Leslie banged plastic keys on her highchair’s tray. My brothers Todd and Sandy, heaved lemons from our tree at each other up in the rose garden.

“You boys knock it off,” Mom yelled.

They stopped, stared at her, and went right back to it.

The second eldest in the boy, girl, boy, girl line up and being the best one, I folded paper napkins neatly on the picnic table and put forks on top.

“Dad, when’s it gonna be ready?” I asked sweetly.

“Yes, Russ my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.” Mom slashed a finger along her neck with crossed-eyes beneath cat-eyed glasses.

“Just another fifteen.” Dad smiled.

“You said that an hour ago.” She took another sip of her green martini and lit a cig-a-ra-ra-ra.

Handmade apron tight around his belly, he lifted the bar-b-q hood, and basted rotisserie chicken. The scent of his secret lemon concoction filled the air. Drippings sizzled onto the coals.

“Pat, have you checked the rolls lately?”

“Aah!” She handed me her drink, stubbed the cigarette in the abalone shell ashtray, and rushed through the back door toward the kitchen.

Dad and I exchanged knowing glances.

“What do you think, Jilliebeaner?” he asked.

I sighed. We both knew what was going to happen next.

Mom slowly stepped out of the house carrying a cookie sheet in oven mitts. The burned discs resembled cow paddies.

The boys came down to the patio.

“Good one, Mom,” Todd laughed, and Sandy joined in.

“Russ, if we’d eaten when you said we would this wouldn’t have happened!” she cried.

None of us reminded her she always burned the rolls.

Dad turned the aluminum-foiled baked potatoes on the grill. “Don’t worry we have plenty to eat.”

Mom started bawling and ran back in the house.

Leslie screamed bloody murder. I lifted her from the highchair and bounced her up and down.

Sandy grabbed his shoebox and the boys returned to the rose garden. This time in search of lizards. At least they didn’t start throwing the burned rolls at each other like last time.

Forty-five minutes later as the sun began to set Dad hollered, “Come and get it or I’ll feed it to the hogs.”

We all hurried to sit down. Mom slunk out of the house and joined us.

Dad put a serious look on his face and said, “Let’s say grace.”

With grins all of us kids folded our hands and started to bang on the table in rhythm, “Rub-a- dub-dub thanks for the grub. Big G. Little o-d. Yay! God.”

Mom raised her eyebrows, but then laughed too.