It’s a summer night. The occasional sound of crickets from the field nearby, crystal clear in the hot June air, punctuates the stillness of the evening, the silence between chirps making the quiet evening seem even more hushed. A woman gets out of her truck and walks across the street, toward home. She clutches her mail--letters and bills--to be read tomorrow.
A red pickup turns the corner and drives her way. The pickup accelerates, heading straight for her now, weaving side to side in the narrow road. She holds her arm in front of her eyes, trying to see the driver over the glare of the headlights. The truck closes the distance to her now, and she hurries to get out of the way, but too late. She screams, and the truck hits her.
I woke up. I sat up, rubbed my face, and looked over at Karen, on the other side of the bed.
“Bad dream?” she whispered.
“Yeah, the same one for a few nights now,” I said softly. “Must be thinking about the trip back home, doing it to me.” I slid back under the covers. “Get some sleep, hon.”
She sighed and fell asleep. I closed my eyes, hoping to get back to sleep too. The phone rang.
“Christ, now what?” I muttered. I sat up, picked up the phone on the second ring, whispered “Hello?” and listened to the voice at the other end. “All right, come and pick me up in the morning,” I said.
“Everything all right?” Karen asked.
“Just work stuff,” I muttered and went back to sleep.
“Okay, it’s eight-fifteen, last chance. Who wants these scrambled eggs?” I called.
“Just toast, thanks. I’ve got a lunch meeting,” Karen yelled from upstairs.
I turned to Ethan. “How about you, champ? Do you want eggs? They’re hot.”
Ethan shook his head. “I don’t want eggs, Dad. Can I get Cheerio’s?”
I sighed, frustrated. “Nobody wants the eggs? I hate to throw them out.”
Ethan put his arms on the counter and rested his head on his wrists. “Cheerio’s,” he repeated.
“Man, tough crowd,” I grumbled.
Behind Ethan, a small girl in pink pyjamas made her way down the staircase, stepping gingerly sideways, step by step, holding onto the railing above her for support as she went.
I grinned. “Hi, Charley, good morning.”
The little girl ran up to me and grinned. “Hi, Dad.”
“So, would you like scrambled eggs?” I asked, hopefully.
She stared up at me. “No. Don’t want rambled eggs.”
“What would you like for breakfast, then?” I asked, exasperated.
“Toast,” she stated.
“Fine.” I sighed. I scraped the eggs into the garbage can and closed the lid.
I turned to rinse the plate. A chime in the distance told me that there was someone at the front door. The fact that he rang the bell three times told me who it was.
“Come!” I yelled.
The front door opened. A tall, slim, man in a blue-black suit sauntered through to the kitchen counter and sat at a barstool.
He smiled at the little girl. “Good morning, pretty Charlotte,” he cooed.
She giggled and smiled back. “Hi, Uncle Pat.”
“Hey, Patrick, have you had breakfast?” I asked.
“No, boss, I haven’t, actually,” he said cheerily. “I don’t suppose I could get scrambled eggs?”
I glanced at the garbage can and sighed. “Coming right up.” I studied him. “I assume you’re not here for a social visit?”
He glanced at Charley and Ethan. “Sorry, no, I just came to drive you to work.”
“Ah,” I said softly.
I beat two eggs, poured them into a frying pan, put bread in the toaster, then passed the meal to Patrick.
He nodded thanks and ate heartily. I poured him a coffee. He grunted and kept eating.
Charley watched all this, fascinated. “Dad?” she asked.
“I want rambled eggs,” she said.
Karen came downstairs, clipping on an earring, and smiled at Walsh. She smoothed her skirt and tugged at her blouse sleeves, preparing for a day at her office. “Good morning, Patrick. What brings you out this early?”
He gave her a soft smile in return. “I just wanted to bring Ian up to speed on a situation.”
Karen glanced at me then back at Walsh. “Is everything all right?” she asked, worried.
He nodded his head, reassuringly. “Just doing some cleanup work, nothing serious,” he said.
Karen smiled again and nodded, not quite relaxed. “Be careful, both of you,” she said.
© 2017 by Mauro Azzano