Ruby's Breakfast

Ruby waits, covers pulled up to her chin. She’s getting hungry. Harold has been up for hours working on his latest ship in a bottle. She’s learned not to call them models. Models are what little boys build out of kits. Little boys and amateurs. Harold doesn’t put together models, he makes every part of the ship, right down to the ropes and the little boots on the captain’s feet. If she’d paid more attention, she would have known that. If she wasn’t so wrapped up in herself.

She’s waiting for Harold to call her for breakfast. That’s their Saturday routine, has been since they were newlyweds seventeen years ago. He gets up early on Saturday morning; works in his workshop in what could have been a nursery. He stays in there until he feels he’s accomplished something and then makes breakfast for both of them. He doesn’t like her fussing in the kitchen. She can fuss all she likes during the week. Monday to Friday he’s up and out of the house before she has to get out of bed.

After breakfast, they read the paper and drink their coffee. They don’t drink coffee with breakfast because it ruins Harold’s digestion. Ruby likes to read bits out loud, but her husband prefers quiet. “Companionable silence,” he says, “Nothing wrong with that.” She thinks it would be more companionable to have a spouse who likes to listen. Sometimes she turns the pages so they rustle, or makes a tent out of the business section for the cat, or asks Harold if he’d like more coffee when he’s not finished his first cup.

Finally, he calls her. “Breakfast Lazybones. Up and ‘at ‘em.”

“I’m up,” she says and gets up. She puts on an old sweater, her purple chenille robe, thick socks and knitted slippers with pom-poms on them. The house never gets above sixty-three in the winter because Harold likes to keep the gas bills low. Money doesn’t grow on trees. She’s cold in the house from October to February.

When she gets downstairs, she sees he’s started the grocery list. “Scotch Tape times two,” she reads. It’s underlined. “Oh sorry, Harold. I forgot you asked me to buy you some tape yesterday.”

“I had to use bandages to attach my new plans to the wall. Bandages, Ruby, for Christ’s sake. I’m not an animal.”

He sets her plate down in front of her. He’s made fried eggs, toast and bacon. There’s even a grilled tomato. The food is attached to her plate with bandages. X’s made of bandages are holding down every bit of her food. He must have used the whole box.

She picks up a pencil, wets the tip of it with her tongue and writes bandages. She underlines the word, pressing so hard she makes a line-shaped hole in the paper. She slips off her bathrobe and sweater. Ruby doesn’t feel cold any more.