Thursday, September 6, 2012
The Provider - Chapter 1
Chapter - 1
“Good Morning,” Jim greeted his son warmly. The smile on his lips countered the low affect of his face. His was the vacant countenance shared among the viciously underemployed. The only work his father could find was bouncing at a basement nightclub downtown. The breakfast and sweet pipe aroma didn’t hide his father’s reek of cigarettes, sweat and stale alcohol. That odor clung viciously to his dad every morning from a night in that damp bar. His father had worked there for several months now and the longer he worked there the smell made an ever more permanent presence in his pores. Daniel stuck his face closer to his plate to get away from it. He tried hard to keep his nose from wrinkling in disgust. His father worked a hard job, making hard money for them to live on. There was no one else. Daniel shifted. His chair creaked shrilly.
“What an injustice!” Jim said, “I’ve never seen a seat complain so loudly at such a small weight being applied to it.” Jim smirked at his wit and took a long pull off his pipe. He tried to meet his sons eyes unsuccessfully. His looked seared into the boy, yearning for one flash of those youthful, steel gray eyes from inside the brown tangles of hair. Jim let the unshared smile drop from his face. Daniel sat. He stared at the spread of food set before him. The breakfast was placed in neat piles on the plate. Jim felt a rush of pride at being able to provide his son such a meal. A home cooked, hot breakfast was a tribute. The silence bothered him. He decided on asking a question that he was sure would elicit a response.
“Do you want coffee?” He asked.
“Yes. Thanks,” Daniel said. Jim got up and fixed the cup of coffee. The black luster in the mug was lost in a swirl from a heavy helping of cream and sugar. Just the way Daniel liked it.
“I don’t know how you can stomach this,” Jim said, “You can’t taste the coffee under all this other crap.” Daniel drank the cup hot and fast.
“Do you want some?” He asked.
“No you go ahead and finish off the pot.” Jim poured the rest of the coffee in Daniel’s cup, rinsed off the yellowing carafe and placed it back in the coffee maker. Daniel drank the coffee without extras and grimaced.
“I’d better get going.” Daniel said. He got up from his reproachful chair and wavered in place. To Jim, it was as if he were waiting to be dismissed.
“Do you need anything?” Jim asked.
“No.” Daniel said. Jim knew he should say something. Could he risk saying he loved him? He couldn’t remember the last time he told Daniel that singular phrase of intimacy. Jim was at a loss. He couldn’t bring himself to verbalize what he felt, there was no reason why. It was what it was. The palpable silence bit deeply.
“See you make it to school on time.” Jim finally blurted. Daniel unfroze and nodded assent. Jim caught a glimpse of Daniel‘s eyes rolling. He inwardly cursed himself. The boy was never late for school. Another spent morning climaxing in a useless directive from a failure of a father.
“I’m going to go,” Daniel said, “See you tonight.” Daniel picked up his backpack, turned, and walked out the front door. Jim sat at the kitchen table ignoring his food. His body nourished by the steady gnaw on his self-loathing. Jim inhaled smoke from his pipe into his lungs. He held it there until it hurt and exhaled a long stream of smoke into the kitchen ceiling. Jim felt better after this self abuse rebuke to his behavior. Abruptly, he stood up and walked across the pea green living room carpet to the front bay window. He looked down the street and saw Daniel. The boy was a half block up the street and walking at a good clip. Jim noticed his sons hunched shoulders. His drawn in torso. Daniel walked like a hurt boxer protecting his wounded vitals. So hunched, he moved stiffly, without confidence. “He looks a lot smaller than he really is,” Jim thought as he shut the blinds. Sighing and feeling suddenly weary, he went to the bathroom to wash. Jim looked in the mirror. Dark circles and baggy skin complimented the black stubble of beard. His eyes searched lower. A few spots of blood were plain on his shirt collar. The blood was his own. Spilled by a bar patron whose reasoning capabilities were drowned in clear, fiery, aqueous Vodka and smashing fists. He cursed himself again for not checking his appearance before the boy woke up.
Jim tore his gaze from the mirror. He gripped the pedestal sink with a moment’s rage that shook the plumbing violently and threatened to tear the porcelain from its foundation. Adrenaline dumped, he stood still for a few moments and looked again into his grizzled face in the mirror.
“Fuck you for a fool.” His voice cracked as he spoke into his pained reflection.
Jim took off his shirt and threw it in the hamper. He left the bathroom, went into his disheveled bedroom and fell into the rumpled quilts on his bed. He was asleep within moments.