The next morning I was up bright and early. Unfortunately, the sun wasn’t. Heavy snow clouds drifted over the land threatening to unfold a new blanket of white. I was not deterred by the potential storm; rather, I looked forward to more ammunition for our snowball fight.
In the nearly eight months we’d been in Nebraska, I noticed I’d changed. Without the precious internet, I found myself outside more. Rory, Dagwood, and I played. We did silly things like riding our bikes at break-neck speed down a long steep hill; climbed the high rafters in Dagwood’s massive barn, and spent hours exploring what we thought were distant corners of the town on weekends. We had no problems keeping up with Dagwood as he rode to Jimmy’s house. I feared the busy road no more.
Suzette never made any attempt to make friends, play, or even enjoy life in the Outer States. Why she chose to wallow in self-pity escapes me. She was young, beautiful, and could command the world with her brilliant IQ. Instead, she allowed misery to overtake her.
Deciding it was a moot point to dwell on my sister’s melancholy, I got up and dressed. Just as I prepared to leave the room, I glanced at the clock: it said 7 a.m., and I wondered what Grandma would be making for breakfast. Opening the door, I was surprised to hear the house silent. Was I the only one up? Impossible! Grandma was always up hours before us busily working in the kitchen. I craned my neck and tuned my ears downstairs. Nothing.
I went down and stopped on the last step. No glorious aroma of bacon cooking. My acute nostrils picked up the faint tang of coffee. I followed my nose, but not to the kitchen. Instead, I went down the hallway toward the very last door—the library. A faint light shone under the bottom of the door. Who was up? Grandpa? I never ever recall seeing Grandma in the library. It seemed to be a place exempted from her housekeeping exercises. The shelves and books were covered in an unhealthy layer of dust. I paused at the door listening for a sign of life. Through the heavy oak, I thought I heard the earthy crinkle of a page turn.
My left hand reached for the old brass knob. It rattled slightly as my fingers closed on it. The library was not off-limits, but for some reason, I felt I was intruding. Did Grandpa want some time alone? Surely he wasn’t tired of us; we rarely crossed paths with him except at nights and on the weekends.
With the utmost of quiet, I opened the door slightly and peered in. Grandpa was in his favorite old overstuffed leather chair, book in hand, and a large mug of steaming coffee on the table next to him. He glanced up. “Good morning, Jonah.”
“Umm, good morning, Grandpa,” I said, feeling like I’d invaded his solace.
“Come in.” He gave a gentle gesture with one hand.
“I’m not interrupting, am I?”
“No, no. I was just doing some reading before your Grandmother gets up.”
“She was tired, so she wanted to sleep a little longer.” He stretched. “When you get old, sometimes you just wanna slow down once in a while.”
I sat down in another chair. “I don’t know how Grandma does it, she’s amazing.”
Grandpa smiled. “I don’t know how she does either. That woman works harder than any bot I’ve ever seen.”
“Definitely!” I met his smile with a big grin.
“And just like a bot, once in a while, Grandma needs to recharge her batteries.”
“Like the grandma in I Sing the Body Electric.”
He chuckled. “That grandma was a bot.”
“I know.” I cupped my hand to my ear. “I sometimes wonder about Grandma. How she can work so long and so hard like she does? I listen closely for the ticking and whirring.”
“You won’t hear any ticking and whirring out of her. Maybe a little whining and complaining once in a while.” He closed the book and gently rested it on the table. “If there was any model for the perfect service bot, it would be your grandma.”
A devious, wonderful thought entered my head. “Grandpa?”
“Why don’t we make Grandma breakfast?!”
He picked up his mug of coffee. “That’s a bold idea, Jonah…Except you’re lookin’ at the most inept man on earth in the kitchen.”
“Rory and I can do it! We’ve watched Grandma cook. We’ll keep it simple: toast, eggs, bacon, and juice.” I stood, feeling oddly empowered. “And you can surprise her with breakfast in bed!”
Grandpa chuckled. I could see he liked the thought of my crazy plan. “All right. I’ll, uh, supervise you two—make sure you don’t burn down the house.”
I went to the door. “I’ll get Rory and we’ll get started right away.” With not a second to waste, I tore upstairs and into Rory’s room, not even bothering to knock. “Rory, wake up!”
My little brother bolted upright in bed. “Huh? What?”
“We’re going to make breakfast for Grandma.”
“We? Who is we?” He blinked several times.
“You, me, and Grandpa.”
“We can’t cook.”
“Yes we can. I told Grandpa we’ll keep it simple.”
He climbed out of bed and started to dress. “How simple? A bowl of cereal with milk?”
“No, no, silly. Toast, eggs, bacon, and some juice.”
“Do you even know how to cook an egg?”
“Sure, I watched Grandma enough.”
“And she’s been doing it for hundreds of years.”
I smacked him. “She’s not that old!”
“I meant she’s been doing it a long time. It might not be as easy as it looks.”
“How hard can it be? Heat up a pan, melt some butter, crack and egg into the pan, and when it’s done on one side, you flip it over.”
Rory finished putting on his shoes. “Fine, then you handle cooking the eggs.”
“Then you can do the bacon.”
“Umm, okay. But I don’t like it when it splatters.”
Minutes later we converged upon the kitchen. I went to work grabbing two cast iron frying pans from a cupboard. Rory was rummaging in the fridge for eggs and bacon. “Hey, get the butter, will you?” I called, placing the pans on the electric burners. Then I lifted a hefty spatula from a cylindrical crock and waved it around like a sword. This was indeed exciting.
Rory came over with armloads of goods. He tried to place them on the counter, but fumbled. It seemed like slow-motion as I watched the eggs slip from his grasp. I made a mad dive for the carton, saving them at the last moment. The packet of bacon hit the floor with a loud smack. Good thing it was in a plastic wrapper. Only the butter managed to make it to the counter.
“Oops, sorry,” Rory said.
“Maybe you should have made several trips.”
Grandpa wandered in and sat down at the table. “Making a mess already?”
I stood, egg carton in hand. “Saved!”
Rory stooped and snatched the bacon pack from the floor. “It’s okay.”
We set about making breakfast. In a matter of ten minutes, the whole room smelled of bacon, eggs, and some slightly burnt toast which Grandpa helped scrape off the blackened edges. As we prepared the plate for Grandma, I gently lowered two fried eggs—very pleased that I’d not broken the yolks, and Rory added the thick, greasy strips of bacon. We poured a big glass of orange juice and Grandpa managed to find a tray to put everything on. I only wish we had a teeny vase with a single red rose in it—that would have made the whole dish.
Just as Grandpa was picking up the tray, Suz came in. She stopped and looked around. “Where’s Grandma?”
“She was tired, so we’re bringing her breakfast,” Rory said.
“So who will make mine?”
I shot her a snide glare. “Why don’t you make your own?”
“Are you absurd?”
A devious smile wormed to my lips. “Perhaps.” I held the door while Grandpa exited. “Maybe since you’ll be eighteen soon you should learn to cook.”
“How dare you say that!”
“I’m just saying it’s a skill you might want to learn.” With that, I said no more and accompanied Rory and Grandpa up the stairs.