Sofrito | Fred Arroyo
Sleeping In | Micah Bateman
On The Road Again | Tyson Blanquart
Kohlrabi | Rebecca Bodicky
Chili-Mac | Michael Castro
Breakfast with the New Madrid | Ian Dorward
Delicious | Hilary Hitchcock
Transmigrated Duck Heart | Thom Fletcher
Improvising | John Garcia
Lines in the Van, Lines in the Sand | Chris King
Hermetic Rice | K. Curtis Lyle
Don't Forget About Your Veggies | s.c. truckey
Mastication | Brett Underwood
Tables | Justin Visnesky
Sleeping In | by Micah Bateman
This morning, I wake up alone in the house. At 17, this doesn’t happen often. Most days I’m off to school well before my father leaves to open up his auto shop. Still, he normally awakens before me, bangs the wall outside my room with his free hand, his other probably attempting to still his coffee. But today, nothing. I wake up, and, though chilly, the sun slants at an angle that says eleven, eleven-thirty. My phone rings shortly after this, not by magic. My mother knows my Circadian schedule – I’ll be up right about now. She calls from the hospital amid a hushed crowd, her stilted cheerfulness betraying the gravity of what’s going on around her: my father’s about to enter surgery.
“Good morning, sunshine,” she says. I picture the whites of her teeth, grin vivisecting her face. “We’re all here. But take your time. Have you had lunch? There’s lunch in the fridge – leftover pasta.”
Here, she says, not breaking the membrane of the unsaid. Doesn’t say hospital, says surgery. Says sunshine, lunch, time.
I tell her thanks.
Nearly noon, lunch will be my breakfast. Alone, I can navigate the house, boxers only, stomping, teen boy motion, to the fridge. Not even the dog, put outside for the day, food dish filled, disturbs this moment of bachelorhood, of being on my own – the swallowing quiet of it.
The pasta smells of standard refrigerator bouquet. We’ve not learned of baking soda. Out of plastic wrap, the dish gets covered with sculpted foil resting idly on top, ill-at-fit, sweeping off in transit to the table over which I can inspect my goods. Cold-hardened ziti mortared together with cheese, grease, tomato. In a dish so large, brownie chunks have been cut out, revealing the understood grid beneath. With a square slice, I won’t rock tradition. The grease, now earwax-yellow, has congealed and parts like cheese under my knife. I think of the doughy holiday weight protruding from my abdomen. Not long ago, I had been skeletal; now, cherubic, though still nowhere near my father or the collection of relatives awaiting me in the fifth floor visitors’ room, all obese, but in the Texan way, where the fat packs only on your belly, your face still sharp. Step one is protrude, step two, lap over. It will take just five more years, though my father lasted until thirty.
In the microwave, the grease expands, its molecules oscillating fast enough to course out invisibly, slick over the pasta, over the tongue. The clot of fat in my father’s artery is now a near-complete blockage. I think about melting it in the microwave alongside my pasta grease. The real operation sounds just as simple. Through his artery, they’ll thread a tiny balloon, inflate it, pulverize his clot, charge him tens of thousands. (Streets over, at the nearest Wal-Mart, a microwave sells for $45.95 plus eight-percent sales tax.) In six weeks, my father will walk without sweating; his face, reddening with vitality, will no longer chalk over and tremble. But now, under a doctor’s hands, his arterial walls puff out thin like a frog’s throat. I imagine the tickling bruise of it – the unbearable funny bone hurt – though as always, this imagining falls short.
He’s in the procedure while I’m still in our kitchen; his family, save myself, there for support. Once I arrive, his brothers, eyes pointing like fingers, will wonder where I’ve been. Worried unto blameful, they know their own tickers resemble my father’s, know what a grave ordeal surgery really is. Small-town workmen all, my uncles can ill-afford even this little time off: to wait, for all of one morning, in a hospital visitors’ room.
Cleaning my dishes by hand, swiping away the grease in terse, fretful gestures, I’ll take my merry time getting to the cardiac center. I’ll abide by the vexingly slow speed limit, lapping up highway at a cool sixty, stopping for coffee. With any luck, my father will have recovered before I arrive. By then I’ll have to play the role of son-in-denial, the son with medical aspirations and hospital experience – one year as a phlebotomist – who had told himself, told all of them, of the nonexistent risk involved, of the routineness of it. I’ll have to say I told you so, everyone when he looks up out of the anesthetic haze, pupils grabbing onto figures in the room, pulling away from the febrile dreams. No sweat, I’ll have to say, no sweat at all.
Micah Bateman is an employee and alum of Washington University in St. Louis. His poems have recently appeared online in 21 Stars Review, Sub-Lit, and Stirring.