etiquette lesson

The hospital cashier is pregnant. She smiles at us.

My father pays, pulling a tightly folded stack of twenties out of his pocket. His hand shakes. It is another thing to monitor in the long list of watch and wait.

Breakfast for the two of us—eggs, waffles, bacon, yogurt—equals the price of a New York latte. My father brings his own fruit. He doesn’t mention the senior discount and doesn’t thank the woman.

When I sit at a table near the register, he motions to one closer to the window. I move as I always do with him.

“Don’t need to advertise the contraband,” he says, patting his pocket. The old man thinks everything is a crime or a conspiracy.

When he sits down, my father pulls the yogurt close as well as two bananas from his jacket. His eyes dart to the cashier.

“I’m sure she doesn’t care,” I say. I am not surprised by the stealth. I sip my coffee.

“You say that now,” he says, watching her as he slowly stirs the fruit from the bottom of the cup to the top and on to his waffle.

The empties, including the banana peels, go back in his jacket. My father is now a human trash bin. This is where we are.

“She’s not married,” he says, pointing a fork at the cashier’s bulging belly. I try not to look at her again but, of course, I do.

“How do you know that?”

“I asked her,” he says. “That’s rude,” I say. He shakes his head.

“You know what’s rude?” he says, mouth full of fruit. “Not having a husband.”

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