The alarm clock went off way too early for me. I rolled over and gave it a smack, sending it to the floor. It bounced around a few times before falling silent. Today we would be made to go to school. As I lay there in bed, rubbing my eyes, I wondered just what the teachers would teach us. Didn’t they realize this was totally absurd? What could they teach us?
My feet hit the floor and I staggered from bed. Rory yawned and stretched. “Come on, get up,” I said, trudging to the chest of drawers to find something to wear for school.
“Do we have to?”
“Unfortunately.” Down the way I heard Suz’s door open. She must be making a mad dash for the one bathroom the house contained. That would mean the rest of us had to wait what would seem like hours for her to emerge. At least in Philadelphia, our apartment had three bathrooms, and Suz claimed one for herself. Rory and I didn’t mind sharing, it meant getting her out of our way in the mornings. “Crap!”
“Suz is gonna beat us to the bathroom.”
“Oh,” Rory said in a lackluster tone.
“She’s gonna make us late for school.”
He sat up. “Do you really care?”
I took a shirt out and pulled it over my head. “I suppose not.”
“I mean, what are they going to tell us?” Rory threw off the covers and got up. He went to the window, parted the drapes and looked out. “Nothing here, absolutely nothing.”
We dressed and were just getting ready to head downstairs for breakfast when we heard a ruckus below at the bottom of the stairs. “Children!” Grandma called. “Breakfast!”
I peered down the steps. “Coming, Grandma.”
“Probably still in the bathroom.”
“Tell her to get a move on. You’ll be late for school.”
“She won’t listen to us, she never does.” I scratched my head. How could Grandma have missed Suz? The bathroom was right next to the kitchen. The aroma of something greasy hit my nose. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, but it actually smelled good. Taking in a deep breath, I decided that maybe there was food out here worth eating. Supper last night had been something called beef ribs. They were terribly messy, but tasted like nothing I’d ever had in my life. There was a sticky brown sauce that Grandpa called barbeque. It was smoky and sweet in flavor. And we had to tear meat off bones with our teeth! Suz was appalled, of course, and tried to use a knife and fork. All of us just laughed at her. She finally got mad and stomped upstairs to her room. Rory and I didn’t mind, that left more for us.
“Come, boys, get your breakfast before it gets cold.”
Rory and I thundered down the steps, anxious to see what morsels of delight would greet us at the kitchen table. We weren’t disappointed. Grandma had prepared a feast. My rather sensitive nose picked up several tasty scents. I could smell some sort of fresh baked bread, the greasy aroma that met me on the stairs, and something that was vaguely toasty and starchy in nature. My mouth started to water.
“I hope you boys are hungry,” Grandma said, standing at the stove with a plate in hand. We said nothing but took our places at the table. I watch as the old woman opened the oven and removed two round shaped pieces of bread—or so I thought. She cut them in half and arranged them on the plate. Next she put some rich golden-colored shreddings next to the breads. I was clueless to what it was. And from a cast iron frying pan, I saw her pluck two strips of something that looked like meat. Over most of it, she ladled some sort of creamy white goo. I thought it looked like adhesive. It was very thick and had little dark flecks of something in it.
Grandma placed the plate in front of me. I looked up at her, giving my best impression of naivety. Everything smelled good, but what exactly was I eating? She must have sensed my apprehension. “This is a farmhouse breakfast, Jonah.” She pointed to each item. “It has biscuits, country gravy, hash browns, and bacon. I’m sorry, I don’t have any eggs.”
I reached and picked up a strip of what she called bacon. “Never seen this before.”
“They don’t have bacon in the Inner States?”
“This is the first time I’ve seen it.”
“Give it a try, I’m sure you’ll like it. You went crazy on those ribs last night, didn’t you?”
I said nothing but brought the strip up to my mouth and opened gingerly. So far Grandma’s cooking had been very enjoyable. I wondered how she’d learned to cook like this. Sticking out my tongue slightly, I let the crispy strip touch it. My senses were assaulted with a salty, greasy flavor that had a smoky hint to it. Ah, I was in love again!
“Well?” she said.
Grandma laughed and went to make Rory’s plate. I knew he’d enjoy this as much as I was. There had to be some reason that bacon wasn’t available in the Inner States—probably because it was deemed bad for you by the dietary directors, and hence, would not be served to the population. I began to wonder what other delicacies I’d been missing.