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a high achiever

  As always she is the first downstairs and, having braved the cold to bring in the newspaper, the first in the kitchen.  The eggs come out first, and with steady hands she juggles the bread and the milk and the orange juice.  She turns and shuts the fridge door with accurately angled toes and makes for the table, then the stove.  Five plates are set.  The second trip to the fridge is for the fresh ground coffee she bought yesterday, and the cheese and butter.  They stick against bare skin so she holds them at a distance and, with a swivel of her shoulders, slaps her breast against the refrigerator door so that it gently closes.

  Mark likes his eggs sunny side up.  As for the kids, they get theirs scrambled, with chopped ham and bell peppers.  Five things are going at once -- two pans of eggs, the toaster, the percolator, and the kettle for the oatmeal.  A paper napkin drops to the floor; she grabs it with her dexterous toes and turns to drop it into the trash.

  There is little conversation as the kids eat and Mark wolfs down his nine hundred calories, riffling quickly through the Tribune.  He roused himself from bed a little bit late this morning, and rushed through his shower.  He kisses her and leaves for the lumber yard.  The kids, not due at school until 8:45, can take their time.  Abigail, being only eight, needs the most attention; she can’t tie her coat strings yet.  Ethel kneels and does them for her, then straightens the girl’s skirt, as Sam rushes out, the snowy wind from the open door blowing in, raising goose pimples on his mother’s butt.  Rebecca, as always, is already well turned out.  She checks her lipstick in the mirror (very subtle so that her mother can’t notice, or so she thinks) and gives a quick hug.  Sam and Rebecca are in high school and can walk.  Abigail takes her mother’s hand and heads for the bus stop.  Ethel is patient with Abigail, who has to trudge through last night’s snowfall in her clunky clasped galoshes while her mother strides more easily on unburdened bare feet, her toes knifing through the fluff as she is well used to.

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