Breakfast at Venus

Saturday mornings had become something of a ritual in our family, not out of habit or tradition, but out of expectation. Since my wife’s job required working on weekends, more often than not, I had the job to orchestrate The Feed. Our morning offered a special time to bond as we experienced the routine of The Feed and things part of that ritual. Breakfast served as the launching point of The Feed event, and the steps we took to get there were a journey worth reliving. That makes this a story of things which are mostly insignificant, as significant things go, but are critical in making Saturdays complete. Proof that significance does not a memory make.

It all started as I laid prone somewhere between comatose and conscious enough to be aware that my body functioned. Functioning may be stretching it a little, but at least I knew who and where I was as consciousness slowly overtook the previous night’s coma. As my gyros began to calibrate themselves and auditory systems booted themselves into recognition status, my wife’s own ritual greeted me at a high volume as she bellowed up the steps to remind me to Let The Dog Out Before It’s Too Late.

This morning it was…Too Late, that is…

Now I have changed my share of dirty diapers; been puked upon generously; and have scooped up a slimy hairball or two, but fresh doggie nuggets on the carpet before having the therapeutic benefits of caffeine swirling through my veins was a rush I did not need. The job of plucking those little nuggets from the carpet need not have happened at all this particular morning if I had not dropped the ball on my responsibility to Let The Dog Out Before Coming To Bed.

We actually did go out, but she became distracted by boogers in the dark and completed only half her duty. Who would have thought my job involved ensuring the dog could crap with confidence. But then, if I had executed my job properly and slayed the scary night boogers, then this morning’s routine would never have included It’s Too Late. Initial thoughts suggested I should remain in bed; after all who wants to witness the dog getting slam dunked. Guilt pried me out of bed to shuffle downstairs to find the nuggets and save the dog from mama’s wrath.

Coffee brewed and morning breath braved for a kiss; she left for work. The dog breathed easier. The next phase of the Ritual now began as I bonded with the kids in front of the television to await our favorite cartoon, “Eek the Cat”. I am not sure why I enjoy this particular cartoon as much as I do. It may be that Eek the cat, catches so much abuse during a short thirty-minute program that refuses to dampen his spirits. Amid Eek’s exclamations of “Kumbaya!” as he survives another thrashing there remains his steadfast belief that “It never hurts to help somebody!” In each episode he consistently braves death and destruction to deliver something good. The message was never one of sensationalized Bad being overcome by Good; Bad was never the point of the show. That is why I liked it.

Megan’s blood sugar slowly ebbed upward to “self-destruct”, Michael no longer laughed at Eek the Cat, and my caffeine buzz started to wear thin. Not wanting to see Megan burst into flames, I decided the time to pursue The Feed had come. With Eek the Cat checked off the list, we headed for the garage to enter stage two of the ritual.

We climbed into a 1973 Datsun 240-Z with windows rolled down and the hatch removed to allow for noxious fumes to escape. I pointed us toward Venus. We actually never got too close to the sun since Venus was the name given to a Greek restaurant in our little town of Matthews, North Carolina. Besides, the Z-car had too many body leaks to stay pressurized in low atmosphere anyway. None-the-less, journeys of any duration had a galactic quality about them that only a ’73 Z-car could give.

We reentered the atmosphere upon pulling into the parking lot at Venus. An immediate sense of urgency surged through both children. Both kids had perfected the art of Checking Coin Returns For Cash on every mechanical device within a fifty-yard radius of the door of any building we attempted to enter and, oh yes, upon exit. Megan seemed to have the best luck of the two of them when it came to retrieving Real Cash. It could be she had the best results because she usually arrived first on the scene.

Upon finding a coin return empty, she had perfected another technique which if witnessed by an officer of the law would get her scolded and me arrested. She is barely four feet tall but could rock the largest newspaper dispenser from front to back with such vigor that you would swear she was fueled by pure adrenaline.

Maybe was the low blood sugar.

I have been known to attack a vending machine if money is taken from me and no product delivered, but I cannot recall attacking a defenseless newspaper dispenser with the intent of obtaining cash.

It had to be the blood sugar.

After throttling four newspaper machines and a pair of pay phones, focus returned to The Feed. We entered the thick atmosphere of Venus, a mixture of old smells and greasy morning fare. Obediently, we stood beside the Please Wait To Be Seated sign. The lone waitress approached, and we shared a head nod of recognition. She played as much of a role in the Ritual as anything else we experienced that morning. Methinks the nod of recognition had been more of a resigned “Here we go…” than “So happy to see you…again!”

I barely noticed her scowl because I was too busy looking at The Hair. Gravity had to be different at Venus. How else could anyone get that much hair to stay mostly vertical on top of their head? She could teach Don King a thing or two, that is for sure. Despite barely standing five-foot-three, she pushed nearly six feet when you included The Hair.

She shuffled toward us and spat, “Y’all can sit anywhere y’all want!”

And a good morning to you too, I thought.

I suppose I should not be too bitter toward her, she had to have been awake many hours earlier to construct that massive adornment perched precariously on top of her head. I supposed I would be sporting a citation scowl too.

Needing another caffeine fix, I ordered my coffee as both kids ordered their usual hot chocolate. I used to argue that it was too hot outside for hot chocolate, but as I sipped my scalding hot coffee, it became obvious just how ridiculous my position really was. I had even matured to the point of suggesting it for them now.

The drinks arrived and the kids began their normal procedure of Fixing and Stirring their beverage which included a couple shots of creamer, or whatever that chemical substitute was that came in those little containers with the paper tops super-glued in place. Megan wore most of the first container she attempted to open so I put the next two into her chocolate for her. Then they proceeded to the Stirring. I never could understand why Stirring hot chocolate took so much concentration. I suspected that the presence of a spoon in each cup of chocolate probably had something to do with it. Never-the-less, they both stirred until I tired of the excess spreading slowly around the table and called timeout.

The waitress returned for our order and stood patiently while Michael exercised his right to See What They Have, a habit frequently exhibited by his mother, while Megan decided what kind of goo should be under a thick layer of whipped cream on her waffle. I ordered a serving of cholesterol with a side of sodium and more caffeine as a chaser. Two pages of instructions later, the waitress departed toward the bowels of Venus to prepare food for The Feeding.

A table full of food arrived and the construction of the tower of Babel with grape and strawberry jelly packets came to a halt. I took Megan’s waffle with the strawberry-swill smothered with whipped creme topping and cut it into huge mouthful-sized bites. I repeated the cutting process with Michael’s French toast to minimize the pint of maple syrup already dumped on his toast. With all the syrup and goo shared equally between them, a sugar rush would soon to be enjoyed by both. The degree of sweetness had been so intense that I could smell it over the aroma of my own selection of eggs, smoked sausage, and of course, grits. Most of my fillings throbbed in mock irritation as I looked at their breakfasts floating in syrup. They consumed their meals in silence with an occasional Stir of the hot chocolate to wash it all down.

Megan finished first and proclaimed that It’s Time To Go. Michael ripped off one of my biscuits to which he applied enough Country Crock butter substitute to choke a normal human. Of course I had to have One More Cup Of Coffee in order to complete my own routine. The Feeding approached completion.

While paying the bill, the waitress with The Hair made the customary offer of either an Atomic Fireball or Bazooka bubble gum to both kids. She knew the expectation had been part of the ritual by the way they stood there with their noses nearly pushed up tight against the glass containers with The Look in their eyes which said, “Are you going to offer us some or are we going to have to ask?”

She knew…and made the offer dictated by ritual protocol.

When we exited Venus, I scanned the parking lot looking for cops as the kids fell mercilessly upon the newspaper machines and pay phones for a final Forage For Cash. Megan regarded the empty coin returns on a more acceptable level this time making me more confident in my earlier assessment that low blood sugar and violence to machinery were somehow linked.

The Feed done and the morning routine nearly complete with another adventure in dining behind us. The Next Feed caused me to wonder where we would go for lunch.

I fired up the Z-car and we charted a course for home.

In unison the kids said to me, “Thanks for a good breakfast dad!”

I thought about it for a second and replied, “Yeah, it was pretty good, wasn’t it?”

Silently I thought The Feed ritual was rather good too!

* * *

Thanks for reading my words.
I hope you enjoyed this piece!

Gary G. Wise