Davey sat on the next to bottom step of the cellar stairs and watched his Grandfather intently. The old man's, big, capable hands were smeared with black grease and a matching stain discoloured the grey stubble on the side of his head. The scene was comfortingly familiar, as though he had been doing this forever, just sitting on the stoop and watching his Grandfather tinker.
"Whatyer doin' Granpa?"
"Watchin' yer nose run!"
Davey knew this couldn't be true. His Grandfather had been poking around down inside the big box for at least freety-nine minutes, and hadn't looked his way once, but he dragged his sleeve across his face anyway.
"Ain't yer got no rag?" His mother's question fell heavily on him from above.
"Sorry, Ma." His arm was abruptly lifted above his head.
"That's a clean shirt!" Davey knew this wasn't true, he'd seen the evidence when his sleeve had passed before his eyes en route to a shoulder-straining location somewhere above.
"Fer Crissakes, Pa, ain't I got enough to do without getting grease outta yer clothes."
Davey realised his sleeve wasn't the cause of his mother's wrath, his Grandfather had just absent-mindedly scratched his paunch, adding four parallel streaks of black to the red and green plaid pattern. "Wimmin," muttered his Grandfather.
Davey's arm suddenly unsupported, fell from the sky as his mother snarled "Supper." The cellar door slammed above and behind him, and his Grandfather grinned.
'What yer makin' anyways? His mother reached for the mashed potato, as a way of indicating she wasn't really interested in the answer to her question.
The dish of mashed potato paused in mid-air, then continued to float towards the end of the table where it settled before Davey's plate. "Yer fillin' the boy's head with foolishness."
"No worse than filling his belly with fried chicken,' retorted his Grandfather obviously pleased with his bon mot.
Davey tuned out as his mother and her father settled into another round of half-hearted bickering. Like his perch on the cellar steps it had a comforting and familiar feel. He even seemed to know what each one was going to say right down to the moment that they said it. There was no venom on their darts, it was just familiar family cotton picking. Mindless and repetitious, but it some odd way necessary, as though they were completing some ritual that had to be performed to ensure that life could go on.
Right on cue his mother broke off in mid- thrust to say, "Bed-time, Davey, school tomorrow."
As he fell asleep Davey could hear his Grandfather yelling answers at a TV quiz show and his mother yelling at him to keep his voice down.