the short story project


Fran-Claire Kenney

What I Know at Breakfast

-I’ve always liked black coffee. I don’t have to indulge in cream by drinking it, and it’s an activity to consume, as if I’m drinking the numerous electrical wires surrounding our house, or liquid paper–but I still do it. I’ve always liked black coffee because drinking it is trying.

-I didn’t change into pajamas last night, though I had plenty of time. My jeans and sports bra and overwashed t-shirt grate yesterday’s debris softly against my limbs.

-Some kinetic instinct that I had made my high school years a clip from Run Lola Run. This got me straight into a mediocre mechanics job, causing me to keep running. I don’t know if I was trying to flee anything, but if I was, at least the view here is better than that from the NYC basement that my dad is probably still inhabiting. 

-The television propped across from me blares the midterm election results from last night. Not great for North Dakota, looks like. I lick half-melted grains of sugar from my teeth and read the newspaper funnies from a couple days ago.

-My wife Lisa cruises through the kitchen and lets our scruffy little dogs in from the Japanese garden. They scuffle about and snarl and playfully knock into the shins of the table and I know they’ll bug me to feed them soon. I haven’t even had my breakfast yet; just coffee. I wonder if I could offer the dogs some of my coffee.

-According to my dad a couple years ago, the state that my wife and I inhabit doesn’t exist. He doesn’t believe in North Dakota; that’s it. He’s got no regard for Missouri, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Montana, or most of Nevada, either, thinks that they’re government constructs made to hack elections and have us believing that for all our taxes the country is better off than it actually is. He was pretty skeptical of Wyoming up until 1998. I viewed his sudden change of heart, the abrupt realness and acceptance of a desolate state, as a glint.

-“How are you feeling?” my wife asks, knowing I’ve had a cold. “Like shit,” I routinely reply. She glides to my chair and kisses my cheek, then just stays there, kind of pinning me to this spot at the kitchen table with an unassuming fondness that she likes to keep on her sleeve. Mine is usually in my back pocket. I close my eyes and what I feel is that my mouthguard is still in and I’ve slurped coffee all over it.

-There’s this striking view that I just have to turn my head a little to look at: the house that my wife affords is on a ledge about as green as it gets up here, looking out over some small mountains. I used to go for runs all over them whenever I felt like Irish coffee. I guess there aren’t  many parts in this whole region without a view, but most of them overlook the plains; we’re upgraded to these mounds of rock, which, if you’d just see them, is certainly a plus.

-The toaster rattles as Lisa stuffs it with waffles. I take a deep sip of my coffee and envision my skull filling up with liquid paper, like I’m the trash bin on my computer.

-“Would you feed them?” she says, one eye on the TV.

-My fingers rap on the table and I think about running. I could settle for the plains; most people in this state do, if they settle at all. Maybe if we all jumped up and started running, there would eventually be nothing worth running from. Maybe everyone would find a safety cushion, like I found Lisa and coffee and flat-out money, and it would just even out. I evidently make her happy. She definitely keeps my head above water, financially and sort of mentally. It’s the perfect scenario to grow old in.

-There’s this photo of me and Lisa in Las Vegas from about fifteen years ago. This was before she was a bestseller and let her belly button piercing seal up. We’re both hammered and we hug and kiss and grin while Lisa’s band of roadtrippers and a couple of spectators cheer us on; we’ve just won a gamble. It was only seven hundred dollars, I think, but I was super anxious about it and so surprised that I screamed when I spun the wheel of fortune right. Whenever I get this pit in my throat, this sense that I should get up and go, I picture that moment because it’s an instant in which all of the things that make me anxious now are making me absolutely ecstatic and I have no idea what happens next.

-One of the dogs yaps at me. Startled, I knock over my coffee mug and the contents spill onto the floor. The dogs are delighted by this sudden shake-up and start to lap the coffee. “Oh, goddammit, Dymond,” Lisa groans. Even her glare seems to fit in with the blatant banana yellow of our kitchen walls and the outdoor pale green that only accents it. And I really don’t know what to say to that kind of glare.

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