Continued from: Death Tours: Part 2 — Oracle
Nick sat in the kitchen, looking down at his untouched breakfast. It was mid-August. The hottest day of the year. Nick’s father, Peter Bishop, sat beside him, eating his own breakfast. Nick’s mother, Karen, stood at the kitchen counter, pouring milk on cereal.
“Gonna be a hot one today,” Peter said, scooping up the last of his scrambled eggs with his toast.
“It’ll be uncomfortable up on that roof,” Karen said, bringing her cereal over to the kitchen table and sitting between her two boys, as she called them.
Peter said, “Yeah, but we should finally get it done today. It’s been a real pain in the…” he paused, glancing at Nick, and then said, “…tukas.”
This usually brought a giggle from Nick, but today, Nick sat, silent, still staring at his breakfast.
Peter regarded his son for a moment, waiting for the giggle that never came, and then he said, “I don’t know why they don’t just tear the building down and build a new town hall. Probably be cheaper than to keep fixing the old one.”
“You know this island, people aren’t good at letting things go. Besides, why ruin the charm?” Karen said.
“Ha. Charm. Right. This place is like a photograph of a time that never was,” Peter said. He ate the last of his toast and glanced at his son’s untouched food. “Not hungry, bud?” he asked the boy.
“You feeling okay?” his father asked.
“Yeah,” Nick said with another shrug.
“Okay,” Peter said and stood to bring his dishes to the sink.
“Dad?” Nick said, still not looking up from his food.
“What’s up, bud?”
“Don’t go to work today.”
Peter stopped, still holding the dishes hovering above the sink, he cocked his head and looked back at his son. He said, “Why’s that, champ?”
“I don’t know…” Nick shrugged, “Just don’t.”
Peter, still with the dishes hovering above the sink, glanced at his wife. She paused mid-slurp of a spoonful of cereal and raised her eyebrows. Peter looked back at his son and said, “I have to go, buddy.”
“Yeah, but…” Nick began to say, but stopped.
Peter placed his dishes in the sink and returned to the kitchen table. He said, “Look, pal, some of us have to rely on working for a living. We can’t all be basketball superstars or television personalities like you plan to be.” He ruffled his son’s hair and then turned to leave.
Peter turned back to the table. “What’s up, bud?”
Peter said to his son, “Go to the beach today, have fun. I’ll be home later, and maybe I’ll head down for a dip myself.”
“I’m sure you’ll be ready for one,” Karen said. “Supposed to hit 97 today.”
“See?” Peter said to his son. “Sounds like I’ll be dying for a swim.”
Nick winced. Peter glanced at his wife again. She raised her eyebrows.
Peter ruffled his son’s hair again, then he walked around the table to his wife. “All right, “ gotta get going.”
Karen stood to greet him.
“Dad, don’t go to work today.” There was an underlying panic in Nick’s voice that caused his parents’ glancing at one another to take an uneasy edge.
“Seriously, buddy, what is wrong with you today?”
“Just come to the beach instead.”
“Nicky, if I could, I would. I’d love to spend the day at the beach with you. But I can’t. I have to work.”
“Dad, don’t go.” Tears welled in Nick’s eyes. His parents looked at one another again.
An unnamable emotion crossed his parents’ faces. For a moment, they all felt that empty pocket waiting to be filled, but if people always heeded that feeling, nothing would ever get done, and so Peter broke the tension with his bright, toothy smile, and he kissed his wife. “Gotta go,” he said. He grabbed his tool belt from the counter and he left.
For most of the morning, as the temperature rose, so did Nick’s anxiety. He paced around the living room, looking out the window to the front lawn baking in the sunlight.
His mother walked past the living room doorway with a basket of laundry in her hands. She stopped, rewinding her steps to see her son.
She said, “Why aren’t you out playing? Or at the beach? Scooter not around today?” Scooter was a person, by the way, not a small bicycle.
“Why does Dad have to work today?”
“It’s his job, dear.”
Nick looked back out the window, his foot nervously tapping the floor. His mother watched him a moment, feeling that empty, ambiguous dreadful feeling again, but she chalked it up to just contagious anxiety caught from her son. She shrugged it off as being part of Nick’s growing pains, the anxiety of a coming adolescence, and she returned to her chores.
But Nick’s anxiety wasn’t caused by coming adolescence, and it felt like it was about to turn him inside out, as if his feelings were maggots wanting to burst from rancid meat, and that’s when he ran from the house, out to his yard, grabbing his bike and riding off down the road.
To Be Continued