Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Over Cereal

I was eating breakfast one day, just me and Amy at the kitchen table since Maria's school started later, and Uncle John came in. He leaned against the counter, already in his cop uniform, badge and blue shirt, and he stared at us. I pretended not to notice him, and I think Amy didn't notice him for real. She was good that way. I crunched my cereal, my Cap'n Crunch, the plain yellow kind. It rang in my ears, crunched loudly, crunched deliberately.

"You do drugs in Texas, Berto?" he asked. He had not sipped his coffee yet.

My back was to him and I did not turn around. I chewed and swallowed. "No," I said. I tried to make it light, fun. Not jokey, but definitely Not A Big Deal. But instead it sounded low, got even lower at the end of the one syllable, came out defensive.

He drank from his coffee cup, but he still looked at me. I could tell.

"Look at someone when they ask you a question, Berto." He always talked like that when he spoke to me, saying my name at the end. And he did it with other people when he was talking about me. I won't have someone in my own home acting like that, Lydia. Or, You should be spending your time with Maria. Boys his age don't need friends who are girls, Amy.

I turned around in my chair and looked at him. I didn't say anything. He was about to speak when Amy dropped her spoon in her bowl, splashed milk on the blue-checkered-with-geese tablecloth and said, "Bus is coming." She scooted her chair back. "Berto," she said, leaving the kitchen.

I left too, grabbed my backpack, and we walked together down the driveway. The bus was nowhere in sight and me and Amy didn't talk.

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