TERRY UNFOLDED the school cafeteria napkin across his lap, careful not to graze the throbbing bruise under his jeans.
He lifted his slice of French bread slathered with tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella and noticed a blackened shard of crust. He flicked it off, pretending it was a raven as it skid across the Formica tabletop and onto the gray tiled floor.
“You think just like your mother,” his dad told him that morning as Terry had stuffed his Spiderman wallet and math textbook into his backpack. “Stop it.”
Terry took a bite now and savored the bread’s doughy texture. He’d spent five quarters, much of his allowance money, but he swallowed and his stomach felt better and he knew he’d done that all by himself.
“I can’t be near you,” his mother told him three nights ago as she slid into her peacoat and grabbed her keys from the kitchen hook. “Look what you make me do,” she said, her rage now snuffed. Terry felt the hot coffee cool through his pant leg. The mug lay broken into three chunks and a few stray shards after hitting the floor. “Look what you make me do.”
He kept eating and looked at the lunch room wall decorated with last week’s art contest winners. His sketch of a turkey in a pilgrim hat saying, “If you can’t beat them join them!” won first prize. As he’d colored it on the rec room table, his dad said it was “trying and weird”. But his mom called it “whimsical” and Terry smiled faintly at the construction paper blue ribbon affixed to its upper right corner.
He finished his pizza and, with his index finger, dislodged cheese shrapnel from his teeth. Then he crumpled the white paper plate into a tight ball and tossed it into the heaping plastic-lined garbage can, where it banked against the side before landing on the remains of a tuna-fish sandwich.
He looked at the metal-encased clock on the opposite wall. He had twenty minutes of recess left, then he had science with Mr. Cassady. His dad would meet him on the school steps today at 3:15. They were taking a cab to Mount Adams Hospital to retrieve his mom’s car from the parking lot, where it remained after she tried to admit herself under her maiden name.
Terry untied his hoodie from around his waist, then scurried under the green neon exit sign to the hall that lead to the playground. His zipper was broken and he had forgotten his gloves at home, but last week he had watched a special on Sir Edmund Hillary and decided to brave the cold.
As he opened the heavy wooden double doors, his stomach gurgled and a ripple of tomato sauce washed into his throat. He couldn’t wait to order pepperoni next week.
Litsa Dremousis is the author of "Altitude Sickness" (Future Tense Books), which Seattle Metropolitan Magazine named one of the all-time "20 Books Every Seattleite Must Read". Her essay "After the Fire" was selected as one of the "Most Notable Essays 2011” by Best American Essays, she’s a Contributing Editor at The Weeklings, and The Seattle Weekly named her one of "50 Women Who Rock Seattle". @LitsaDremousis, litsadremousis.com.