When I saw these three prompts, the first few lines of my story fell into place naturally, but then I needed the rest of the story to deal with…
The Dreaded Always-Never Syndrome
Her kitchen counter was impeccable, except for a jammy knife and a scattering of bread crumbs on the counter. The sight made her furious.
When she screeched Nick came running, toast in hand. “Mom. What happened?”
“What’s this doing here?” She pointed to the knife. “Didn’t we teach you to put dishes in the dishwasher and wipe the counter when you’re done making food?” She glared at him.
“Is that all? I thought somebody stepped on Nero’s tail again. You sound just like him when you screech like that.”
“You never clean up after yourself. You always leave a mess that I have to clean up!”
“I’ll get it. You don’t always need make such a huge thing of such a small mess. Anyway, you never squawk like that when Uncle James leaves a mess on your precious pristine counter.”
“It’s not my job to teach Uncle James. He’s a temporary fixture here until he gets work again.”
“He’s been here four months now. He’ll never find work. Especially when the food’s free and you always wait on him hand and foot.”
“I DO NOT wait on him hand and foot! I never…”
“Whoa, people,” Dad said as he walked into the kitchen. “It sounds like the Always-Never Syndrome has attacked again. Break away. Let’s get back to reality.”
“Nick left this grubby knife on the counter.” Mom pointed. “And crumbs. Again.”
Dad nodded at Nick. “Clean it up.”
Under Mom’s scowl Nick grabbed the knife and stuck it in the dishwasher. He wiped the crumbs off the counter, then quickly left the room to avoid further rehearsal of his faults.
Dad put his arm around Mom. “He does clean up most of the time, doesn’t he?”
“He’s trying. I don’t always remember to do things I should, either. And maybe you don’t, either?”
Mom was still irritated. “He said James will never find a job. That I wait on him hand and foot.”
Dad sighed. “Once always and never start flying, truth hides in a closet somewhere. It’s okay to help James now while he needs it. He’s sill job-hunting, maybe gets a little discouraged, but he’s persistent and will find one. He will move out — I promise — and when he does we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. Someday we may even talk about ‘the good times we had while Uncle James stayed with us’.”
“Nick will remember to clean up most of the time. And someday he’ll get a job, too, and make his own messes in his own place. Then we’ll be on our own and you’ll have only me to pick up after. Who knows? I may have even caught on by then, too.” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “And I’ll always love you.”
She threw her arms around him. “Now I remember why I married you.”