Here’s another round of fiction. This time from NaNoWriMo last year. It’s completely unedited (the tense is all over the place!). I apologize in advance. I’m not crazy about this one as a whole, but I like some of what I have so I thought I’d put it out there for some feedback. I wanted to post Wednesday (being the true midweek mark), but I got caught up in blah blah blah and I didn’t.
He worked third shift until I was twelve. He had two week days off. My mother was a teacher at the middle school. She dropped us off, picked us up, and kept everything together at home. He slept during the day. I woke him up at quarter passed six. My mother planned dinner so that I’d finish in time to wash my hands and wake him. I think he looked forward to it. Not being woken up, but me doing the waking.
Sometimes he would get right out of bed. Other days he’d roll over and I’d clime in the bed next to him. I’d talk, he wouldn’t. Then she would come in a few minutes later to wake him. Sometimes I’d sneak in early just to lay there. It was the only time I saw him. A brief twenty minutes of his morning and my evening. He slept on his right side, facing the window. The curtains were always cracked. It wasn’t night and he didn’t need to think that it was. That was always his argument when my mother suggested he keep the curtains drawn.
His side of the bed was furthest from the door. I’d walk through the room, around the foot of the bed and into the light from the open window before having a chance to wake him. I wanted to see him, but I knew enough not to run or jump on the bed. It wasn’t a happy good morning on a Saturday. It was a call to action and he hated his job. I didn’t know he hated it, or I didn’t know how much he hated it, until much later, until I moved out and got my first post college job.
When he finally woke up enough to speak he’d acknowledge me with a smile and a ruffle of my hair. I’d shadow him in the bedroom. Out of bed, to the dresser, the bathroom, the closet. It was the only time I got to spend with him. He’d ask me questions about my day and I’d answer before he finished speaking. He was never awake all the way. Sometimes I think I annoyed him. Not me, really, but my energy. My eagerness. I had had all day to get ready for this conversation, he had all night. That wasn’t the same.
If he shaves, I watch from the food of the bed. I can’t see all the way in the bathroom. I can’t see more that his legs if he leans over the sink, but I can see him arms when he stands upright to shave. I can tell by the way he moves what he’s doing. His arms don’t move much, but the muscles do. They tense and so does his back. I talk to him while he’s doing it. The whole time. Most I just talk, sometimes I ask questions. He’ll answer with a grunt or an uh-um that will trail off into the mirror. I’ll hold onto his socks until he’s don’t. I hold the socks but I leave his shirts on the bed. One white and one a dark green. Both had no wrinkles.
My mother didn’t wash these shirts. She took them somewhere to be cleaned. It got rid of the yellow armpits. That’s what she said. I don’t think my dad really cared, but she did, so he let it be. Clean and smooth. The white shirt is folded, the green is laid flat on the bed with the hanger still trapped inside. He’ll shave and brush his teeth without his shirt on. If he’s not running late, sometimes he’ll sit beside me on the bed to talk before he finishes getting dressed. That doesn’t usually happen. That’s not happening today.
He comes out of the bathroom and puts on his white shirt. First over his head, then left then right. Then the green shirt, one button at a time starting at the top. He doesn’t do anything in a hurry, but he was always in motion before work. Every day I have about thirty minutes with him. It depends on how long it takes him to get out of bed. If I lay in bed with him, he never has time. I don’t count laying in bed as time because he’s not awake. Then he hurries, but it doesn’t look like it. I can tell because I spend every morning with him.
He’ll ruffle my hair again before he leaves the bedroom. I’ll be right behind him when he leaves. To the kitchen, the living room, the front closet, the shoes, coat, hat, thermos. Right to the door. He’ll hug my mother before he leaves and they’ll kiss. Zachary won’t watch. I roll my eyes, more at Zachary than at them. I’ll do the same thing tomorrow. He’ll ruffle my hair once more before he goes, then Zachary’s, then he’ll hug us both and leave.
If I’m allowed, I’ll wait for him to pull out of the driveway. Sometimes I’ll watch, sometimes I’ll just listen. Usually I just listen now. I know the sounds. His feet, heavy on their own and even heavier in his boots, smack the pavement, then the grass, then the asphalt. Then the car door clicks to open and there is a delay. First he sets his bag on the passenger seat, then he checks for his wallet. Then he sits.
The car clunks. It’s old.
Another long delay while he positions himself in the seat. Then the slam of the door. A few moments later the car starts. There’s a rattle and a dull whine from the engine. It quiets, clunks into gear, and backs out of the driveway. The wheels squeak as he turns on to the road. Another clunk and he’s gone.
If I got up early, when the house was still dark, I could hear him come home. All the same sounds in reverse order. The only new sound is the keys in the door. A jingle, the sound of the pins falling to meet the key, a click, the pins forced off the key, then the door. Once he was in the house I had trouble hearing anything. He was silent. I didn’t know how he did. I asked my mother once how he was so quiet. She didn’t answer me.
I always wanted to know.
I didn’t usually wake up that early though. Not on the school days at least. I woke up early on the weekend so my mother would make breakfast. I looked forward to that. She would make it if I slept in, but it would happen faster if I didn’t and she was always happy when I came down the stairs first. She was probably happy when Zachary came down the stairs first too. He never woke up very early though. Never.
She would only turn on one light in the kitchen and one in the living room. The one by the end of the couch. That’s where she would read. The kitchen would be bright. All the lights on. She won’t be cooking, the lights will be on.
Even if she doesn’t make something special, she’ll make something for me. A bowl of cereal and a glass of juice. A scrambled egg and toast. Sometimes egg in a frame, where the egg is in the middle of a piece of bread, lightly toasted in a pan. Sometimes yogurt. It didn’t really matter. I was up before Zachary which means I got breakfast and the TV.
My mother would read and I would get the remote. He’d argue with me when he got up, but I could usually make it through my breakfast and one full show. I would. My mother would read, but she’d watch, too. She’d watch me. She’d watch me watching TV and I’d watch TV while watching her out of the corner of my eye.
I don’t know why she watches me. Whenever I catch her doing it she’s smiling with her eyes but not her mouth. If she saw me she’d continue reading. One of the few times with just the two of us. Not the only but one of the few.
I don’t sit next to her. I lay on the couch with my feet on her leg to keep them warm. I’ll have a blanket from my bed because I’ll know it’s early. I’ll watch cartoons on the couch and she’ll read. I’ll laugh and she’ll watch me, I’ll hide the remote under the blanket so Zachary can’t get it. I’ll fall back asleep.