Year 4: John looked into the shadows like he felt he were becoming one of them. Any noise he made was drowned out in the consistent channel changing of his father. He sat at his father’s feet, waiting to be useful. If that meant he could throw away a bit of trash or fetch something from the kitchen then that is what he did. There was a bit of chalk in his hands that he found in the front yard after the neighbor kid discarded it. He imagined brightly colored drawings even though he only held a white stump. 

“What are you doing?” his tired mother said upon entering the house. She plopped a brown paper bag on the crumb-infested counter. She took a small carton of milk, bread, and cheese from it and let them sit. The bag was opened wide and in it she threw the miscellaneous clutter into it. “Did you even look at the paper?” The newspaper was as she had left it in the morning–beside Dan and rolled up with a rubber band. He hadn’t glanced at it once. If it wasn’t on the television, it didn’t gain his attention. 

His dad’s gaze slid over her once, up and then down again. “Where you been all day?”

She let out a tired sigh. “Work. Has John eaten?”

“John?” he said as if the name somehow confused him. “Uh…”

“Never mind.” She scooped John into her arms and gave him a soft smile. She smelled of fresh laundry. “Are you hungry, my little angel?”