The kitchen table had been a wedding present- to Joni’s grandparents who had married in the spring of 1947 -and was a steel legged, linoleum topped antique that had originally been able to seat eight but was now limited to six as the center of three sections had been discarded before Joni had been born. She had set the table with care, using cloth napkins and opting to pour their orange juice into small, cut lead-crystal juice glasses which had also been her grandparents’.
Before she had started cooking she’d taken out two old but well preserved blue and white Dresden China plates from the scarred and marred hutch in the living/dining room. These plates now sat patiently on the counter next to the white, four burner, electric coil stove, looking to John as though they were eager acolytes content to patiently attend their goddess in joyous anticipation of receiving the aromatic fried eggs and thick bacon slices Joni had prepared for them while John refreshed himself.
Then again, maybe he was just really, really hungry.
John walked over to his wife, wrapped his arms around her from the rear and drew her to him as she took the two slices of bread from the toaster and placed both of them on one plate. She then let two eggs flop gently onto the toasted bread and placed two pieces of bacon next to them before grabbing the remaining plate and sliding the last remaining egg onto that and garnishing the lovely yellow and white tidbit with four pieces of bacon. “This smells heavenly,” he said, nibbling on his wife’s right earlobe.
Joni shivered at the play of lips, teeth, tongue and lobe. “You do too. Now sit!” she commanded.
John obeyed by releasing his wife, taking the two egg plate, his plate as he knew without asking, kissing her mouth and walking to the waiting kitchen table. Once there he sat his plate down next to the Chicago Tribune, pulled the chair at the head of the table out for her, collected another quick buss, sat next to her and said with a grin, “Wow. You’ve really outdone yourself. I especially like the cherries.” To the right of the napkins both settings held small plates with two Mandarin oranges that had been peeled and the sections partially separated. All four small oranges had half a maraschino cherry on top so that the fruit looked suspiciously like two, ripe, full, bare breasts complete with bright red nipples.
Joni laughed and popped one of her cherries into her mouth. “Well, they always were your favorite, right?”
John nodded and stabbed both cherry halves off of his oranges with his fork. He kissed them and then popped the maraschinos into his mouth. Looking at the table he said, “This is great.” Putting the fork down he extended both of his hands to Joni who took them and smiled back at him. “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts, of which we are about to receive. From thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Joni joined in on the “Amen,” squeezed and then released his hands. They looked one another in the eye for a moment and then John inquired, “So how are you holding up?”
Joni took a sip of coffee and shrugged. “Not really sure. I’m a lot better now that you’re here. The last three nights have been terrible. I know I must have slept some but I feel like the last time I got any sleep at all was New Year’s Eve. Mom and I went to bed just after midnight; no big surprise there. Neighbors’ fireworks kept me up for a while but I did my best to fall asleep anyway, what with work the next day and all.”
“I thought fireworks were illegal in Illinois,” John said with a wink.
“Yeah, well so’s shooting guns but I hear plenty of those around here, too. Oh, John,” she added, taking his hand and pressing it to her lips, “I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you.”
He smiled, poked the egg yolk with his fork, lifted the egg a quarter inch above the toasted bread, watched as the canary liquid spread evenly on the toast, turned his fork sideways in order to cut off a goodly sized corner, then stabbed the tasty treat and brought it to his mouth. “Wow,” he said, speaking with his free hand covering his mouth, “this is delicious. Just what the dietician ordered.”
“Good,” his wife responded. “I’m glad you like it.” She picked up a bacon slice, broke her egg yolk with that and then bit the crisp bacon in half. “John?” she asked, “You know how I said I didn’t have to go to work today? How would you feel if I did? Have to go in today, that is. Just for the morning! I could come home right after lunch.”
John tilted his head at her, shrugged and brought down the corners of his mouth while raising his eyebrows. “Well, you gotta do what you gotta do, but I thought you said you had the day off? Bereavement, right? What happened to that?”
Joni snorted, lopped off a goodly sized portion of her egg with her fork and answered, “My boss, that’s what. Old skinflint!” before forcefully slamming the bite into her mouth.