All the homes along Oakdale Street were ablaze with lights even into the late evening. The random automobile traveled down the length of the suburban neighborhood for its garage, and the odd family cat crossed the street on its regular nighttime prowling. The O'Doyle's dog was barking at a certain opossum daring enough to come down out of the hills for human trash before scurrying back into the rain gutters for shelter from the neighborhood family pets. The Sutter house on the corner was only partially lit; it was common knowledge in this neighborhood that Pete Sutter was smoking in the house while his wife was away. Several houses over and obscured by trees, the Johnson family clicked off their lights like clockwork at midnight and their automated water sprinklers doused their front yard now long overseen by ceramic trolls since they moved in the year before. The old Shapiro house was still empty and for sale. Rory Hennessy suspected the house was haunted on the fact that it had been unsold for a year now. His father claimed the house was unsold because it was next door to the O'Doyles. Local columnist Paul Hennessy didn't hate the O'Doyles; he just didn't care for them. He just thought they were full of the business. Spying on the old house for traces of supernatural life, Rory looked up to the full moon shining its pallor over the inactive sleepy neighborhood and departed from his telescope for the minute. Crossing down the hall, he stopped at the top flight of stairs and looked down to his parents watching the end of an old Sixties movie on TV.
"I'm getting really worried." The young con artist refrained from breaking a smile to sound concerned. "Bridget's not home yet and it's thirty minutes past her curfew."
"We know, Rory." Paul rolled his eyes at the fact that his son was trying to get his oldest sister in trouble. "You don't need to worry about that."
"Yeah, I mean," Kerry Hennessy, the often quiet and sarcastic middle child, was ready for bed and raiding the family refrigerator for one last drumstick from dinner and a can of juice. "Don't worry about Bridget. You'll be able to hear the yelling when she gets home."
"There won't be any yelling." Cate Hennessy sat next to her husband.
"Yes, there will."
"Cate, look," Paul switched off the TV and stood collecting an empty popcorn bowl and two former soda drinks to take to the kitchen. "Bridget's curfew is 11:30. For the last few days, you've been forcing me to let her slide as she came in at 11:32, 11:35, 11:41, 11:48, 11:51 and 11:56. The girl's playing us to letting her stay out as late as she wants, and I for one am not about to let her get away with it. Her curfew is 11:30, and the girl is late. Wait a second," He seemingly noticed Kerry and her late night snack before bed. "That better not be the last drumstick."
Paul and Cate's attention was next immediately drawn to the sound of the engine from a 1978 Mustang on its last breath arriving to the curb outside the house and the squeal of shocks in unison with whining brakes. That was the car Bridget had departed in with Steven Danvers, the school jock. Bridget liked him because he looked like actor Tom Welling. Sharing looks of excitement to hear their common sibling getting in trouble, Kerry and Rory started rushing to the side of their parents. It wasn't like watching the self-obsessed blonde teen sexpot was a rare occasion; it happened quite often, but much of the fun was seeing as she tried to wriggle and deal with her punishment. It could range from grounding, chores or confiscation of her cell phone. Bridget made both of them feel like nothing, and Kerry often got the worst of it. Seeing the overly pampered blonde get her due and try to demean the authority of their parents was a scene they could not miss, but sometimes, Paul and Cate had other plans.
"Go to bed!" The two fifty-somethings ordered their two younger kids back upstairs. Rory just spun round and back up the stairs. Kerry turned back for the back staircase behind the kitchen as her snack was taken from her fingers. Her father took the drumstick from his fingers, bit off a piece and returned it to her.
"If I'm going to yell," He explained to his wife. "I'm going to need protein."
"Bridget Erin Hennessy!!!" Cate whipped the front door open to see her blonde daughter leaned back against the outside wall with Steven about to kiss her. His arms were holding her up, her arms were draped round his shoulders. Both their heads turned to the scene of the upset parents that were Bridget's mother and father.
"Son," Paul did not like see his daughter being treated like this. "You better be giving her CPR."
"Could you two give me a minute?" Bridget did not really see Paul and Cate as parents. "I'm kind of in the middle of something."
"You are way past curfew!" Cate spoke loudly, but not nearly as worried or upset as Paul.
"Mr. And Mrs. Hennessy…" Steven stepped back from the daughter with the same decent guy swagger of the WB actor he could have been. "I know we're a bit late, but the battery in my car stalled and I had to get a jump."
"Who got the jump?" Paul thought of his daughter dating as a TV series in his head. "You or the car?"
"Dad!!" Bridget's jaw dropped in embarrassment as her eyes rolled sideways in shame.
"I think I better go…" Steven started backing off as he moved away from Bridget. "My curfew is midnight, but, at least, my parents aren't as strict."
"Strict?" Paul beamed with amusement to the boy. "You wanna see strict?"
"Steven…" The blonde sexpot that was the oldest of the Hennessy kids and the source of unspoken infatuation from most of the guys in the neighborhood pined for what almost was and heart-brokenly reached out to him tramping off the front porch to his car. Fearing what might have been, Bridget spun round upset and embarrassed.
"Do you two realize what you two just did?" She screamed. "You humiliated me!"
"You're welcome." Paul grinned at her act of defiance and noticed a shadow at the top of the stairs. "Rory, Kerry, go to bed!!!"
"Aw, man…" The brother and sister were excused from enjoying their sister coming home late.
"Bridget," Cate Hennessy composed herself and tried her best to mediate. "Your father and I believe you're pushing your curfew too far. We kind if get the feeling you're manipulating us."
"That is like so no true." Bridget was already slipping into her manipulative daughter persona. "I can't help it if a lot of boys want to be with me; I mean, look at me." She lightly posed her hot daughter look. "But when we got out of the movies we just had to go to the mall which I know was out of our way, but then we ran into Jenna and Ashley and they were all no you didn't and I was all like I was because they didn't think I was seeing Steven, but then we sat to talk and Steve was like we got to get going and I was like we had time but then his car wouldn't start and we had to get Jenna's boyfriend Todd – Todd from the swim team, not the football team – to get us a jump, but he didn't have his car so we called Ashley's brother who I already know is into me and I had to pretend not to be into him but yet flirt with him in order to get him to jump Steven's car so we could get going and then we came on here."
She had said it in one breath.
Paul and Cate could barely understand much out of that single sentence. They looked at each other trying to decide whether to believe her, and stepped back a bit and looked at other.
"Do you believe that?" Paul whispered to Cate as Bridget stayed back near the door. "She's grounded."
"Wait, Paul," Cate tried to rationalize the problem. "We have to give her the benefit of the doubt. I mean, she's only thirty minutes late. Let's keep her curfew at 11:30 but with a thirty minute grace."
"But we don't tell her that otherwise she'll always stay out till midnight." Paul whispered back grinning and thinking he was finally ahead of his manipulative daughter for once. He looked at Bridget checking out her nails. She was clad in a red halter and torn blue jeans with assorted undefined accessories and expensive up-style shoes, hardly the image he would have chosen for his daughter. "Beej…"
"11:30 curfew but with a thirty minute grace, got it." Bridget understood and scampered up the stairs to her bedroom.
"She did it to us again, Cate." Paul commiserated back to his wife. "That girl's going to be the death of me." He turned to scream to his daughter already upstairs. "And not another minute more!!!"
"Yes, Paul, I know… I know…" Cate made a face of unrelenting submission to the craziness in this house and hit the upstairs switch to turn off the downstairs lights. All the lights went out except for the kitchen lights.
"The Hennessy family…" An unnoticed nervous guest to the house inhaled a drag from his cigarette and sat in one of the chairs at the kitchen counter. "Quite possibly the stereotype of the quintessential Nineties nuclear family, sans family pet and the lovable but curmudgeonly grandfather figure, well, for maybe this year or so. It is known that what passes for normalcy or the typical is considered to be an illusion; there is no book, no source for what is normal. Each person's life is different than the next, and what is average in your world is not average for others. You see, the Hennessy family will soon have a minor shake-up, but whether it comes by a death in the family or otherwise is not mine to decide. I am only an observer to these events, and your guide to the unusual. What becomes into the family will originate from the heavens, or maybe just perhaps, just perhaps, from that nameless expanse of mystery known to us… as the Twilight Zone."