Jay Branch woke at 7 a.m. bleary eyed and unable to tolerate the glaring ray of sunshine peeking through the side of the white faux wood blinds that carefully masked the original replacement windows from the mid-seventies underneath. It was the last day of school before summer break and he wanted to make sure he ate breakfast with Grace before Suze picked her up. He pulled himself to the edge of the bed and his feet found the hardwood floors with a dull thud. He stood for a minute in front of the full length mirror his wife use to check herself in and glared at the figure he had become. His hair was still in the messy spike from the day before and he was still wearing the black Dickies pants from work and a black t-shirt that was now pulling snuggly across his burgeoning belly. He leaned forward sticking his face closer to the mirror and noticed that the beard that had grown out from the goatee now had grey specks in it and he desperately tried to remember when he decided to grow old.
When he entered the small kitchen that was now flushed with sunlight, he saw his daughter. She was already up and sitting at the small Ikea kitchen table, headphones on and staring into her iPad like the world’s most beautiful zombie when he made it to the bungalow’s kitchen table.
“You gonna look away from that thing long enough to eat some grub with your overly sentimental old man?”
Grace looked up and smiled at her father and then reached her arm out the way she had done since she was a little girl and Jay would lean forward until he was in that arm and she would pull him down into a crazy strong half hug.
“Hey daddy, did you have a rough night?”
“Yeah we got a bunch of well-dressed d-bags in at 10:45 and had to stay open till after midnight. You know the kind of idiots who need something from every single station in the kitchen until we told them it was closed then they just sat around for another hour drinking the same pitcher. We crawled out at 1:00 because I think our 80 year old dishwasher is finally losing his magic touch.”
“Oh my God is War Story Mike still around? He looked like a cast member of the Walking Dead when you hired him.”
“Yes and every day he is scheduled I keep thinking he won’t show and we will have to send the cops over to check on him because he’s dropped dead and every day that crazy old man just walks through the door. I think his anger keeps him alive, that’s the secret to long life; the more you hate it the longer you’ll have to deal with it.”
Jay grabbed the Cookie Crisp from the top of the fridge, sat down at the table and poured vanilla almond milk over it. Grace had decided she was a vegetarian a year ago and even though she had given up on that crazy idea a month after it had started, he found that the vanilla almond milk was sweet and had always liked his breakfast cereal a sweet sugary blast of good morning.
“Beeep Beeep!!!” the surprisingly loud horn from Suze’s light blue 2006 Toyota Prius was blaring from the drive way.
“She’s awful early this morning.”
“Her aunt got her a $100 gift card for Starbucks and its burning a hole in her pocket.”
“And as a good friend you’re gonna be sure to help her out with that problem I’m sure.” Jay smiled, his little angel was turning into the same kind of caffeine junkie that her mother had once been. Except back in the 90’s you had to go to Dunking Donuts and bring your own flavored creamer or Beth’s drug of choice was to go to the muscle head gym over on Powers Ferry Road and get something called Turbo Tea that was double sugar and triple the caffeine of a normal tea.
“What’s a good friend for?” she kissed her father on the forehead “Peeeew dad, your hair smells like a butt, take a bath.”
“Yes dear” He finished his bowl of sugar topped sugar and wandered into the bathroom to take the shower he so desperately needed.