The morning found Jim in his car looking down at his worn shoes. Jolting his body into action, he dug into his pocket and brought out the rumpled twenties. He opened the window and dropped the bills onto the pavement. “I don’t need your fucking charity. You’re the loser.” He said with vehemence. Dignity slightly restored, Jim put the car into drive. His son would be waking up soon and would be hungry for breakfast.
Jim cleaned up in his bathroom. Looking at his face in the mirror revealed more of the same dark and grim countenance he had begun to regard as normal. He shaved off his wiry stubble, rinsed his hands and drew them wet through his peppered grey hair and brushed it into place. He ran the water ice cold and splashed it aggressively on his face. He looked at himself in the mirror. The face looking back at him was clean, clear and not unhandsome. Feeling like a new man, Jim went back into the kitchen and prepared breakfast. He cracked a couple extra eggs and laid our a few more strips of bacon than normal. Today he was going to eat breakfast with his boy. The sun was beginning to rise. The smell of crisping bacon wafted in the air. Jim put on a pot of coffee and lit up his pipe. Fragrant vanilla flavored smoke filled the air. As he turned the eggs in the skillet he smiled.
“Hi dad,” Daniel said. He looked at the spread on the table and moved into his chair.
“Hey buddy,” Jim said.
“Are we having company for breakfast or something?”
“Not unless you have one of your girlfriends in there,” Jim said. Daniel laughed and the father felt his heart surge with delight. How long has it been since he heard the boy laugh? He thought. Weeks. It had been weeks. He sat down across from his son and dug into his eggs. His son was eating too. Bacon first, then onto the eggs. He ate his food one section at a time. Nothing like his father who didn‘t care if his foods mixed. No, the boy was more like his mother this way. Thinking of her made his stomach knot and he lost his hunger. He shoved the pain deep and forced himself to take another bite of toast. This morning was going too well to allow his illogical crave of her presence to waste it.
“You’re hungry today,” Jim remarked, wrenching his thoughts back to his boy.
“Yeah. The food is good,” Daniel stared a moment into his plate. He stuttered and suddenly blurted out “I know you work all night and are probably really tired by now. You don’t have to cook me breakfast everyday. I could just eat a bowl of cereal or something.” Daniel’s eyes darted up and met his father’s for a moment, then looked back down.
“I like to cook for you,” Jim said.
“I know,” Daniel said. “I just don’t want to add any more pressure.” The boy trailed off and dropped his fork on his plate. His countenance darkened.
“The only pressure cooking eggs is that they might burn,” The father joked.
“I’m serious. You don’t have too!” Daniel said. Jim saw the earnestness on Daniel’s face. He couldn’t help himself, he was a bit giddy from being tired and he kept joking.
“But I’ve seen you cook. It’s downright scary,” Jim regretted it as soon as he said it. His jest seemed to sting Daniel.
“Listen to me!” Daniel yelled. “I know you work all night and look for work during the day. You don’t sleep. You don’t need to do this for me.”
“Okay. Sorry. Okay. Seriously, it’s not hard for me to make you breakfast,” Jim said. “I feel a little guilty having to leave you alone every night and it’s really one of the only times I get to see you. It’s for my benefit really. I just like spending the morning with you. Okay?”
Daniel sat sullen for a moment. “Okay,” He said and picked up his fork. They resumed in silence.