Okay. This is how it’s supposed to go. I get up at six forty. I clean the kitchen, start breakfast. Sebastian, my five year old, hears me clanking about, gets up around seven. At seven ten I call out to Michael, who’s impervious to alarm clocks and clanking about, "Breakfast is ready." Barely functioning, he gets our two year old and the four of us sit down to a healthy breakfast. Afterwards, Michael takes over. He gets Sebastian dressed and spruced, while I myself spruce and dress. Then I walk my kindergartner to school, just in time for the eight oh six bell. Which is really more of a blare. That, give or take, is our morning routine.
But this morning was different. Oh, it started the same. Hit the snooze button twice. Up by six forty. Cleaned a couple of martini glasses and a shaker, started beating eggs. Seven o’clock rolls around. No Sebastian. Seven oh five. Seven ten. I open his bedroom door. "Time to get up, sleepyhead." And go back to George Foremaning sausage. And still I wait. Maxie starts to cry. Sebastian out cold. Michael out cold. I’m tending to eggs, sausage. I call out. "It’s time to get up." And then, more emphatically, "Michael?" Two year old still crying. I go to our bedroom. Michael sound asleep. "Michael, Maxie is up. Breakfast is ready." He grumbles something resembling understanding. I go back to place mats, forks.
Sebastian stumbles into the kitchen. The kids plates are done. Scrambled eggs, sausage patties. Firm food. My kids don’t like runny. They don't like buttery, syrupy, hot with melted brown sugar, over easy, poached, soft boiled, coddled. My choice is limited. Cold cereal. Left over Chinese. Anything spread with Nutella. Or scrambled eggs, sausage patties. I usually have toast, but the bread was blue. "Sit down, sweetheart." Sebastian yells, "I don’t want any breakfast," and runs to my bedroom seeking refuge in the form of my husband. My voice follows him down the hall. "It’s getting cold." No response. No movement. Nothing. I hate cold food. I have a few bites. Eggs need salt. And still nothing. I go back to my bedroom. The three of them, Michael, Sebastian, Maxie, in my bed. Terse voice. "Breakfast is ready." I turn before there is a grumbled response. Back to the kitchen where I seek my refuge in the form of clean counter tops, a dirty skillet. Finish my breakfast. Finish my coffee. Finish sudoku. Still no family. I shrug, make a shopping list. It’s twenty to and the school bell blares at eight oh six. Chicken legs, broccoli, bananas. I add them to the list. Non threatening firm food. And then I stop for a moment. Eight oh six? It seems arbitrary and yet, probably isn’t. An LA hold-the-curtain mentality for the educational system.
My eye falls to the set table. I will not get cross. Three breakfast plates Joy of Cooking beautiful minus toast. One plate, only orts. Ort. A crossword puzzle word. It means crumbs. Bits and pieces. I will not get cross. I go back to my bedroom. The three of them lie there. They look at me. Perturbed that I deign to interfere with their cozy moment. I will not get cross. "I’m going to the store. You’re taking Sebastian to school. You have twenty minutes. But that’s your problem. Your breakfast is cold." Damn it. I got cross.
For some reason I start doing chores. Chores I’ve neglected. I grab the pack of Al Gore lightbulbs I bought two months ago. Those funny lightbulbs that look like a double helix. I swap the outdoor bulbs, those in the basement. I’m proactive. I’m feeling good. I will not let my son’s tardiness bother me. Michael should have supported the hot breakfast in the kitchen. But he stopped the routine. It’s only right that he be on the receiving end of Mrs. DaMate's cool kinder-teacher glare. Besides I’m changing lightbulbs that will help Mother Earth. I am doing my part to maintain a green household. Just then, I remember something else for the list. We’re out of Clorox.
My children finally come to the table. One is two-year-old silly. The other acts like sitting down and breaking bread, even though there is no bread, will snap him in half. They look at their plates. They pick up their sausage patties. Maxie nibbles. Sebastian licks. And that’s it. Neither touch saltless eggs. Nor ask why the butter was out when there was no toast. That was breakfast for my kids. Two nibbles and a lick. Tomorrow, I might just pour them coffee.
It’s ten to. Michael hasn’t surfaced. I keep doing chores. I pack the lunch bag. Put away the butter that was never used. Put away the fat free half and half. Then I stop for a moment. Doesn’t half and half, by its very half and half nature have to be half fat? The day doesn’t bode well. Saltless eggs. Fatless half and half. Plate with orts. Scraps. Granules. Coffee grounds. Detritus. Remains. Body parts of warriors overseas, like those of Osiris, scattered hither and yon. Minuscule particles of glass, wood chips and ash, the remnants of devastation, rasping our throats, darkening our lungs. Spiritual doubt. Apathy. Weight gain. Increasing debt. Decreasing hairline. Sedentary, living-on-the-couch lifestyle. The Thanksgiving invite my family did not extend to me. The deep, deep hurt over a constitutional law denying me human rights. That maybe most of all. The missing tooth I keep tonguing. Just to see if I can hit the exposed nerve, relive the pain all over again. It consumes me. Eats at me. Morsel by morsel. I am chum. Being devoured. Soon to be no more. I might as well, with three plates of saltless eggs and nibbled and licked sausage patties as my witness, just sit. Right here. Right now. On the imported slate floor. Just sit down and shut out. Become catatonic with a Teflon coating.
I hear Michael. He’s finally up. He’s picking out Sebastian’s clothes, washing his face. He’s back in the routine. But it’s too late. The bell has blared. Life as it once was is over. It’s no more. It’s toast.
I pick up a pen, scrawl on my shopping list. Because it was then I remembered. We're out of bread.