Title: Cocoa, Chocolate Ice Cream and Hot Buttered Toast
Word count: 860
Author: Tim Wilkinson
Cocoa, Chocolate Ice Cream and Hot Buttered Toast
Cocoa, chocolate ice cream and hot buttered toast, that was our dinner that night, our last night together.
Mother often fixed this for us on evenings when she felt too tired, angry or depressed to actually cook or prepare something…well let’s just say something, normal. Of course, we didn’t mind so much, we, her children. No, in fact my older brother Earl, Davy the younger and our little sister Janie and I thought it quite grand, a real treat. It didn’t happen so often, only when Mother’s mania and melancholy were at their peak. Both of which seemed a sort of reprieve, as while her mania found her up, happy and lively, even her brooding, sulking darkness caused within her a sort of tender kindness most often absent from her angry tirades and debilitating, virulent outbursts of verbal violence and eviscerating condemnations.
Our stepfather, well he most usually chose the heat and serve TV dinners when he needed to mask or enable his unfaithful liaisons with his potato skinned, vodka breathed whore, or when mom was…well as I’ve said, unavailable. Mexican for me, thank you. That was always my choice.
You know the type of fare I am talking about, at least those of you who’ve lived long as I, those of the first generation of heat and eat food, the type that came incased in silvery aluminum trays covered in thick, shiny foil. A saucy enchilada or two, a glob of refried beans and a pocket of pink, spicy rice and I thought it wonderful. And of course, we all had our metallic topped, fold up TV tray tables with rubber tipped feet and the cheap looking floral designs printed on top. As much as I enjoyed the Tex-Mex, Salisbury steak or limp fried chicken and reconstituted mashed potatoes that these space age wonders provided, is it any wonder which we option we preferred? As you can guess, Cocoa, chocolate ice cream and hot buttered toast survived, hands down the winner.
I still wonder about that night, now over forty years ago, agonized, questioned and doubted, as I’m sure we all have. All of us that is, of my…my family.
It began as many others, Mother down and morose, Stepdad out as usual. The four of us sat quietly. Well ok, we sat as quietly as children are wont to do, eating our toast, watching our favorite shows, shows I now can’t seem to remember. Mother, mom that is, well she went upstairs to her bedroom, closed the door, laid down upon her bed…and quietly died.
It was Janie that found her curled atop the bed, an empty bottle of Xanax still tightly clutched within one hand. Janie didn’t understand I think, not until years later. What I remember most, even today is how serine and calm Mother looked, as if she were merely enjoying a needed rest after a long and weary day. It seems funny looking back, funny as strange, odd. No one cried, no one except I that is. Shock I think, disbelieve, fear, who can say. That’s a lot for children to deal with, the oldest among us, Earl, being only twelve at the time.
Earl died a few years later, a needle stuck in his arm. Davy, well he ran away as soon as he was old enough to escape. I haven’t seen him in twenty plus years. Janie, well she seems the most normal, yet I do often wonder. She married a man twenty years her senior, had a few kids and faded into cloistered, subdued silence.
I had my own share of troubles with drugs, drinking and whoring I suppose, always searching for something or someone, a little numbness, a moment of pleasure. Little wonder, or so I am told. Yet who knows. Who has an easy time in this life, who but the rich, the spoiled or the welfare entitled? And I, well I have children of my own now, three, two girls and a little boy, Vickie, Dawn and Davie. Their mother, well she left a few months ago. She isn’t coming back.
It’s dinner time now. The table is set and the kids are eating. I won’t be eating tonight. I’m tired, so tired. Too bad, I have no Xanax. I could use a bit of sedation right about now. However, these are new times, a new world and of course there are new drugs to fix our ails. I’m going upstairs now…to rest. It’s been a long and hectic day. I’m sure I can find something in the medicine cabinet that will work. All I want…is to sleep, just to sleep.
The kids are happy. I can hear their playful laughter as I walk quietly up the darkened stairwell. They love it when I fix them cocoa, chocolate ice cream and hot buttered toast for dinner. I think of Janie as I lock the bedroom door. Dawn, the little one, she likes to check on me.
© 2013, Tim Wilkinson