My mother went to bed early. Her voice honked when she wasn’t sniffling, and all her pockets were full of twisted Kleenex. My father sat in his chair watching television, some woodworking show, though he isn’t too handy. Do all fathers have a chair in front of the television? Would I?
I’m making tea for my father because he has the sore throat part of the cold. They have packets of lemon herbal tea. It’s Chinese. A peaceful, cross-legged man nods in the middle of the box. I close the cabinet door on him.
I don’t have the heart to suggest to my parents that the Chinese are no wiser than we are—they seem to find Chinese wisdom everywhere now. I’m wondering: if those Chinese people are so smart, how come they’re still communists? Acupuncture, tofu– sure. Feng shui? If it makes you happy. But they aren’t showing the way on tolerance and creativity, now are they?
Two of the teabags sit ready to board, like paratroopers, on the white tiled countertop, and the stainless-steel teakettle is on the stove. The jet of gas splits full strength underneath. I watch the dark window over the sink. I notice my mom’s stash of Girl Scout cookies, betraying themselves through a thin plastic bag hung on the pantry door. I would know that shape anywhere.
When I bring my dad the tea, he turns off the commercial that was shouting about carpet, and silence opens in the house. “It’s good to have you home, David.”
“Yeah,” I said. “You know, I was thinking, have you seen my Pinocchio book? The one we used to read?”
“The Pinnochio one? …No, I don’t know, I forgot about that one.” He blew on his tea. “I don’t know, I’d guess it’s up in the attic, unless something happened to it.”
“Maybe I’ll look for it,” I said.
“It’s too cold up there right now,” he said.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“Oh, I can’t sleep lately,” he sighs. He sets down his tea and punches buttons on the remote that don’t wake the television, just to feel the rubbery knobs.
“The tea’ll help,” I said.
“I put honey in it.”
“Good, thanks.” He tries a sip.