The corner of a tortilla chip rested vigilantly against the surface-smooth chest of Ivan’s “School is overrated” t-shirt. Next to it pooled a puddle of drool that was escaping from the twelve-year old’s chapped lips. The remainder of chips lay hidden beneath his hand that limpishly slept inside a plastic cereal bowl. It was five o’clock in the afternoon, and after eight hours of middle school boredom, Ivan had come home, sat in his favorite chair, cracked open a root beer, and began eating chips and salsa: a perfect mirror to his father’s drunken habits.
When his mother woke him up to set the table, he unstuck his lashes from one another and wiped the sleep from his face. He wasn’t even hungry at this point, but Mother had cooked dinner, and Ivan knew that Father would be no such help.
He lifted his body from the pleather, sweat-drenched chair and placed the last bit of chips on the ground for later. He knew that Pepper would probably find her way to the bowl at some point, and he’d only have to refill it later, but for now, Ivan could see the Golden Doodle wagging her tail in the yard and deemed his snack safe.
The placemats that hid in the third drawer from the left of the stove were always used for everyday dinners. Mother only let Ivan pull out the fancy cloth mats if company was over. The plastic mats were plain except for a rooster pattern that bordered the edges, and they came in a pack of four. Ivan’s family only needed three, and that was a good thing because one of the mats was melted in the middle from when Ivan accidentally put it into the dishwasher. That was the same day that Father caused the scuff mark on the dining room table when he thought that Mother had been the one that made the mistake. The other three placemats covered the table’s mark nicely, though, just like Mother covered her own.