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Ballsy Breakfast

My niece Maureen, a seasoned professional who can help you reimagine education here, was inspired by John Steinbeck’s Breakfast to write the following:

Breakfast at the Commons by Maureen Powers

I never use an alarm clock. Before I fall asleep, I tell myself what time to get up. My body is very obedient. I am the manager on duty for breakfast at the Commons in Beloit, Wisconsin. Doors open at 6:30 sharp. I rub the sand out of my eyes and roll out of bed.

My foot lands on something hard in the pocket of the jeans I wiggled out of earlier. I try to stand on one leg to soothe the pain, lose my balance, and fall back onto the bed. I hit something solid. Leg bone. I don’t remember going to bed. I look at the rumpled covers and admit it’s not my room.

I lean in close to gather more clues. The smell of stale beer and tartar force me back. Male. The stubble on his chin confirms my suspicions. Unable to see the rest of his features due to the pillow over his face, I look around the room. The desk holds the usual college paraphernalia. An acoustic guitar in the corner doesn’t give me much to go on. I’m a sucker for a musician.

Sitting on the edge of the foreign mattress, pressing my hands against my throbbing head, I manage to find a fragment of memory. Beer pong and the manager at the C-Haus yelling, “last call.” I shake my head. My body always thinks it needs another beer when I know it doesn’t.

Shrugging my shoulders, I find the rest of last night’s casual ensemble and leave. Once outside, I turn around to identify the building. Not a frat house. There’s something.

Morning inches up between the buildings. The sky overhead looks as colorless as I feel. I know I’ll be late if I go to my dorm room first. I smell my pits and keep walking toward the red brick building flanked by white pillars. I am the responsible type. I show up on time.

I take the steps two by two. They trust me with the keys, so I open the door. I stand there for a moment, at the threshold, and let the weak morning glow slink into the dining room. I flip on the lights and watch the fluorescent bulbs flicker. I wonder at their struggle to shine.

Breakfast is waiting. I straighten my shoulders, stick my index finger in my mouth, and scrub my teeth with spit. I walk into the kitchen, think through the routine, and get started. My body knows what to do.

The clock over the grill section of the food line reads 6:15. I top off the last cereal container and wipe my hands on my shirt. Three short rings interrupt the silence. I walk quickly to the pale-yellow phone attached to the wall and answer.

“Commons. Maureen speaking… What? Seriously?… Dude, I have papers to write too. You think I’m writing them right now? No. I’m not. I am working. I am responsible.” With a small voice I eventually say, “Okay” and hang up.

The thirst I’ve been ignoring reaches a crisis point and I bend over the industrial sized sink and scoop water into my mouth with my hands. I splash a little on my face because I can still feel the beer buzz.

I open the double doors, and they are already there. Fresh, clean faces. Sober. Standing in line. I rush back behind the grill and take orders. Sunnyside up, over easy, scrambled. I go into automatic mode, and my mind returns to the black hole in my night. Early morning. The C-Haus closes at 3am.

“Poached” she says looking through me. “Poached?” I ask. She sighs like I am bothering her, “Yes.” I shake my head. “This is a grill, honey, no poached eggs.” I motion her on with my free hand, refusing to meet her eyes. I don’t see her either.


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