The evening glow lit up the dining room table. It was warm in the house, and a soft tapping sound could be heard. A younger man in his late 20s sat at the table. He had short, red-tinged hair, and freckles speckled across his face. His deep, brown eyes were looking off in thought. There was a stack of papers with writing scrawled all over them. The handwriting was messy.
The loud noise of cicadas could be heard outside. To anyone not living in the south, it would seem almost unbearably loud, but this was just another evening for him. In fact, the cicadas were drowned out by the tapping and the hum of the refrigerator.
Suddenly, the tapping stopped as he sat up, and slowly scribbled something on one of the papers. Once he was done, he sat back in his chair, and the tapping of the pencil began again. A creek from the carpeted floor could be heard. The man turned his head quickly toward the sound. An old woman in a nightgown and fluffy, pink slippers had walked into the dining room, which was really just the kitchen with a big table in it. The slippers were a little dirty and worn from use. He had bought them for her birthday, a few years back.
“Mama, you’re not supposed to be up.” He stood, and pushed in his chair. “You know it ain’t good for you.”
The old woman smiled and shook her head, making her long, grey hair wave back and forth gently.
“Robert, sweetheart, if I stay one more minute in that gosh darn bed of mine, my muscles are gonna seize up.” She cleared her throat as she sat down. “‘Sides, that incessant tappin’ of yours is keepin’ me up.”
“Was I tapping? I didn’t even notice. Sorry, Ma.” Robert walked to one of the kitchen cabinets to get a glass. He then filled it with water from a pitcher in the fridge.
Mama peered over at the papers as she said, “Whatcha workin’ on, sweetheart?”
“Oh, n-nothing Mama. Just some stuff for Frank down at their church. You know Frank. He came in last week to borrow our radio.” He sat back down in the chair he’d been using.
“Oh, I remember Frank. Still hasn’t given that radio back.” She paused, and looked at the papers again. “You sure you can trust him?”
“Mama,” Rob sighed, his shoulders dropping. “Frank told us when he came here last that he’d bring it back on Thursday, and, if you recall, that’s tomorrow.” He slid the glass of water over to her, almost forgetting he had been holding it.
“Robert, honey. I’m worried about what you’re doin’.” She raised a hand to his messy hair, but thought better of it, picking up the glass and taking a sip. “It ain’t good that you’re minglin’ around with those negro folk. It...” There was another pause. “It just ain’t right.”
Rob clenched his fist under the table, pushed up his glasses with the other hand, and turned his full body towards his mother. His eyebrows were furrowed.
“I ain’t in the mood to argue with you right now,” he said. “It’s been a long day, and I just wanna get these papers finished.”
“I’m not lookin’ to argue Robert. I’m just statin’ my opinion on the matter.”
“Mama.” He rubbed his hand over his face, then said, “Mama, I love you so much, and I’m thankful for every little thing you’ve done for me, but I’m an adult. It’s my turn to care for you. I have trusted you, and still do, with everything in my life. Why can’t you trust me on this?”
She pursed her lips at his sudden outburst, but then let her face soften. Picking up the stack of paper from the table, she began to rifle through it. She chuckled before saying, “Honey, you’ve misspelled almost everythin’ here.”
“I can’t help it, Ma.”
“I know, and I’m sorry for that. You never did like readin’,” she sighed.
“I liked it when you read to me.” He gently took the papers back, and set them in front of him.
She smiled at that. This time, she reached out her hand to his hair and she did go through with it. She ruffled it up even more, and then coughed a little.
“Honey, I do trust you. I’m sorry that I haven’t been showin’ that. I just get so worried that you’re gonna hurt yourself, or get yourself killed. You know how it’s been lately… I only want what’s best for you.”
“I know, Ma, but I think I know what’s best for me. Let’s get you back in that bed. You're starting to cough.” He stood up, and helped her push her own chair back. After a minute of struggling, she was able to get up and walk over to her room with him by her side.
Robert helped her into her bed, and set her glass of water by the bedside table. He kissed her forehead before saying, “G’night Ma. Love you.”
“Goodnight, baby. I love you, too”
He turned off the light, and walked back to the dining room table. The papers were a little messy, so he straightened them up before turning off the kitchen light. He walked back to his own room in the darkness. The cicadas had stopped screaming. Now, there was the friendly sound of crickets chirping, lulling him to sleep.