Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Honey Bee

I see the little blinking blue flashes first, under the café table nearest me, flitting like fireflies at dusk. I look again and see tiny tennis shoes pitter-pattering about, a blip of blue shooting out with each step. A young dad pulls the heavy wooden chair out from under the café table. It makes a shuddering sound against the hardwood floor as if clearing its throat.

The little boy attached to the tennis shoes has messy yellow hair and he isn’t still long enough for me to make out the cartoon character on the front of his t-shirt. He is heaving himself up onto the chair before his dad can help him. I see the crinkle of determination between his brows as he lifts his head up, willing his body to follow. With one hand he still squeezes a worn and weary stuffed bee, and the other hand barely circles the width of the chair’s thick arm. But the blue-lit shoes go out as he swings himself around and plunks his stuffed bee onto the table.

“You stay there,” he says to the bee.

He begins a list of ‘do-you-likes’ directed at his dad.

“Do you like eggs? Do you like cookies? Do you like cars? Do you like trees?”

His dad considers each and answers.

“Scrambled, with hot sauce…. Oh yes, cookies. For sure…” while stepping back and forth to the counter to grab their purchases. "...well, cars, yes, but traffic no.”

He puts a large coffee mug and plate of scrambled eggs on his side of the table, a thin plastic cup of juice by the boy, and moves the stuffed bee over to put a muffin in the middle.

“And I love trees,” he says, as he finally sits in his wooden seat.

“You love trees?” the boy questions, holding out the ‘uuuh’ in love even with a mouth full of muffin. He is staring his dad down.

“Yes, I love trees. But I love you the most,” he says, smiling. The left corner of his mouth tilts higher than the right. He takes a sip of coffee and winks at his son.

The little boy kicks his legs a few times and scratches at his cheek where muffin crumbs are tickling him.

“Well I love Mustard the most,” the boy says reaching for the stuffed bee and kissing it on the head and squishing their faces, chin to chin.

I quickly look back at the dad and see what I imagine to be, both a rewinding of all that has been – and a fast-forwarding through all that might be – all in all, his life with his son.

I watch his smile soften, the left corner drops, actually. They are each completely alone at the table, just for a moment, and then his smile returns.

“You do, do you?” He says this lightly while looking down at his eggs, splattering them with hot sauce, maybe more hot sauce than he means to.

The little boy swallows, and I don’t know if it’s something in his father’s voice or the incessant shaking of the hot sauce bottle, but he stops kicking his feet and looks up at his father. He sets Mustard back on the table, pauses, and I swear, he sighs. A real adult exhale, so full and complicated and wise.

He wiggles up onto his knees, leans as far across the table as he can, and whispers to his father. I lean in as well.

“But Mustard is just a honeybee, Daddy.”

His daddy looks up and they both smile, the left corner a little higher than the right.