Day By Day – Allen Conkle

Day by day, in every way.
The alarm yells. Dad wakes up. Whenever I see him, morning or night, he is in a white T-shirt, white underwear, and black socks. The uniform that he wears to the garage is covered with oil so he changes in and out of it on the sun porch. Every single morning he calls out, “Up and at ‘em, Atom Andy.” I get out of bed and go down the stairs to the kitchen. On my way I rub against the textured paint on the stairwell that the drunk painter halfway finished. I get a scrape on my arm. Who would paint a stairway with sand paint? I pull out my Smurf bowl and fill it with half generic frosted flakes and half generic fruit-flavored circles. Dad drinks a pot of coffee and smokes seven cigarettes. On the seventh cigarette he proclaims, “That’s the last one.” He flips the Marlboro® pack into the trash. All our clothes are covered in this yellow film. He kisses me goodbye. His moustache tickles and it stinks.

Every day, in every way.
Dad wakes up. He calls out, “Up and at ‘em, Atom Andy.” I get up and run to the kitchen. I rub against the textured paint and get a brush burn above my knee. It barely bleeds. Dad plops the white boxes with black letters on the old, peeling Formica table. I have a bowl of half generic corn flakes and half generic rice puffs. I wonder why Dad buys the cereal in white boxes. I thought the one with the tiger tasted better. Or maybe it just looked better. After thirteen years, he quit smoking about a month ago, but all of his T-shirts and all of my hand-me-down Garanimals® are covered in this yellow film. Dad drinks a pot of coffee. It makes his breath stink. I hold my breath when he kisses me goodbye. I wipe my mouth.

Another day, another way.
Dad wakes up. He calls out, “Up and at ‘em, Atom Andy,” and I say I’m sick. Dad says, “OK, stay home.” I’m not really sick, just sick of getting smacked around in gym class. I hear the door shut and his car start. No kiss. I run down the stairs to the kitchen and rub against the textured paint that my Grandpop, another drunken painter, finally finished, and I get a brush burn on my shoulder. It bleeds a lot. The drops are tiny and kind of pretty, and I spray some Bactine® on the wound. Dad left the Mr. Coffee® on again and the pot is burned at the bottom. I spin the lazy Susan in the cupboard and all the generic cans make this swish of white like a canned-food ghost. I open a can of generic vegetable soup and grab a box of generic saltines from the pantry. I spread them carefully with some generic butter. I don’t bother to heat up the soup. I dip it right out of the can with my crackers. Mom used to make me saltines with butter. After, I go down stairs to the basement. It is starting to smell sour. I look through the chest filled with mom’s things. I find my baby book. It has a shiny satin baby-blue cover and the binding is falling off. The baby books says that I named my bowel movements, that I was obsessed with long hair. Then there are some scribbles that I probably made after Mom stopped being interested in documenting my progress. I like the smell of her scarves and slips and stuff. I put on her nightgown. It feels soft. It smells like Charlie® and mothballs. When she used to kiss me goodbye I could smell her all day.

One day or another.
Dad wakes up. He calls out, “Up and at ‘em, Atom Andy.” I go down the stairs to the kitchen. I rub against the textured paint that needs to be redone. It looks like two drunk guys painted it. I reopen a cut on my arm. I have a bowl of generic wheat flakes. Dad drinks a pot of coffee. It makes his breath smell bad. I go back upstairs and throw up. I am sick. Dad comes upstairs and kisses me on the cheek. The kiss is still gross.

One more day, in one more way.
I wake up. Whenever I see him, morning or night, he is in a white T-shirt, white underwear, and black socks. His uniform from the factory is covered with sweat so he changes in and out of it on the back porch. Every single morning I have to force him out of bed. I go down the stairs to the kitchen and put on the coffee. When he smells it, he comes down. I had my dad put slippery fake wood paneling in the stairway before he passed. I pull out two bowls and make some Quaker® Instant Oatmeal with apples and cinnamon for me and maple and brown sugar for him. We drink a pot and a half of coffee. It makes his breath smell bad so I tell him I won’t kiss him until he brushes his teeth. We have a no-smoking policy except for marijuana on the sun porch. After twenty years, we still get stoned and make out. Pot breath doesn’t bother me. We painted the exterior of the house recently in this strange pale-yellow color. I don’t know how I feel about it, but it was his idea so I compromised. All our clothes were covered in this yellow film. He leaves first. I work nights. He kisses me goodbye.

_______________________

Allen Conkle has been a practicing artist in Chicago’s performance/theatre world for the last twelve years. He is the co-founder of Nomenil and has enjoyed success with writing twelve original plays including: Faggot Bunny Daddy, Love Pollution, and Woman Alive! A different version of “Day by Day” was published in Swell magazine, along with another piece, Thank You Jesus. Lately, Allen is delving into video, performance sculpture, and public installation. He lives in the San Francisco area and is currently studying at The San Francisco Art Institute in preparation for an MFA. Allen can be reached via alkaline222 at yahoo dot com.

Photo credit: “Fruitloops © Thomas Hawk. Used courtesy of Creative Commons License.

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