The man leaned against the counter, almost sitting on it. His view was of the kitchen. To his left sat a boy in a diaper and a Steelers jersey. It was midnight and the boy had been sleeping in his bed for hours before crying in the night for his mother. It had been the man that answered.
The man leaned against the counter and to his left sat a boy in a big red chair that reminded the man of kitchens from his youth and reminded the boy of nothing but the only kitchen he had known. The boy ate cold, calculated bites of macaroni and cheese and an entire garlic roll. He sat silently and sipped water from a Mickey Mouse cup. His view was in the toaster.
There had been visitors earlier in the evening. There had been football and cheering and too much to eat, but the boy had been hard at play and had ignored everything but the potato chips and onion dip. Hence his cries in the night and his midnight snack. Hence the man beside him leaning on the counter and staring into the kitchen.
The house was quiet. Somewhere slept a woman and another boy and random pets of various size. None of them made a sound.
The only noise was that of the boy lifting his cup and setting it down. His chewing was muted whisper.
The man looked at the kitchen, surprised by surreal clarity and unexpected sobriety. He looked at the kitchen and his thoughts went to his grandmother in another state in a strange bed in a lonely hospital who had been told just hours before that she was dying.
The man thought of her and how the news was broken to him in that same kitchen just hours before and how he had talked on the phone and sounded strong and sure, something slightly less than stoic, and how once he hung up he was unable to speak one word to his wife without breaking down and crying as she wrapped her arms around him, groceries at their feet and the refrigerator door slightly open.
The boy sat in the big red chair and silently chewed his cold macaroni while staring under heavy eyelids at little square tiles and a dull metal toaster. The man watched him for a moment while they both listened to the nothing, and then he proceeded to run his hands slowly through the boy’s hair, because frankly, he just had to.