Loose Cannons - Cover

Loose Cannons

Copyright© 2022 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 12

Barb and Robert were sitting up straight at the table rather than slouched over their food like had been past practice. Each time they slouched, Max would point out that they should sit up straight. Barb was ready to kill. This had been the most humiliating week of her life. All of her friends acted sympathetic about having her cell phone taken away from her, but she knew she was a hot topic of texting.

That was just the beginning. Every night that week, she and Robert had helped their mother prepare dinner. Her father just wouldn’t accept that it was the mother’s job to cook. She wished that he would get a job so that things would return to normal. Having him around the house had really upset the status quo.

Marylou said, “After Barb washes the dishes, we’re going to the movies so that your father can have a business meeting.”

“What business meeting?” Barb asked.

“I’m looking at setting up a small business until I find a regular job,” Max said.

“So you’ll be out of the house more?” Barb asked.

“No. I’ll be running it out of my office here at the house,” Max said.

Barb said, “You should really get an office away from the house.”

“No. I’m perfectly happy here,” Max said with a smile.

“I’m not,” Barb muttered.

“You don’t like having your dear old dad around the house?” Max asked knowing the real answer to that question.

“It just isn’t natural,” Barb said. She knew better than to insult him. He was pretty good at twisting things around until she felt like pond scum. Her father smiled at her from across the table.

Robert asked, “What movie will we see?”

“I thought I’d let you choose,” Marylou said.

She didn’t care what they saw. She just didn’t want to be around the house when that woman showed up. Listening to Maggie trash talk her husband with that other man had infuriated her.

“Action,” Robert said.

“Romance,” Barb countered.

Marylou said, “I kind of feel like a romance film.”

“Yes,” Barb said feeling like she’d finally won a small victory.

“You’re always taking her side,” Robert muttered.

Max said, “Robert!”

“What?” Robert asked.

“Think about it. Your mother is a woman. Of course she’d prefer a romantic movie over an action film,” Max said. “She’s not taking a side.”

“Maybe so,” Robert admitted grudgingly. It did make a certain amount of sense.

“You might want to keep that in mind when you’re dating. Taking a girl to a romantic movie impresses her more than taking her to an action film,” Max said.

“I didn’t think about it like that,” Robert said looking at his father with a little more respect.

It seemed to him that his father was always dropping little pieces of advice like that. Every time something like this came up, he would make a point of making a lesson out of it. He realized that his father worked things from a whole lot of angles.

“Barb,” Max said.


“Keep that in mind. When some guy gives you a choice, pick the action film. You’ll be sending the message that his desires are important too,” Max said.

“Like that matters,” Barb said dismissively.

“It matters a lot. Guys talk. Girls can get reputations of being high maintenance real quick,” Max said with a smile.

“So. I like it when a guy spends money on me,” Barb said.

“High maintenance women attract assholes. You wouldn’t want to date an asshole who treats you like dirt, would you?” Max asked.

“How is he treating me like dirt when he’s spending money on me?” Barb answered. She had him there.

“He’s probably dating another girl, too. Assholes tend to do that,” Max said. “You’ll just be one cow in his herd. Does that make you feel special?”

It infuriated her how he always turned things around like that. She answered, “No.”

“So if you want a nice guy, then you have to pay attention to the guy’s feelings and pocket book,” Max said. “When your mother and I were dating, she used to order the cheapest item on the menu because she knew that I didn’t have much money.”

“You noticed,” Marylou said with a smile.

“Of course I noticed,” Max said. “That was one of the things I liked about you. I could tell that I was important to you.”

“Gross,” Barb said. “No sweet talk at the dinner table. I’m going to lose my appetite.”

“You might want to listen to them. They’re telling you something important,” Robert said.

“Like what?” Barb asked.

“Like how to make the people around you feel special. God, you are a real bitch at times,” Robert said.

“It isn’t nice to call your sister a bitch,” Max said.

Riding herd on those two was a full time job. If deciding which movie to see created so much discord, it was no wonder Marylou had given up fighting them on everything. Max felt that he owed her an apology.

“I’m sorry,” Robert said sullenly.

Barb was giving Robert a look suggesting that he was dirt.

“That doesn’t change the fact that your sister’s attitude lacks empathy,” Max said.

“What does that mean?” Barb asked indigently.

“It means that you don’t give a damn about other people’s feelings,” Marylou answered.

“Dad’s the one who lacks empathy!” Barb said.

“I don’t know about that. I’ve found that your father is very considerate of other people’s feelings,” Marylou said.

“He just loves to stomp on my feelings,” Barb said.

“No. He’s just pointing out some areas where you need a little improvement in your social skills. If you find it hurts your feelings, it may be that you know you aren’t being very nice and feel guilty about it,” Marylou said.

“Why are you always turning things around so that it’s my fault?” Barb asked.

Max said, “We’re not assigning blame. We’re just making observations about your behavior so that you can improve yourself. Consider it ... oh ... constructive criticism.”

“I don’t need improvement,” Barb spat out.

“Sure you do. None of us are perfect,” Max said. “I sometimes have a tendency to be a little heavy handed, as you’ve so rightly pointed out to me on numerous occasions. I’ve tried to temper my natural enthusiasm.”

“You’re not doing a very good job of it,” Barb said.

“I would say that I’m doing a remarkable job. Instead of calling you a bitch, I merely point out that your behavior isn’t very nice,” Max said.

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