It was Saturday morning and Marie Anderson was sitting at the table, holding a burnt out cigarette with one hand and a red pen in the other, scanning the Classifieds while her husband showered. In the other room their two children, Sue and Junior, sat crosslegged on the floor watching cartoons that glowed with blue light on their smiling faces.
“We’re done,” Sue said as she held her empty bowl out from her body, her eyes still fixated on the television.
“Then bring your dishes in here and put them in the dishwasher,” their mother replied.
“We can’t, we’re watching T.V.”
“Well then do it during the commercials,” the mother said as she stubbed her cigarette into the ceramic ashtray. Wanted: A part-time cleaning lady. Pays well. Call 540-687-5543. She circled the advertisement with her red pen and then put the cap back and set it down on the table. Down the hall, the bathroom door was closed and heavy footsteps resounded through the hallway. She put the red pen in her pocket, turned to the Style section, stood up and began looking through the pantry as her husband walked into the kitchen.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” he said before giving her a kiss. He was in a bathrobe and little red pieces of toilet paper dotted his rosy, cleanly-shaven cheeks. He pulled up a chair and sat at the table scanning the paper. “Anything good in the Style section?”
“I don’t know, I was busy making breakfast and only had a second to look at it. What do you feel like?” He paused and his already red face flushed crimson.
“We’ve been over this before, Marie,” he said.
“Been over what, darling?”
“Honey, what’s the matter?”
“I know you’re only trying to help, honey, but you don’t need to work. We’re fine. I’ll be getting some more hours soon.”
“Sweetie. . . Sue is it a commercial yet?” she said, directing her voice towards the living room.
“No, in a minute,” Sue said.
“Don’t try to change the subject, we don’t need you to work. Things are fine the way they are. You have enough work on your hands as it is.”
“I was just thinking a little part-time work wouldn’t hurt,” she said. “I was just thinking about our conversation the other day.”
“You know, about maybe considering, or, just thinking about, adding to the family.”
“I thought we agreed now wasn’t the time.”
“I was just thinking–”
“Not now,” he said and turned his head towards her. “Maybe later, but not now.” He grunted and shook his head, “This is not how I wanted to start my morning.”
“. . . I’m sorry for bringing it up. What do you want for breakfast?”
“I don’t care.”
“How about some eggs? Do you want a glass of juice or milk? Coffee?”
“No thanks, how about sausage?”
“We’re out. It’s on the shopping list though.”
“Fine, eggs are fine.”
“And coffee, milk?”
“Coffee, please,” he said as Sue walked in carrying two empty bowls which she sat on the table.
“Uh-uh, Sue, in the dishwasher,” Marie said. Sue sighed and turned around begrudgingly and put the blue ceramic dishes in the dishwasher before stomping back into the living room. It was silent in the kitchen, save for the muffled din of cartoon sounds that echoed through the doorway.
“Want me to turn on the radio, Roger?” Marie asked.
“I’ve got it,” he said. He stood up and walked over to the brown wire-woven cabinet and flicked a switch. There was a loud pop and a few seconds of static.
“What do you feel like listening to?” he asked.
“Whatever you feel like,” she said. He turned a dial, scanning through all the stations as brief flickers of static and words and music passed by before settling on the sports station.
“How would you like your eggs?” she said, “Over-easy, poached, scram-”
“Hold on, I want to hear the box score” he said as a golden voice listed home runs, errors, and runners-batted-in. “I’m sorry for snapping at you.”
“It’s fine, I won’t bring it up again,” she said. There was a momentary lull and the room was silent.
“Where are the headlines?” he asked.
“Right here.” She grabbed them off the counter and handed them to him. He glanced at the front page and leafed through the pages, dog-earing the ones he would come back to. There was another loud pop from the radio and the voice changed.
[# This just in, breaking news. Scientists working at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a new boson that is self-replicating. Scientists are
baffled as to its origins and have deemed it the ‘God Particle’. #]
“What is this crap? I just wanted to hear the sports,” he said.
[# The self-replicating nature of the boson shows that it is possible to create matter without a known energy source. After great critical debate recently regarding the possibility of the “Big Bang Theory” of the world’s creation, leading experts agree that this molecule is almost undoubtedly tied to the creation of our universe. I have with me now an expert on the matter and leading speculative astrophysicist, Dr. Leonard Holtz, as well as Father John McGurdy, a vocal advocate of Christian Creationism. A debate is scheduled after this commercial break, brought to you courtesy of MiracleBread #]
“I thought this was the sports station. I just want to hear about the game,” Roger said and furiously stood up and walked over to the speaker cabinet and turned the dial.
[# This is, without a shadow of a doubt, proof that our universe began in a wholly scientific way, a way that can be measured by physics and chem-. . . Roger turned the dial to another man’s voice Ladies and gentleman, whoever may be listening, it is more important now than ever that our faith remain strong. Despite what others are saying, things about a great explosion, we must hold strong to our faith and know that Our Father created this bountiful world that we live in and- #]
“Just put on the weather or something,” Marie said.
“I’m trying, they won’t stop talking about all this garbage. Can’t they wait until tomorrow for the sermon? What are they talking about anyway? They expect me to understand all those words?” he said, “For chrissake, it would take Einstein or that nerd with a robot voice to understand what they’re saying.”
“It sounds like some big discovery,” she said.
“A big waste of money, if you ask me. Money that my taxes probably paid for.”
“Just turn it off. Your breakfast is ready. I’ll sit down and we can talk. It’ll be nice,” she said. He stood up and walked back over to the speakers before switching off the radio and walking back to the table. She brought his eggs and coffee over to him. He took a bite of his food, staring at his plate as he chewed while she sat across the table looking at him.
“Thank you, sweetheart. Tastes great,” he said and she smiled. “What do you feel like doing today?”
“I thought we’d just stay here, relax as a family, maybe go out to a movie tonight. I heard ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ is playing at the drive-in. It would be nice.”
“Ah, that movie is too long. It’s so boring, I don’t know how anyone considers it a classic.”
“Well, we can see something else then. Or go out to dinner.”
“How about tomorrow?”
“We have to go to church, I’m in charge of coffee hour,” she said. She had been planning it for weeks with the other women of the parish. “Speaking of which, I need to go grocery shopping, keep an eye on the kids, don’t let them watch too much T.V.” she said as she stood up. She grabbed her phone and her purse and gave him a kiss on the forehead before walking out the door. He set his fork down and gazed out the window into the blue sky, wisped with cindersmoke clouds, and found himself lost in thought about the family budget and the kids’ schooling until his coffee was cold and the yellow yolk dried on his plate.