Breakfast is being cooked and the door is slightly open to let the burn out. The frying pan is thick and black with a hopping liquid of lard covering the rashers, sausages, eggs and black and white pudding. A deep fat fryer is agog with frozen chips and some Batchelors beans are stewing. You ask your sister to add some butter to the beans, for the flavour.
You sit down at the kitchen table. It’s covered with a sticky, laminated tablecloth. There is a lamp in the middle and a fruit bowl full of bedridden apples and In Memoriam cards for family members that have died in the last year.
While the food is cooking, you smoke cigarette after cigarette. Your sister gave them up fourteen years ago and hates them and you compromise by opening the door wider and waving the smoke out with your free hand.
You cough and rasp and when it gets too much, you sift for your inhaler in your handbag. You take a puff and leave it down beside your cigarette box. Benson and Hedges. They’re a phase. You smoked SuperKing for years but found they made you spew up green, hard bits of phlegm with edges of blood. You find that the Benson and Hedges agree with you better so you persevere.
Your food is served up and your sister slobs it onto a plate. A chip falls to the floor as she brings it and her plate over to the table. You carry on smoking, with the fag in your left hand and the fork in your right. It’s a game of tag team between the two. When the food is half way through, you take another puff of the inhaler and finish the cigarette.
You find you need to take your inhaler more and more every day and you tell your sister that you must find a new doctor as the one you have doesn’t seem to have a clue. She replies that doctors are getting younger and younger by the day and that she would actually know more than them. You say that the beans taste much better with the butter and that you add it to everything as low fat is actually meant to be bad for you now. You can’t keep up with all the changes, your sister says.
You have had enough and you leave the rinds of the fried egg on your plate, your knife and fork over them. You put your inhaler back into your bag and tell your sister that you will cook the breakfast for the men when they rise. You tell her you are going to start the Sunday newspapers in the sitting room first and you ask her to join you and to leave the cleaning up till later.
Your sister does not want to leave the cleaning and she tells you go to the papers as you are on holiday. She starts the same frying pan up with the same oil for the men. They will need more food so your sister slices some left over potatoes to add to the pan. She checks that there are cans of lager in the fridge and switches the radio on and waits for the death notices.
Rozz Lewis is a primary teacher living in Carlow. She runs a literary blog at rozz.ie. Her stories have been published in the anthology What Champagne Was Like, and literary magazines like Boyne Berries, Wordlegs, Silver Apples, Spontaneity, Galway Review, Bray Arts Journal and Literary Orphans. She has been listed for New Planet Cabaret, Penguin Short Story and Fish Fiction Prizes. She was highly commended for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year 2016.
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