King Vitamin is no Captain Crunch. The elder king with his crown of spoons grins maliciously from the box as if elated over the nuggets of cereal in his spoon. I stare, waiting for him to move, put the spoon in his mouth, to see how his face changes with just a bite.
These are my earliest memories of death.
Shorts and a t shirt, the later twisted on my body from being hastened out of the house in the early morning. The sun, bright and blinding. I squint, driving the shards of sleep into the corners, my bare feel on the gravel drive between our house and my aunt's burns my soles.
Across the table, my cousins carry on, pleased to have company early. The TV plays Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans is talking from beneath his hat. We don't have a television in our kitchen. Milk drips down their chins in wet white rivulets, exploding on the table and the gold brown linoleum floor, in sunburst patterns. Their house smells sour.
I want to go home.
They thought watching my grandfather fall down the stairs would scar me, scare me from going up and down them. The heavy thunk of each step as he rolled, rolled, rolled into a pile at the bottom. I don't have a problem with them. He was bedridden after that.
He was a seed man---sold seed at a store. His wife was the post master. She has been gone for years though and he has been living in the front room of our home. I have little memory of it, but they say we used to play. I do remember his skin. It was darker.
The cereal is hard in my mouth, scrapping tender flesh around the gums as I chew. Spoonful after spoonful, I wait as they take the body that is no longer my grandfather. I can not find it in me to grin like the king or be as excited as my cousins. My aunt offers pancakes, trying to fill the space within me, but I refuse and take another bite.
The grass is green on our side of the field, unlike the far corner which doubles as the baseball field in Spring. Our boys, in their orange jerseys and blue pants, line up at the twenty yard line, preparing to charge the football toward the end zone. The score is 12-6, not in our favor.
I am silent today, much different than other weeks when I am carrying on, yelling encouragement, along with the rest of the parents. When we arrived at the field, once my boy had run along to join his teammates, I told my wife we would lose today. I could feel it, like the fireplace smell in the morning air.
The quarterback hands the ball off cleanly to the running back and he swims through the opposing team, slipping here and there, avoiding their attempts to take hold of him. Ten yards. Five yards. The ref raises his hands signaling a score. Cowbells. Horns. A hundred voices. The boys run for the sideline, their own arms raised.
'Girls and glory,' he says from behind me.
I turn, raise an eyebrow.
'The reason we played when I was in high school,' he says, like a war veteran. Just the facts, no emotion.
His lips curl, adding wrinkles to his already well creased face. His shock of white hair firmly in place, remains unmoved the slight fall breeze. A blue sweatshirt swallows his body, thin with age. A grandfather. Maybe more.
'These boys, they are different. At this age, they play because they enjoy it,' he adds, his eyes crinkling behind wire rimmed glasses.
'I wonder when it is we lose that,' I reply, but he is already moving down the sideline in a slow gait toward where the boys are settling up to kick off again to the opposing team.
My stomach rumbles, asking for breakfast. Perhaps cereal.
But please, no grinning kings.
Writing just to write. We did end up losing 27-21 yesterday in a hard fought game. Thanks for all the love for my son as well on his special day....we had a great time at his birthday---will write about that later this week.