They Ate Museli Silently

Submitted into Contest #100 in response to: Start or end your story with two characters sitting down for a meal.... view prompt

4 comments

Fiction

They ate muesli silently. Or at least without talking, for the sound of slurping and chewing, the clinking of metal spoons on ceramic bowls, filled the otherwise quiet room.

    “What are you doing today, kid?” said the father, breaking the relative silence.

    “I’m not a kid,” said his son.

    The father sighed, his spoon hovering above its bowl. “Fine. What are you doing today, sixteen-year-old boy who happens to be my offspring.”

    The son rolled his eyes and kept eating muesli.

    “Answer me.”

    “Why?”

    “Because I’m your father.”

    “So?”

    “And because I love you.”

    “I love you too. Happy now?”

    His father sighed again, then gulped down a last spoonful and took his empty bowl over to the sink. He rinsed it out, as well as the spoon, and returned both to the shelves and drawers respectively. “Well, if you’re not doing anything then you can spend the day with me.”

    “I’m going out.”

    “Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. Where are you going out?”

    “It doesn’t matter.”

    “Well if it doesn’t matter, maybe I could come too?”

    “I’m meeting some friends. There is no way you’re coming. Get some friends of your own.”

    “Alright, kid. That’s no way to talk to your father.”

    “I’m not a kid.”

    “Where are you going with your friends?”

    “Can you stop interrogating me already?”

    “It’s only because I care about you.”

    “I can look after myself.”

    “Where are you going with your friends?”

    “Please just shut up.”

    The father took his son’s bowl to the sink and rinsed it, along with his spoon and returned both to the shelves and drawers, respectively.

    “You know, when I was your age, there was – Are you listening?”

    “Yeah,” came a muffled response from his bedroom.

    “When I was your age, there was much more respect, respect all around really: respect for one’s family, parents, elders, teachers, ourselves. You see, nowadays–” The front door slammed shut. The father rubbed his temples with a weary hand and sighed once more.

He sat down on the living-room sofa, got out his phone, and googled: ‘how to make your child respect you”. He clicked and scrolled and scrolled and clicked, the blue light shining onto his eyes. He fell asleep in that position, the self-help advice rolling over him in waves of fatigue and drowning him in a deep slumber. When he awoke it was still light outside, and so he went for a walk, a long walk. When he got back his son was at home, sitting on the sofa on his phone – in fact the same position he himself had been in.

    “Hey kid,” he said, standing in the doorway to the living room. “I have something to tell you. I want you to respect me more.”

    “For Christ’s sake, dad. I'm not a kid. How about you respect me for once?” He got up and strode past his dad, went into his bedroom and shut the door.

    The father knocked on the door tentatively, and when there was no answer, opened it. “I’m sorry.”

    “Okay. Good for you.” The son was lying on his bed, hunched over his phone.

    The father was quiet for a moment. “Is there anything else I can do, other than not calling you a kid, that will make you respect me?”

    “Look, I already respect you dad. I just don't like you poking your head into my business all the time.”

    “But I want us to be an open and communicative family.”

    “Is that something you read in a self-help book? Why? Why do you want that?”

    “Because, because it would make us a more successful family.”

    “How would it make us a more successful family?”

    “By bridging the gap between its members–”

    “Oh for Christ's sake with your self-help lingo. Why do you want a successful family?”

    “I suppose I want to be a good father.”

    “And why do you want to be a good father?”

    “I suppose – because my father was never there for me – and I don’t want – you to have to experience the failures – of my own parents.”

    His son got up and patted his father on the shoulder, and slowly pushed him out of the room. “How about you go and think about that on your own.” He shut the door and played music through headphones to drown the noise of soft and gentle weeping.

A few hours passed.

“What do you want for dinner,” said the father.

“Whatever you want.”

“Let’s get fish and chips.”

“Okay. Do that.”

“I said, Let’s get fish and chips.”

“How about you get fish and chips.”

“I want you to come with me.”

“I want you to go on your own. Be a big boy, dad.”

“You’re coming with me.” 

“Tss. Fine.”

“Put your shoes on.”

“I know how to get dressed, dad.”

“Well hurry up then.”

He put his shoes on. They began walking up the hill to the chippie. “What did you have for lunch?” asked the father.

“A sandwich.”

“What sandwich?”

“Chicken.”

“Just chicken?”

“Christ. I don’t know. It was just a sandwich. There was probably some other stuff in there. What did you have for lunch?”

“I had seared scallops with apple sauce for starters, a rack of lamb with red wine jou and 

creamy mashed potatoes for mains, and a creme brulee for dessert.”

“You're lying.”

    “Am I?”

    “Yes you are.”

    “Am I though? You never asked if I was going to do anything today.”

    “Fine. What did you do today?”

    “I met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We had lunch, played a few rounds of golf, and discussed the future of this country.”

    “Ha. Ha. Ha.”

    They entered the chippie and were hit by the salty, oily air. They joined the queue. “What do you want?” said the father to his son.

    “Fish and chips.”

    “Well of course fish and chips. Is there anything else you want – mushy peas?”

    “Mushy peas! Have all my birthdays come at once?”

    “You don’t always need a reason to celebrate, kid.”

    “Don’t call me kid.”

    “Sorry.”

    “Do you even know what a kid is – it's a bloody goat. You’re literally calling me a bloody goat.”

    “You're my bloody goat.” He reached out at his son’s stubbled chin.

    The son batted it away. “The man’s waiting,” he said, nodding to the counter.

    The father turned around. “Two fish and chips please, and a mushy peas with each,” he said, winking at his son. “Oh, and plenty of vinegar.”

    They sat outside on the low stone wall and ate, both not being bothered to walk home.

    “Why did you ask for extra vinegar?” asked the son.

    “Because I wanted extra vinegar.”

    “Yeah, duh. But why did you want extra vinegar?”

    “Because I like vinegar. Don’t you know this about me, son? I like vinegar. I like scallops. I like golf.”

    “Shut up. You’ve never played golf in your life.”

    “Now that’s just factually incorrect.”

    The chips went quickly and they set off walking back down the hill. The father’s legs ached even more than they had on the way up. “I’m getting old,” he said.

    “I know. It’s called aging. It happens to some people.”

His father was vacant, unresponsive to the sarcasm. “I mean it though. I’m withering away.”

    “Dad, you’ve already had a mid-life crisis. Don’t start this again.”

    “I just feel like my life is draining away, is being sapped from my bones, a slow exsanguination, a swift putrefaction.”

    “Dad, don’t talk like that. You’re not going to die. Then who would feed me and Charlie?”

    “I don’t know. They’d probably send you to an orphanage.”

    “I don’t want to talk about this.”

    “You’d be fine. It’s Charlie I would worry for. So impressionable.”

    “You’re not going to die.”

    “Would you rather that I get frail and you have to be my carer as I live in pain and sorrow and my own shit, and I lose my memory and forget who you are. Would you prefer that?”

    “I don’t know. You’re being weird.” They were both looking downwards, examining the cracks on the pavement and their feet as they walked.

    “I lost my job yesterday.”

    “Oh shit. Why didn’t you tell me?”

    He shrugged. “Why do you think?”

The son ran a greasy hand through his hair and looked up. “Because you’re ashamed.”

Their eyes met for a moment. Then his father looked pensively at the sky.

    “I love you, dad,” said his son.

    “I love you too, son. I love you too.”

July 02, 2021 20:25

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

Tayyaba Abdullah
08:26 Jul 08, 2021

I loved the amount of dialogue you added compared to the subtext (it may have been the focus of your story) but, I felt like I could understand the whole dialogue if I read between the lines too. Understanding the Son's perspective would have been a fun addition, since this story focus is on (human) "respect". Nonetheless, I found this story a bit cute and heartwarming, but seeming to lack purpose. Heres my critique on your peice! Im also new to reedsy!

Reply

Oscar Cole
16:47 Jul 09, 2021

Thank you Tayyaba for your feedback! I enjoyed putting such a heavy focus on the dialogue to try and convey meaning with just their words, but I think you are right that it would have been useful to explore the son’s perspective more. For me the purpose was of father and son connecting to each other and resolving an almost unspoken friction between them, but I appreciate your feeling that it lacked purpose - perhaps it would be better to add more obvious conflict to then be overcome. Thank you :) I wish you well your reedsy journey.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
John Carpenter
04:55 Jul 07, 2021

Very good.

Reply

Oscar Cole
16:48 Jul 09, 2021

Thank you John.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply