The Cedarville Review 2021

31 | CEDARVILLE REVIEW a question: “What time are you coming over Thursday night for dinner?” I mechanically reach for my backpack that occupies the habitually empty seat next to my own. As I unzip my bag to look for my calendar, I bump over one of the stacks of paper whose home is the latter half of the kitchen table. My hands reach to straighten askew documents, but I am interrupted by the heavy thuds of his bare feet against the kitchen vinyl. “Don’t put those back. They all have a specific order. I’ll fix it later.” He grabs the slanted pile from my hands and places it carefully on the counter, next to the two plates, two cups, two forks, and two knives that I should have placed on the table thirty minutes ago. “Sorry.” “Don’t worry about it, sweetheart. Mistakes happen.” I resume the search for my calendar as he ambles back to the black stove, caked with old Aldi mac and cheese. I slip my calendar out from between my chemistry folder and calculus notebook, forgetting to re-zip the bag. My fingers search for the binder clip and carefully open the calendar to this week. Monday is mostly scribbled over, except for Dinner @ Dad’s 5-8, which is still in progress. I look to Thursday as the clink of my father’s spoon against the rice pot resumes. “Uh, I forgot to tell you, but after speech practice on Thursday, I have to meet Jillian and Blake to study for our calc final. I’m really sorry, they just told me yesterday and I forgot to tell you.” His heavy breaths replace the clinking of the spoon. For a moment, they keep time in the gap of our conversation. “But Thursdays are my days. We do dinner Thursdays.” “I know dad, like I said I’m really sorry. I didn’t think to text you yesterday when-” “Can’t you reschedule?” “Not really, I mean, the final is Friday.” “Why can’t you study Wednesday when you’re at mom’s?” “I would, but I’m already babysitting Wednesday after speech and then I’m tutoring when I get back from that.” “But Thursday is my day.” “Could we do lunch on Saturday instead?” “Yeah, in addition to Thursday. But you’re coming over Thursday. It’s my day.” “I have to study for calc Thursday. I’m not coming over. Sorry.” For another moment, his breath keeps time. Deep inhales, and deep exhales. I can feel his face radiating into the back of my neck as I turn away to face the shadows of his unvisited family room. Like clockwork, heavy steps carry him over to the table where he swings out his ashen chair and sits to my right. His glowing eyes turn to me, expecting to meet my gaze, but I stare ahead. I can feel my shoulders narrow and my stomach tighten as my foot swings back and forth over that homely dent in the vinyl. His volume climbs as his mouth shoots tiny bullets of spit against the side of my face, yet his actual words seem to fade into the inarticulable droning from earlier in the evening. He shifts his weight to his toes and leans heavily against the table, demanding something. He doesn’t seem to notice the smell of the burning rice. Moment by moment, I am allowing a handful of his words into my fortress. “Mine...You will...I don’t care if…” They may be another language for all I know. As he draws closer to me, though, I feel my