“Dad, how come you’re pulling in here? I thought we were going out for lunch.”
“I just need to pick up a few things. You want to wait in the car or come in with?”
I hesitated a moment but then walked into the small supermarket with Dad. It was Saturday morning, crowd light, incidentals, and bread appeared to be popular items based on store shelf availability. It was the first week in which the COVID-19 virus had been declared a pandemic in the nation.
“What are we doing here in the meat section?” I asked.
“You want burgers or a couple of steaks?”
“For dinner. It’s your birthday, Kathy.”
“Hey, what happened to going to the West End Buffet,” I asked.
“We can’t. It’s closed.”
“You promised, Dad. What do you mean it’s…”
“Closed, locked, no one working, COVID-19,” he said.
“Can’t we go somewhere else?” I asked, scowling in protest.
“Nope, the officials shut down all restaurants this week for two weeks,” he said.
“What will we do for fun? It’s my birthday!”
“We could go to church, but a number of them are closed, too. To them, keeping the Sabbath is one’s personal liberty anyhow.”
“Really Dad, what will we do?” I pressed.
“I think you’ll like the answer when experienced. Let’s move along young lady.”
I would be with Dad until Tuesday. Mom was getting to be a bit much, and by the weekend we both welcomed my time with Dad.
From the freezer, he picked up a pound of hamburger; from the shelves – a small bag of ‘Gold Meadow’ wheat flower, and some green beans, paid the cashier, and we headed to his car accomplishing the above within five minutes time.
“Kathy, this outbreak isn’t easy for any of us here in North America or anywhere else. Trust me on this, we will have some fun starting as soon as you decide so.” He then proceeded towards his apartment complex on the outskirts of town. Dad wrote movie reviews for a syndicated content service.
“I’m sorry Dad, but it hasn’t been easy since you and Mom divorced. We don’t have school, run club is cancelled, the stock market is going to hades, and my boyfriend broke up with me two days ago.” Dad turned toward me, took my hand and said, “That’s a lot for anyone especially someone 11-years-old to be dealing with on her birthday.”
He squeezed my hand. “How do you know about the stock market?”
“Mom had the news on all week. I heard it over and over again.”
Dad lived ten minutes from the supermarket, and when we arrived at his apartment, we put the burgers in the refrigerator, flour on the counter-top along with the other condiments. A moment later, the process began to unfold.
“Kathy, we’re going to make homemade buns for our burgers. We will cook the meat on the express grill and put what condiments we want on them. It’ll be just as good as the West End Buffet,” he said, hugging me around my waist.
“I’ll be creative like those my age on Food Network,” I said more to convince myself.
“Get out a plastic bowl, cookie sheet, and I’ll get the other ingredients.”
Blending it all together, I kneaded the dough as directed. It took a few minutes, and my arms and hands were tired once finished.
“Now Kathy, use your four fingers to punch down the dough. If you’re upset with me, Mom, anyone else, this will be a good way to let whoever have your anger.”
He demonstrated how to position my hands and do three to four punches into the dough releasing any air bubbles and rotated the bowl clockwise after each punch. It took a few minutes for it to raise and then about thirty minutes to bake on the buttered flat cookie sheet.
While the buns cooled, we grilled the hamburgers to our liking. Mine were done well, and Dad preferred his medium done. Suddenly, I noticed something occur in the kitchen nearby.
“Dad, did you see that?”
“A mouse ran across the stove top,” I said.
“I think to the left, but not holding my breath,” I said.
“I do have a bait station set up, so let’s hope he…” Snap, the mouse trap resonated through the small kitchen area.
“We got it. You want to pick it up?” He asked.
“Not me, Dad. That’s your job,” I said.
“Hand me a couple of towels from the roll and I’ll dispose of the critter.” He ordered me to wipe down the stove-top, which I did using a wipe. Our food had not come in contact with the mouse. We dished up and went ahead with dinner. The late afternoon sun shone bright in a cloudless sky.
“Kathy, I didn’t have time to make a cake, but got six cupcakes for us last evening. Sorry, I don’t have candles but…” The phone rang and Dad asked me to answer. I did, and immediately – a trio began singing me ‘Happy Birthday’. One of the trio told me this was my gift from Dad. On hanging up, I hugged dad, saying,
“You made a new promise, kept it, well done!”
“Couple more things for you to know. This outbreak calls for one to be creative. When life doesn’t go as planned, we have to find enough strength within ourselves and from God to do something different. We just did something different, and, was it fun?”
“Dad, yes. I’m glad we are together on my birthday.”
“Look inside your bedroom.”
“My bedroom, how come?” He pointed in that direction. Within seconds, I was staring at a new ten-speed bike.
“Wow! Is this for me?”
“Sure is, Kathy. Want to take a test ride?”
“Yeah, think so, let’s do it.”
“I have a bike in storage, and we can do a part of the bike trail this afternoon.”
We went about five miles in total. Seeing wild flowers bloom, hearing birds sing, feeling the cool gentle wind on my face or back, and being with Dad were what made for a special happy birthday. A memory made that would be remembered for a lifetime!
“Kathy, if tomorrow is as nice as today, want to go riding out to the nature reserve? It’s seven miles each direction.”
“I’m up for it. When would we go?”
“Mid-morning, ten o’clock or so.”
That evening we watched a couple of flicks. Dad took notes for his review column that he would write up before Tuesday.
The morning air was a bit crisp as the temperature had dropped about fifteen degrees this March. Dawned with a bike helmet, light jacket, and jeans, we set out for the nature reserve. We stopped at the local gas station to use their air compressor to fill bike tires.
About halfway to the reserve, we rode along Mundle road. This was a stretch of blacktop, two lanes on either side. A large-sized squirrel ran out in front of Dad’s bike. He made a quick turn to the right and landed in a pile of weeds on the side of the road. “Thanks for helping me removing the stickies or ‘hitch-hikers,” he said. Our ride resumed, the setting was quite breath-taking. The reserve was ahead on Henderson Road. Flowers in various shapes, sizes and configurations were in varying stages from budding to growing. Robins chirped overhead, and occasionally, a flock of geese strolled past.
“Can I have a couple of pieces of your beef jerky?” Dad asked. He had lost his snack in the mishap along Mundle Road.
“It’ll cost you,” I teased.
“Cost me what?”
“Dinner out tonight. I mean a Pay Per View movie, tonight.” He nodded yes, smiling. We had the reserve mostly to ourselves. A duck pond and rock wall were among its features.
Riding back to the city, we crossed paths with two of my school friends, Emily and Lynn.
“We’re having a get-together at my house this evening, can you come?” Lynn asked.
“Dad, what’s the answer,” I intoned.
“It’s up to you, Kathy. Lynn’s family live within one-half mile of me.”
“What time should I be back?” I asked.
“Just before noon at the latest,” Dad said. We arrived home, put both bikes in storage.
“See what I meant about going along with things? Life is more fun when you don’t try and plan every little thing.”
“Surprise!” I reached out and gave Dad one of the strongest hugs ever.
David Russell is a tenacious writer of short fiction, and general article content for a freelance service. He has had stories in micro-fiction anthologies, New Authors Journal, and on Spillwords.com. David lives with his wife, three turtles, and also plays piano professionally in lower Michigan, USA. Publications: 'Homecoming: A Memoir' (2018), Amazon; 'Waiting For Messiah' (Anthology - 2017), Smashwords.