The following short-story was written by our Rachelle.
As with her poem, Icicle, she won a monetary award for Breakfast, and it was published in the Hillsdale Tower Light.
This piece will make you ache over the human condition. It depicts our all-too-common modus operandi. Self-deception is as easy as breathing. And of course, if I deceive myself, I cannot hope to be honest with others.
As a family, we try hard to ever better understand ourselves and help each other find where we are not being honest so that we can walk in openness and light. As we do so, we continue to grow closer to one another and to God.
May this speak to your heart, as it did to mine, in a positive, motivating way.
She stands at the sink with her back to me, washing the breakfast dishes in silence. I hesitate by the door, about to head out and make a living for her, waiting for her to— I don’t know what. To apologize, or to wish me a good day at work, or even to look at me. But she just scrubs away — her body straight and tight like a thread pulled taut — scouring the plates into a cleanliness as pristine as her painstaking silence.
The same sequence occurs every morning. I tumble down the stairs with unbuttoned cuffs and disheveled hair, looping my striped tie into its knot. She’s standing at the stove, pounding wakefulness into my tired head with the clang of lids and the scratch of metal spatulas against pans and the words “Honey, breakfast!” shouted at the very moment I walk into the kitchen. I yawn loudly to let her know I’m already there, and I step behind her and put my hand on her waist. She turns her head slightly and allows me a quick kiss, and she reaches up to adjust my tie (though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it). Then she looks back down at the pair of fried eggs staring at her from the sizzling skillet.
“Morning,” I say. “Sleep well?”
“Well enough.” Same response, those two words, every morning. “You?” She’s scooping the eggs onto plates now, not looking at me.
“Just fine.” I decide to be an obliging husband, and I reach toward one of the plates. “Let me help you.”
“I’ve got it.” With tongs like pincers, she plucks sausage links one by one from another skillet and drops them onto the plates.
I sigh inwardly; but I imply indifference by leaning back against the counter and beginning to button my cuffs.
“Honey, don’t get grease on your dress shirt,” she says.
I roll my eyes without her noticing.
Soon the plates are heaped and steaming, and we move to the table. I sit, ready to eat — I’ve got to get to work on time — but she’s still fussing about napkins and silverware and orange juice. It takes another minute or two for her to stop setting things in front of me, tantalizing me, and to sit down. (Of course I wait to eat until she sits; I just clear my throat every now and then and discreetly glance at the clock as she bustles around, reminding her of my existence and of my obligation to provide for her starting at each morning.)
She does finally take her seat opposite me, her shoulders back and head up in perfect posture. Lowering her eyes, she holds out her slim hands in my direction. I take them loosely in my own and tilt down my head, smelling the meaty warmth from my plate.
I say grace briefly, in a solemn tone, not neglecting to pray that I might remain humble and forbearing throughout the day. Her thin hands never move in mine.
I say amen, and she echoes me, withdrawing her hands. Without speaking, we cut into our sausage and eggs. I almost begrudge how perfect the meal looks.
Eventually a few sparse comments infiltrate the silence — hardly a conversation, but enough to depict cordiality. She mentions the game night she’s planning for the church youth group, and I express my sacrificial intention to set all other commitments aside on that evening so that I can be of assistance to her. She thanks me and pats her mouth with her napkin.
And so it continues. Ten minutes later my plate is bare except for grease streaks and flakes of egg white. I kindly offer to wash my own dishes, knowing that she’ll kindly refuse and insist that I must be off to work. She does, and we both leave the table.
I go to fetch my shoes and briefcase, and from the other room I hear her quiet movements between table and sink. The padding of slippered feet across tiled floor, the faint clink of two glasses touching momentarily, and then the muffled hiss of water spilling from the faucet.
My shoes tied and my briefcase slung over one shoulder, I head back through the kitchen to the front door. She stands there at the sink, averted from me, her sleeves rolled up and her back rigid, scouring the dishes with the zeal of a pioneer wife bent over her ridged washboard.
I pause with my hand on the doorknob, wishing she’d say something.
© Copyright Rachelle Ferguson 2014