A Short Short Story by
Louis Charles Lohman
Every day, his father would come home from work, and as he came around the corner, he could look down the long row of stone balustrades and see, halfway down the block, the top of his son's head as he sat, third stair up on the stoop, waiting for him to come home. He would walk down the street, each step taking him closer to his son, the late afternoon sun warm on his face, the love of his son warming his heart.
When he got to where his son was sitting, he'd look up to see his wife in the window of their third floor walkup and he'd wave to her. She'd smile and wave back, blow him a kiss and then disappear into the apartment, him knowing full well how she would look, standing at the little stove in the kitchen, cooking supper.
He'd sit, then, next to his son. He'd look him square in the eye, and though not a word was spoken, everything was said in that long look into each other's eyes.
If his son had had a bad day, if things had not gone well at school, he'd see that and put his arm around his young son's shoulders and pull him close. He'd kiss the top of his head and the both of them would know that the next day would be better.
If his son had had a good day, if his eyes were bright and cheerful, as they were on most days, they would both smile and feel the warmth and good in the day they each had had.
And then, on either day, his Dad would pull an apple out of his coat pocket, and a knife out of his trousers, open the knife, and begin slicing the apple. He'd first hand a slice to his son, and then cut off a slice for himself - a big, round, white slice. And when they both had their slices, they would both stick the whole thing in their mouths and chew and grin and slop apple juice down their fronts because you can't smile and eat a whole apple slice at the same time without dripping stuff down your shirt that you know Mom is going to scold you for, later, gently.
And they would sit there, eating apple, until the whole thing was gone and it was time to go into the house and get ready for supper. But during this whole time, they never said a word. It wasn't necessary. They knew each other so well, they loved each other so much, that no words were necessary. And this they did every day his Dad worked.
It was the day after the funeral. His mother sat in the window, the ache and pain in her chest so great she could hardly take a breath. She thought of her husband and the life they had had together. She wondered what was going to happen now. And she wondered about her boy. How was he ever going to get over the death of his father. And how was she.
It had been four days since the news came that he wouldn't be coming home from work. The boy sat on the stoop every day. It was almost as though he refused to believe. Almost as though he couldn't understand that his Dad wasn't coming to sit on the third stair up any more. And there wouldn't be anyone to bring him apples and slice them up and no more juice down the front of his shirt.
She stood, head up toward heaven, took a deep breath and decided it was time to bring the boy in from the stoop. She slowly, one heavy step at a time, went down the dark and narrow stairs toward the front door, first one landing, and then another landing and then, finally, she was at the inside door. She reached out her hand and gripped the knob, trying to keep her breath and not break down into sobs, trying not to give in to the grief. She twisted the knob and slowly pulled the door open, looking down to her son through the glass in the outer door. As she did, her eyes filled with tears and she leaned against the wall and slowly slipped to the floor. The grief came flooding through her and she could no longer hold it back. She silently cried as she watched her son, through her tears, reach out his hand and pick a slice of apple out of the air, stick the whole thing in his mouth, and smile, apple juice running down his chin.