Dexter always had trouble distinguishing his left from his right. He had to hold both his hands up, pointer fingers pointing to the sky and thumbs sticking out sideways, and see which side made the forwards “L” for left. His teacher in second grade had held him after class for three weeks, patiently trying to explain a concept he just could not grasp, until she took to the internet for a quick fix. For a while, Dexter considered getting a small, classy tattoo of an “L” and “R” on the base of his thumbs, but then realized that, 1) he was broke, and 2) despite what the internet said, it would not be all that classy.
Most people just instinctively knew this fact of life, just like they knew what sound a cow makes, but Dexter had spent hours if not days, of his life agonizing over this one simple truth.
That’s why, when the directions switched, Dexter was one of the few who noticed.
“Turn right.” His GPS said.
Dexter (Dex, as his mother and work acquaintances called him. Only the IRS called him Dexter) slowed to a halt. Luckily, he was the middle of nowhere, which meant that the only traffic delay he could cause would be the occasional tractor crossing.
His foot firmly on the brake, Dex held up both hands. “L” and backwards “L” faced him. The only turn on the road, besides one that led to a small ranch, was clearly to his left. The ranch, self-proclaimed “All Directions Ranch- For All Your Meat and Dairy (and Egg) Needs!!”, was straight ahead, with a scraggly-looking fenced cow pasture directly where the GPS had told him to go.
“Turn right.” The GPS insisted. Dex picked up the phone and turned the screen on. A blue line curved towards Dex’s “L”.
Well, GPS wasn’t exactly known for being reliable. Dex shrugged and drove left past All Directions Ranch. A cow mooed behind him, no doubt grateful that Dex’s Meat and Dairy (and Egg) needs had already been satisfied for the day.
“Traffic alright?” Asked Dex’s mom, a short and stocky woman who looked like she could take on the world, and currently the world took the form of a particularly tough batch of biscuit dough. Her name, Cameron, was normally stitched on the front of her apron in pink thread, although right now it was covered in flour and icing.
“It’s a Monday during the school week. Not too bad.” Dex shrugged.
They stood in silence for a moment. Cameron (Cam, as her friends, family and older foster kids called her. Only her ex-husband and the IRS called her Cameron) had never been one for small talk. She preferred deep, heartfelt conversation that left both parties crying and embracing at the end. Dex got a headache whenever he cried. They comprised by not talking too much.
“Well, I’m glad you came down.” Cam said.
“Need any help with the food?” Dex asked.
“Sure.” Cam sighed.
Dex hung up his coat and dropped his bags at the entrance to the basement.
“Could you grab me a baking sheet?” Cam asked as he re-entered the kitchen.
“Yeah, sure.” Dex knelt down to grab one, but was greeted by a plethora of dusty multicolored tea kettles instead.
“Sorry, dear. I switched the cabinets around again.” Cam smiled apologetically.
Dex suspected his mother had ADHD.
“It’s to the left of the one under the sink.”
Dex turned his back to his mother and held out his hands, tracing the shape of the “L” and “⅃” with his eyes before quickly turning to the left of the sink and bending down.
“No, darling.” Cam chided. “I would’ve thought you had this by now. It’s the left.”
Dex watched his mom walk over and grab a baking sheet from the other cabinet. He held out his hands again. The backwards L was superimposed in his vision over the “left” cabinet. The incident from earlier flashed through his mind.
“That’s the right one.”
“Yes, dear, it’s the right one.”
“No, it’s not the right one, it’s the right one.”
“It’s right, right darling.”
“No, it’s not the left. It’s the right.”
“The cabinet. It’s on the right.”
“No, it’s on the left.” Cam laughed, kindly. “You must’ve gotten them mixed up again.”
Dex showed her his hands.
“L is for left. This side is the left, and the other side is the right.”
“I remember that trick. Ms. Douglas taught it to you, right? In third grade?”
“Well, I think you’re supposed to flip the wrists around.” Cam set her rolling pin on the counter and demonstrated, her palms facing her instead of Dex.
“No, I’m sure that the wrists face this way.” Dex insisted, palms facing his mother. “Because you can make shapes if you put your fingers together.”
Cam stared at her son.
Dex demonstrated a triangle.
Cam continued staring at her son.
Dex morphed the triangle into a square.
Cam suspected her son had ADHD.
“Maybe it’s the opposite person?” Cam tried. “Like it’s their left and your right?”
“No, that’s not it either. I use it when I’m driving-”
“You take your hands off the wheel when you’re driving?” Cam advanced on Dex, rolling pin scooped off the counter, and now clutched tightly in her hand and brandished like a weapon.
“No! Not most of the time at least.” Dex held his hands up.
“Most of the time?” Cam’s voice was low and dangerous now.
“I always stop to make sure that I’m safe before I do!” Dex yelped, rounding the counter so he was on the other side. “Like I had to do it today, but I was on that old deserted road by the weird ranch that sells meat and eggs and stuff and the GPS said to turn right but-”
“Sells Eggs?” Cam interrupted.
“Yeah?” Dex paused.
“And Dairy?” Cam prompted.
“...Yeah?” Dex questioned.
“And Meat?” Cam probed.
“Yep.” Dex confirmed.
“I always wondered where they get the Eggs from.” Cam said thoughtfully, just as the doorbell rang.
“I’ve only seen cows there, you know? Besides,” She continued as she walked down the hall to the front door.
“Besides,” Cam repeated, opening the door to a group of men in suits and sunglasses. Cam was someone who didn’t like having her thoughts interrupted, so she held up a finger to the men and turned back to Dex. “Besides, you’ve needed a special license to get chickens in this county ever since the Counter Invasive Species act was passed in ‘08.”
“Eggs can come from other animals too, right?” Dex asked.
“You’re thinking of milk and cows, dear. Some farmers around here make goats’ milk. No one really eats eggs that belong to animals other than chickens.”
“Excuse me-” One of the men started, his sunglasses slightly more mirrored than the rest.
“That can’t be right.” Dexter frowned. “Lots of animals lay eggs. You would think that there’s at least one other animal where the eggs could come from.”
“I heard Jamie Mite’s got an emu or two, but they have to put up a disclaimer wherever they advertise. You sure you didn’t see an addendum saying ‘Ostrich’ or something?”
“Nope, it was just plain ‘Eggs’. They could’ve gotten the license though.”
“In our county? Please. I’d be dead and gone before the paperwork got anywhere near our esteemed Board member’s pens.”
“Pardon me.” The man from before stepped forward, taking off his sunglasses, then quickly putting them back on. “Cameron and Dexter Wiles?”
“Daryl?” Cam asked.
“The IRS?” Dex grimaced.
“Yes.” Daryl, IRS agent and ex-husband of Cam Wiles, responded.