The words over at Three Word Wednesday are gesture, immediate and treasure.
The shop is crowded, but they find a table with three chairs and sit, even though the boy is immediately more concerned about the window, what’s outside.
“Hey buddy, turn around and eat your bagel, OK?”
“But daddy, there’s a dog at my bike,” the boy says, turned in his chair, his small hands clutching its back. He has blond hair that’s obviously still being cut at home, blocked and slightly uneven. He wears a small leather fighter jacket, covered in flight insignia patches with a faux sheepskin collar. Over his eyes, chunky white-framed sunglasses with dark lenses.
The bike is his everything, his treasure. So new, the whitewall tires show no smudges. It’s silver, with black and purple stripes.
The training wheels are hard white plastic and are still showroom fresh.
“He’s sniffing it!”
“No, buddy, the woman is just tying him up so she can come in here. He won’t hurt it, I promise. Turn around and let’s eat.”
There’s a tired sadness in his eyes as he smiles at his son. His hair is the same straw-colored blond, but there’s the hint that he’s recently worn it high and tight, a Marine or Ranger clipper cut. He’s unshaven, wearing a gray hoodie under a jeans jacket. His hands unwrap the boy’s bagel, plain toasted with a schmear of cream cheese. The hands are calloused, cuticles chewed and scabbed over to the quick.
“What is this?” the boy asks.
“It’s a bagel, like a round sandwich, but for breakfast. See, watch.”
Wounded hands unwrap the parchment of his own bagel, sesame toasted with a healthy schmear of cream cheese. He stirs his coffee while chewing.
The boy slides up in his seat, a simple brushed metal folding chair that matches the brushed metal table, which is small and round and covered with the detritus of other’s bagel meals.
“It’s very messy,” the boy says, cream cheese on his fingers, the corner of his lips.
“Yeah, buddy, it can be, but watch me OK?”
The sesame bagel is deconstructed into four crescent moons.
“Mine, do mine,” the boy shouts.
Even undone, the boy picks at the bread, takes a taste, drops it on the paper and it falls cream cheese side down.
“Did you have breakfast already?”
“Kyle made pancakes,” the boy says, squirming in his chair to check on his bike. “And eggs.”
He's hurt. He moves a hand to his chest, a gesture that suggests he’s checking for the knife hole into his damaged heart. He raises his eyes to the ceiling, takes a deep breath.
And snaps his attention back to the boy.
“Hey, I’m learning how to cook,” the man says, corralling the boy’s bagel back onto the paper. “What should we have for dinner, I’m gonna cook it.”
“Steak? Really? Yeah, we can do steak. But get this, last week I cooked a turkey. I was thinking we could make turkey pot pie and you can help, OK, buddy? But we have to get to the grocery store for that. I wish grammy would hurry.”
The boy sneaks a backward glance at the bike, takes a bite of bagel, chews.
There’s an awkward silence between them. The man stares at the boy intensely, a tired smile breaks across his face. Another deep breath, a long, deep sigh. There is love in his eyes, but also a sorrow. He rubs his fingers across his lips, across his eyes, the bridge of his nose.
The shop is getting busy and someone asks if they can have the open chair at the table. He nods an OK.
“Looks like grammy doesn’t get to sit, buddy. That’s OK, we’ve got plenty to do. You know buddy, I’m thinking we should put up Christmas lights in your room. And maybe we should set up your aquarium. What do you say, buddy?”
The boy is consumed with the bike, but turns and smiles.
“Kyle says I won’t need my wheels when I’m 6,” the boy says, touching a cream cheese smeared finger across his left hand, counting out to six.
Hands become fists on the table, there’s a moment of violence in them, but the man relaxes, splays his fingers across the cool aluminum tabletop.
“Hey, Bryce, hey buddy, look at me,” the man says in a near-whisper. “Look at me and tell me that mommy’s happy.”