Toast, Eggs, and Brunch Salad

Mourning Routine

The wife’s been cooking breakfast for me recently. It’s been a nice change from our normal routine, minus the fact that she’s been dead for about a week. I’m normally the breakfast guy, not her. But maybe she’s simply got more time to cook, being dead and all.

Once she took a turn for the worst, I had to put together a little morning routine to keep myself sane. I’d wake up at dawn, pray, then go on a jog. I despise running, I really do, but my 30s put me in a hole—a twenty-pound overweight hole. After seeing my wife start to fall apart, I knew I needed to get back into an active lifestyle. We’d just bought a new house, we’d done adult things like draft wills and take out life insurance policies, I even bought a stock or two. I couldn’t throw away all of that because I couldn’t manage my weight. So, I started running. I needed to be the strength in the family. I had to pick up the slack.

After my run, I’d get home, shower and then prepare us a breakfast. I’d cook up some scrambled eggs mixed with cream cheese, fry up some bacon, toast some multi-grain bread and top it with raspberry jam. I’d let my wife pick at it for a bit, but once she felt nauseous (basically every day), I’d eat the rest.

The best part was the orange juice. I had to chop up her medicine into a powder and mix it in, but I made up for it by buying us fancy champagne glasses. Technically speaking, we can’t take medicine, so I never told her about it. We always felt like we were enjoying a Sunday Brunch out with those champagne glasses. Whenever we finished, I’d whisk away the plates and the breakfast in bed tray, trying to ignore the new lines on her cheeks and the rapidly thinning, languid hair.

At the funeral, the elder held my shoulder. I watched her get buried. I should have cried but I didn’t. I wondered if people expected it. The day after the funeral, I tried keeping my routine going. I doubled my normal miles, jogging in cold meditation. I reached the door of my home shaking then took a shower. I pressed my forehead against the cold tile—eyes closed. It slowly warmed as the water hit it.

Entering the kitchen, I saw the breakfast. Rather than placed on the counter, it had been laid out on the breakfast in bed tray. A plate of cream cheese scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon—one chewy, one crispy, two slices of whole wheat toast cut into triangular halves with raspberry jam spread, and that gleaming glass of fresh orange juice, sparkling in its champagne glass. Each breakfast item in the exact place on the tray where I’d always plated them. I double took, unsure of what I saw.

“Diane?”

I grimaced. Dead people don’t cook eggs. I must have left the front or back door open. Maybe a member of the Kingdom Hall stopped by and prepared something as a pick me up. But the eggs still steamed. I would have seen someone pulling away. There weren’t any dirty pans on the stove or silverware in the sink. All seemed untouched—but there was a perfectly prepared breakfast—better than even I could do it. At Kingdom Hall, we always talk about not wasting and I had just gone on a run. So, I sat down and tucked in. About halfway through the eggs, I found a yellow sticky note underneath the plate.

To Daniel.

It was in my wife’s script. I put down my shaking fork and looked for someone behind me. No longer caring about wasting the food, I threw the rest into the trash. I wouldn’t have drunk the orange juice anyway, but I made a point to put it right down the drain. I left the house, trying not to think about the morning as I took care of estate paperwork at a local coffee shop. I needed white noise, not the dead silence, or maybe not so dead silence of my home.

I had a restless sleep. The following morning, I went to the kitchen and felt relief as I didn’t see any breakfast. I put on my running shoes and went even farther than the day before, adding 2 more miles to the total I had hit the previous day. I did it without a thought for my fitness level, thinking about my wife the entire run, hardly noticing my chafing thighs.

It had only been a few weeks ago when Diane collapsed on her way to get the newspaper. A neighbor called an ambulance. I was out running and couldn’t stop it. We can’t accept medical treatment, but since Diane had passed out, they took her anyway.

When I arrived at the hospital, her garb revealed how skinny she’d become. I knew she was losing weight. How could she not? She hadn’t eaten in almost three days. I kept giving her orange juice to try to keep her sugar up, but she refused solid foods. She looked like a bunch of broomsticks tied together and I felt a pang of guilt course through me, knowing I’d probably rot in Hell for my selfishness.

When the doctor came in, he had a reserved sadness in how he spoke to us.

“Mrs. Morgan. I’ve been made aware that you have chosen to refuse treatment today.”

My wife looked at me. I nodded.

“When God is ready to take me, I will happily go with him.”

The doctor nodded.

“I believe it’s my duty to inform you that simple bloodwork could potentially save your life. You could have something that’s easily reversible.”

“I don’t see how messing around with your gels, powders and radio waves will get me any closer real health. God will take me when he is ready.”

The doctor gave me a sour look. Seemed to decide whether or not to continue.

“Your symptoms do not reflect a terminal disease or anything long term. In fact, I see similar symptoms in a specific type of patient that I see about once a year in here. Would you like to know what type of doctor I’d normally refer that patient to?”

Diane wavered.

“What type then.”

“A toxicologist. I think with a blood sample, we could easily find the agent that has caused your sickness. Even the smallest change in your daily routine could save your life. Do you work in a basement for example? Or take non-approved medications?”

“I don’t take medicine,” said Diane, extremely offended, “I’m a Jehovah’s Witness.”

“You could be allergic to something. Blood work could help us save you.”

“I’m not interested,” said Diane, cutting him off.

“Very well, Mrs. Morgan,” said the doctor with a sigh, “I will have the nurses process you and release you. I hope your condition improves.” He looked at me, not her, as he spoke.

“Maybe,” he said over his shoulder as he left, “you should cook for yourself a bit more. I’ve heard good things from people doing small chores around the house. Give yourself something to do. Be more active. It might help reverse some of your symptoms.” He left in a swirl of white coat and pounding shoes.

That doctor was a real piece of work. Still thinking about him, I ran right past my house. I doubled back a block. Looking into the window from the street, I thought I saw a filled champagne glass on the kitchen counter. I moved around to my front door, testing the knob. Locked.

I slipped my key from my pocket, slid it into the deadbolt, opening the door as slowly as I could. If someone was inside, I needed to know. Without taking off my shoes, or closing the door, I rushed into the kitchen. Before me, sat another immaculate breakfast. Perfectly cooked eggs, bacon, golden toast and fresh jam—all piping hot. The ice-cold orange juice sparkled, reflecting the spotless kitchen in miniature.

I threw out the orange juice immediately, angry that I had just missed the perpetrator. I raided the refrigerator. I took out the eggs, any and all bread, the bacon, the jams and the orange juice. I emptied the contents into a trash bag, took the bag to the bin and rolled the bin to the end of the driveway. Before I even turned around, I knew I could do one better. I took out the bag, put it in my car, drove to the nearby elementary school and threw it into the massive dumpster. No ingredients, no breakfast.

I booked a hotel. I worked on moving money from my wife’s accounts into my own to pay the funeral and cremation bill. I got a call from an unknown number and let it ring. The left a voicemail. I put it on speakerphone as I worked.

Hi Dan. This is Deputy Morrow with the Casper Sheriff’s Office. I first, wanted to extend my condolences for the passing of your wife. I’m calling because the coroner reached out to us and I’d just like to ask you a few questions when you have the time. Give me a call as soon as you can.

I deleted the message.

The next morning, I woke up at the hotel and without really thinking, took my run back towards the house. Even though my knees ached and I’d never put in so many miles in such a short time, I ran the farthest I’d gone yet. Nearly 13 miles to get from the hotel back to the house. When I arrived, my tears mixed into the sweat pouring down my face. I wish I could say I cried for her, but I knew I cried for me. The full glass of fresh orange juice, the plate of steaming eggs, the perfect bacon, the golden toast all sat waiting as I walked into the kitchen. Resignedly, I picked up the note.

To Daniel. God knows when we’ll meet again.

I lowered my head, shaking. I thought I could do this. We had such a tough year. Years. A decade. Maybe more. How many times had I tried to make things better, make her laugh, make love to her? How many cold nights had we shared in silence? At first, I made her breakfast to make things better. It taught me that I could never make things better. I prayed every day. We couldn’t divorce. What would the elders have said?

God knows when we’ll meet again. She was right. God did know. And I would make sure that I’d find out today.

I stood up. Even though I had only just returned from my run, I left the house at my fastest pace yet. The police station was a good fifteen miles away. I was going to run there. If I made it, I’d turn myself in. If I didn’t, I could start my penance with my true judge early. I am a coward, but not today. I run towards my fate, not knowing which path God would take me down. But I am his lamb and I will run with him wherever he may take me.

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