“If I get a hot dog, do I have to eat the bun?” I asked my dad. Every time we went to Eat N Park, I got the hot-dog-and-fries kid’s meal. And every time we had this argument.
“Yes,” he said.
“Can I ask them not to grill it?”
“Fine,” he said. “Hey, did you know I used to sell the ice machines that make these ice cubes?” He flicks his cigarette into the ashtray near the window, and then tries to fish one of the cubes out of his class of Coke.
“Why don’t you just eat your dinner,” my brother said. He kicked my leg under the table. My brother was probably seven years old, making me ten. He was short and thin, his hair still light brown but by this time the curls had grown out and his hair had flattened, parted down the middle. He had glasses; he had his first round of braces. At this age (and pretty much until I left for college), our favorite past time was fighting with each other.
“Stop it. Can’t we get through dinner just once without any bickering from you?”
The nights my Mom didn’t waitress at Tivoli’s Restaurant she visited– usually Mondays and Wednesdays. These were “mom days,” – she would arrive before my dad got home from work and take my brother and me out to eat dinner or to Westmoreland Mall. When we lived in the house on Gratz Street, my dad would stay in his room, watching television by himself, while my brother and I sat with our mom in the living room. From time to time he’d ask if we all wanted to go out to dinner together – which is how we ended up at Eat N Park.
When dinner was over, my mom reached for the check. She began shuffling through bills in her wallet.
“I’ll pay tonight,” my dad offered. He pulled his silver Discover Card out of his wallet.
“You don’t have to do that,” my mom said.
“I want to. You can leave the tip.”
I think he liked to pretend, on these Mondays and Wednesdays, when we went out to dinner together, that we were still a family.