The actor who played the clown accidentally cut off the girl's finger in real life and the director just rolled with it."
Chuckie groaned. "Can't we just watch Lover of Dreams again?"
"C'mon, Chuckie… watching this movie is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Tommy, putting a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "Every preteen has to see this movie. It's, like, a requirement."
"Sorry guys," said Lil, "we can't watch it at our house."
"Mom has the flu," Phil added. "She's not going out with her roller derby buddies tonight."
Tommy frowned. "What are we going to do? We only have the tape until tomorrow!"
"What about your house, Tommy?" asked Lil.
"My parents would freak if they even saw the tape."
"Sorry," said Lil. "Dad canceled his quilting club meet up to take care of mom. There's no way they would let us watch it."
"Man, I was looking forward to this all week!" Tommy said.
"Any chance your mom might be feeling better by tonight?" Kimi had to ask.
"Dunno," said Phil. "She's been sick all week."
"She's going to the doctors today," said Lil. "They'll probably put her on bed rest for a few days."
"I got it!" said Chuckie. His friends all turned to him, perking up. "They're showing the director's cut of Lover of Dreams tonight at the theater." They all quickly frowned.
"Pregnant?" Didi nearly dropped her tea cup.
"Yep, that's what the doctor said," Betty sighed softly, patting her belly. Despite the recent news, she seemed unusually calm about it, unlike her husband, who was currently passed out on the Pickles' couch. "I'll tell you, I was thinking it might be the opposite."
"But… Betty, aren't you worried about the consequences?" she asked. "Women our age aren't meant to be having children."
"Ah, I'm not worried," she said, sipping her tea. "My great aunt Muriel had my cousin Louie at fifty. And granny Hester was nearly forty when she had uncle Jimbo.
"I'm more worried about Howie. Poor thing passes out every five minutes."
Howard lay on the couch, a big ice pack on his head. Stu was trying to comfort him. "It's not so bad," Stu said. "You get to relive all those moments. First steps. First words… First poop. First drool. I remember when we first brought Dil home. He wouldn't stop crying. We didn't sleep for months. I… I'm making it sound worse than it actually is."
"I'm going to have to rethink my retirement plan," said a dazed Howard. "And the house… Betty's already talking about remodeling. Our bills will go through the roof!" The thought was too much for Howard; he closed his eyes, trying to think back to the days when he didn't have to worry about babies. Yesterday seems so long ago.
Didi had her Lipschitz book out as she and Betty entered the living room. The page was opened to the 'Older Parenting' chapter. "Dr. Lipschitz says—"
"I don't need that stuff, Deed," she said. "If I can handle Phil and Lil during their terrible twos, I think I can handle one little pup at forty." She smiled down at her husband. "C'mon, Howie, the kids'll be home soon. Better break the news to 'em."
Howard's eyes burst open, sitting up abruptly. He was so busy worrying about the new baby, he forgot about his other babies. What will they have to say about all this? "The kids!" he wheezed out. His eyes rolled to the back of his head and he fell back down onto the couch.
Betty looked down at her watch. "How 'bout another cup," she said to Didi. "He'll be out for another five."