It had finally happened. They had run out of Ichiban. Instead of letting her life crumble to pieces around her, Nora texted her mom: Hey Mom. Are you going shopping any time soon?
About an hour and a half later, her mom whizzed through the front door, dropped a bag containing milk and stuff on the kitchen table, and ran upstairs. “I have to get ready for work, darling. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond, but I got some groceries like you asked!”
Nora took everything out of the bag and spread the contents out on the kitchen table. Milk, Shreddies, tinned corn, tinned baked beans, and a loaf of bread. What on earth was her mother thinking? You always buy Ichiban. ALWAYS. Nora put the milk in the fridge. Then she went upstairs.
Her mother, skinny as a sapling in her matching gray bra and panties, was wiggling into a slightly soiled Denny’s uniform.
“Mom, we’re out of Ichiban.”
Her mother’s head popped out of the top of the uniform, her black hair frazzled and her eyes wide. “Are you sure? I just bought a big pack last week!”
“That’s why I asked if you were going shopping.”
“So sorry, sweetheart.” Nora’s mother rushed to her vanity, pulled a brush through her hair, and wrapped it up in a hair elastic. “Next time. I promise.”
Nora sighed. Her mom was so incredibly good at making promises. She just didn’t tend to keep them. “How about if I just go myself?”
Her mom looked at her. “What, on the bus?”
“People do it.”
Her mom looked at her some more, while pinning her Denny’s name badge to her front. “But then I’d have to leave you with my credit card and… no, I can’t do that. I never know when I’m going to need it.”
For god’s sake! “Mom, I have money. I have a job, you know!”
Her mom stood up, ready to rush to Denny’s. “Absolutely not! That’s your money, for your future. It’s my job to take care of you.” As she ran down the stairs, Nora hot at her heels, she called back, “Don’t you dare spend your money on food! What do you think I work two jobs for? It’s so I can provide for you, Nora. Me!” As she breezed past the kitchen, she continued, “Just eat what I brought. Oh, could you put that stuff away?”
It would have been nice if her mom could have worked maybe one and a half jobs, answered texts so she would know when they were out of Ichiban if she wanted to provide for Nora so badly, and be available for advice maybe ten minutes out of every 24-hour period. As her mom stuffed her swollen feet into her sensible waitressing shoes, Nora said, “Do you have to leave right now? I wanted to ask you some stuff…”
Nora’s mom slung her arms into her jacket and grabbed her keys. “When I get back, sweetheart, okay? I promise. Love you!” She blew kisses and the door slammed behind her.
Another promise she would not be able to keep. Nora had to get up at seven to be at work on time. She didn’t think she’d really be keen on a talk at two a.m. or whatever time her mom came back through the door. She was beginning to understand exactly how Mr. Hoominz, Mrs. Balanafeel, Mrs. Tillynaught, and all the other old people at OG felt. At least she saw her mom from time to time, even if it was a quick passing through between her jobs. At Oleander Gardens, there were no visitors, ever. At least she could text her mom, and might even get a response occasionally. Mrs. Balanafeel couldn’t even bring herself to write a letter, because she knew very well that she would receive no response.
It seemed more important than ever that she figure out what was going on in OG. It wasn’t just a case of the old people having nothing better to do. There was definitely something strange going on there. So it looked like she was on her own for figuring out what it was. What would Grissom do? He’d look at bugs… and there were no bugs in her evidence. But what was there in her evidence? She’d gotten nothing of any value out of the old people, and still had no access to the storage room and the office.
Since the old people didn’t make reliable witnesses, she’d have to talk to someone who would. And unfortunately for him, that somebody was Randy.