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  • Marie Smysor Watson

six-over-six


At least the milk is cold. Sometimes her husband leaves it out while he drinks his morning coffee, to save steps since he always drinks three cups, and by the time she pours it on her cereal, it is lukewarm. But not today. Today it is icy, almost to the point of hurting her teeth. She is glad for this one small thing.


She is not sure how Will feels about it: the milk or the weather or anything. His head is down, bent so that his floppy brown hair covers most of his face. He shovels in the cereal, his spoon moving in a fluid motion, bowl to mouth. It is quite hypnotic.


“Did you take your medicine yet?” she asks. The spoon does not stop.


“Yeah,” he says, his voice crowded by the food in his mouth.


“Mmmkay. Brush your teeth?”


“After breakfast.”


Silence. She scratches at her leg. The winter air makes her skin parched. She tries not to think about his leg, the one with the thick plastic bracelet attached. If she looks under the table she could see it because his pajama pants had gotten short. He’d grown so much over the winter.


“Outside?”


The spoon stops, hovering over the bowl, the milk dripping in fat plinks.


“No.” The spoon starts again.


She sighs, but not loudly. It has been six weeks. He wasn’t going to use it... it was just to scare her… you know how fourteen year old boys are. Had she said those words? And to whom? The police? The doctors? It is hard to remember. She needs to work but she has to watch him. She has been instructed not to push him; this is a crucial time. For sure, she is told, Will will let them know when he is ready. Ready for what? Those words she does not speak.


The cereal becomes soggy too fast. She puts her spoon down and looks out the breakfast nook’s window, the six-over-six window that she and her husband had spent days debating over when they had to replace it four years ago. They had done the whole house and those windows, a special order, had cost them dearly. They had seemed so worth it then.


Now they are grimy from the fall and winter, and the February yard beyond it is a bleak sight. Snow hangs on in blighted patches, and the rest of the ground is churned with muddy footprints. They had stopped coming (Plague Number 8, she called them with only a bit of writerly irony) but the phone calls haven’t. She turns back towards Will.


“Your birthday is next month. It’s on the first day of spring this year.” She tries not to sound too hopeful.


He says nothing at all, only tips the bowl up and drinks the milk, his Adam’s apple bobbing like a greedy and fat toad. She thinks of him becoming fifteen. Soon, but not now. Because now, her phone begins buzzing its way towards the edge of the counter, as it has every morning for the past six weeks, or for as long as she can remember.


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