Most days, Mom would be in bed when we left for school. Or, at least, when we tried to leave for school.
In the morning, I’d listen to the sound of my favorite cartoons from the living room as I made toast and hot chocolate. I’d smell the steam, then dip the corner of the bread into the hot cup. I’d watch the butter float away, expanding to the edges. I guess it looked like an oil spill, but I loved it. After I’d brush my teeth, I’d rush toward the door, hoping to make it before she could call, “Boys, come back here! I wanna see you before you go!”
My brother Jack and I would grudgingly walk down the long hall to her room. Dust played in the sun beams that peeked through cracks between the drapes. Cigarette butts in the ash tray reminded me that Dad had been there recently, although we had not seen him for days.
We had to sit on her bed as she prepped us for the coming day. I’d fidget, afraid of missing the bus. Afraid of not being with my friends. Afraid of being responsible for my brother. Afraid of missing the bell and being late for class. Afraid of explaining my tardiness to the teacher again, with the whole class listening. I hated being late.
Before we could go, we’d all hold hands and pray, finishing with hugs and a kiss. I’d bolt for the door, jump off the porch and race across the yard, looking around the corner to see if the other kids were still waiting for the bus. My brother would call after for me to slow down. No kids in sight meant that the bus had come and gone. We’d start walking.