By Wayne Scheer
Emma Weems took a tray of hot biscuits out of the oven. She buttered one for herself and added strawberry jam to the other, leaving the rest of the biscuits on the top of the oven to cool. She poured two cups of freshly brewed coffee, adding enough milk to turn each one paper bag brown. She dropped two cubes of sugar into one cup and three into hers. She stirred, using one spoon for the two cups, and carefully placed the biscuits and coffee onto a slightly tarnished silver tray.
Emma carried the tray to the porch, along with paper napkins, and placed it on the small table between two wooden rockers.
“Daddy,” she called. “Coffee’s ready.”
Alton Weems’s slow shuffle in the house could be heard on the porch. It took a few minutes for him to push open the front door.
He wore his customary jeans and long sleeved shirt with red suspenders. Patting his daughter’s hand, he carefully lowered himself onto his chair.
“Ahh,” he sighed, settling into his morning rock as intently as a swimmer warming up before a big race.
His hand shook a bit as he lifted his coffee cup. He used his other hand to steady it and sipped his coffee noisily.
“Looks to be a hot day,” Emma said.
“Uh-huh,” he replied. “Like yesterday and the day before.”
“Might rain this afternoon,” Emma added. “Cool things off.”
He broke off a small bit of his biscuit and ate it, chewing slowly. He put it down and picked up his coffee cup.
“There’s sweet potato pie left from last night. You want me to cut you a slice?”
“No, thank you. Coffee will do me right fine. I’ll save this here biscuit for later.”
Emma checked her watch.
The Bingham sisters passed in front of their home at precisely seven o’clock.
“Mornin’ Miss Laura. Mornin’ Miss Elizabeth,” greeted Alton. Emma smiled.
“A good mornin’ to ya’ll,” one of the sisters said.
A minute or two passed in silence. Emma knew what her father would say next.
“Too bad neither of ’em ever married and had children. No one to take care when they get old.”
Emma felt the blood rush to her face as she stared at her bare ring finger. She was supposed to be married by now and raising a family of her own, but when Mama passed, she had to stay with her father. Jayson, her beau, seemed to understand, but he left anyway.
A few minutes later, she stood up, holding her empty coffee cup. “I made you sandwiches with last night’s chicken, Daddy. And there’s fruit in the refrigerator. I’ll be home after work to fix dinner.”
“You drive safe now, y’hear?” Alton whispered, already drifting into his first nap of the day. She took his empty cup.
“You’re a good girl, Emma Lou.”
She smiled and kissed her father’s forehead.