I look at my watch it is 7:35. 7:35 so early and damn I haven’t slept well. Stupid cold, and Martians all night long. Something about Irene in my head but I can’t catch it because it is floating, slipping from my fingertips, drops of mercury. The Martians steal my thoughts and my head buzzes with emptiness. Irene, Irene Irene. The kitchen is pale with teasing polka-dots on the wallpaper. Like Irene, they play all day in the sun that beams in from the windowpane. It would be so easy to smash the sunlight.
Mother has kept her appointment. She flutters about the kitchen. I see colors around her, yellows mostly, that banter, and bargain, and bash. So this is breakfast, at 7:35.
She apologizes for being late. She sets the table for four. One two three four. Forks and knives and spoons. Martian telling me to stab her with a knife. Once, twice, three times. She boils hot water, talking, but I can’t hear. Makes orange slices. Pours a bowl of cereal for her husband. I remember Martians telling me to buy Fruit Loops in a box and even Irene cannot save me. Eat, eat.
She pours him skim milk in a tiny pitcher for his cereal.
I drink half my pineapple juice and dream of California.
I take the vitamin C that she has dutifully placed in my spoon. The Martians tell me it is poison, but it is too late; I have swallowed it already. I sniffle and cough up Martians and horrible thoughts that I cannot catch. They get sucked up into the fan that is embedded in the wall. Julie, cover your mouth. My stomach hurts.
Mother won’t sit down. She is a skinny Weeble and I hate the halo she wears. She says, “I must, I must stand, for exercise!”
Irene and I slept in a school bus last weekend just for fun.
Mother says, “You are trying to provoke me, Julie.” She has been talking about provocation for weeks. I have been Evil for years.
At last she sits. Papers in a pile cover the table and I can’t see her too well because of this mountain, mountains everywhere. Mother opens a letter around the corner, from a political candidate or a fundraising organization.
My thoughts are not my own. They steal funds from my brain. Grand scale embezzlement. Call the attorneys. Alert the media. Get NPR in here.
Valentines sit on the lazy susan. Mother to Dad: “You still have what it takes to light my fire.” Dad to Mother: “To my better half.” Parents to son: “There’s a word for sons like you–TERRIFIC.”
Terrific, terrific. I can see terrific painted on the wallpaper polka dots, just above Dad’s head, shimmering like the asphalt on a hot Nevada highway.
Mother: “Julie, I bought myself a reflective vest for bicycle riding! It is much better than the other one I’ve got because it has Velcro rather than buttons! Velcro! Velcro!”
Velcro in a baby bath.
“It’s supposed to snow today,” she says. “Oh, Alan!”
Dad sits. “Ladies, good morning.”
There is so much mail and I cannot fathom it. He opens several letters with a letter opener I’d like to stab Mother with. A flyer from Public Radio. “I can’t seem to locate that program I heard on the schedule,” he says.
I can’t hear any program because the Martians scramble my thoughts in a mixing bowl with sugar, flour, and butter, and then make me eat it all until I burst.
Mother is too busy with her political junk mail to pay much heed. I am too busy struggling with Irene. Irene, Irene. She is calling me from beyond the trees.
Dad wolfs down three slices of orange, a bowl of cereal and half a banana. Mother has consumed a glass of warm water, a glass of skim milk, a soft boiled egg, three slices of orange, and the other half of Dad’s banana. Banananananana. She makes instant coffee for both of them. Regular for herself. Decaf for him.
I finish my pineapple juice because it is proper to do so. Starting on herbal tea. My thoughts are coughing and sneezing. The parents ask if I still have my cold. I decide to be honest–yes. I have it. I have it have it have it.
“Alan,” says Mother, “I’m too busy with the League of Women Voters to make all the meals this weekend. The alternative is to go out to eat. I could throw something together, I suppose, but it won’t be very elaborate. Which would you prefer?”
Dad leaves for work. So that was breakfast.
“Julie,” Mother says, “He’s busy with his computer programs.”
I have computer programs in my head.
She has risen, like the moon. She has already cleared his breakfast as well as her own, and made her lunch for the day.
“I have already cleared his breakfast as well as my own, and made my lunch for the day,” she says. Her words are like the letter “O.” They roll and bounce, like round bubbles in the center of the kitchen. I try to pop one, but it gets away from me. Irene and I are happy when she leaves the room, even though Irene isn’t here.
I miss Irene even though I don’t miss her. I have three-quarters of my tea left. I think I will pour it into my stuffed-up nose.