Sowing Wild Oats

Robert spoons his cereal as quietly as he can, as if the noiselessness means he's not really there. He skims the little circles of oats off the milk without touching the sides of the bowl, only capturing a couple at a time. It's inefficient, he realizes, but better this than waking the light-sleeping Beth, hearing her shuffle from the bedroom, having her sit bleary-eyed and wordless while he eats. He prefers his own silence to the silence they share when they are together.

He skips scooping the sugar from the bottom of the bowl and leaves it for her to clean up. He remembers how this would have caused a discussion in years past. She would have reminded him to put his dishes in the sink and he would have said but I was in a hurry and she would have said there is always time to be considerate and he would have said but I have to get to work on time and she would have said that he should get up a few minutes earlier and he would have said that if she hadn't kept him so late he could get up earlier and she would have said I could always just let you go to sleep tonight if that's what you want and he would have said who's the one who keeps who up? and she would have smiled that smile and he would have touched her and she would have melted into him and they would have started their night early. Now it's just all cleaned up when he gets home.

He is thinking of coming home late tonight. He has been thinking of this for a while, but maybe this is the night he will do it. It's Tuesday, which means pizza. He'll have to call early before she normally orders it. It usually arrives just about the time he gets home, piping hot out of the spage-age bag the guy in the red shirt and hat keeps in the back seat of his small, rust-pocked car. Pepperoni and mushrooms on his half - he never has to tell her and she never has to ask. He will mention the few interesting things that happened at work and she will nod or smile or shrug, whatever is called for. She may tell him something that happened to her, but he doesn't expect it anymore.

Sherry at work has been talking to him. They started talking to each other when she brought a small bag of Cheerios to work for snack. He saw her eating them and mentioned, for no good reason other than to see if a pretty girl would talk to him, that he eats that cereal every morning. She said that oats are supposed to be good for your heart and he said that he thinks that the way he eats them, with whole milk and lots of sugar, may be counterproductive to his well being. She smiled. He wanted to touch her.

He and Sherry talk almost every day and she has given Robert the impression that if he would only ask her, she'd have dinner with him. He has tried to put that thought out of his mind, but every morning, while he is eating his little circles of oats, he thinks of her and how he wouldn't try to be so noiseless in the morning if only it were her in the bedroom down the hall.

He has thought of coming home late many nights, has practiced his phone call to Beth and rehearsed his question to Sherry dozens of times but he has always chickened out.

He pushes away from the table and pauses, then picks up the bowl and rinses it in the sink, taking care not to clink it on anything. He then goes to the pantry, retrieves the Cheerios from the middle shelf, pours enough for two into a small plastic bag, and slips out the door for work.

About the author:

F. John Sharp is pleased that you have read his story. He thanks you. His work has also appeared in Snow Monkey, Paumanok Review, The Story Garden, Pulse, Prose Ax, In Posse Review, and Peninsular, among others, and he has two poems in the book, 'An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind,' published by Regent Press.