The girl knew before she got to the end of the hall that it wasn’t a good day for Mama. The kitchen was empty, the stove cold. The only smell was sour and fishy, coming from the wet cat food under the green enamel legs of the stove. The cats didn’t like it either, so they didn’t eat it. She walked softly to the door of their dim bedroom. Mama was lying on her back with one arm over her eyes, Daddy a lump beyond her. This was a day the girl was not to be cheerful.
Back in the kitchen, the girl held the ice box door open and ran her eyes over the shelves. She pulled out a half-used package of bacon and smelled it. It was OK. She pulled out the gray cardboard egg carton, the butter dish and a pitcher half-filled with frozen orange juice.
In the black iron frying pan, the one they used for chicken, the white bacon strips began to render and the toaster sent quivering waves of heat into the sunlight from the window over the sink. The bacon smell, rich, delicious, rose through the kitchen with the yeasty smell of the toast. Her spirits rose with them and she set the table for herself: red place mat, napkin, fork and knife, little glass with orange juice, the butter, and strawberry jam in the jar with a spoon sticking out. She turned the bacon strips, ran back to her room to get her book, ``King of the Wind,’’ put it beside her place and buttered the toast. When she put the strips to drain onto the paper towel, it was time for the eggs. She cracked two into the hot fat and spooned it over them until they developed a veil over their sunny faces. She shook the coarse ground pepper on them and the salt and put them on her plate, then the three bacon strips around them like a triangle, The toast was on a little plate.
The girl looked at her place. She had done it exactly how Mama did it on a good day, how her grandmother did it every day. She made a bite composed of toast dipped in egg yolk with bacon on top and lifted it. The crunch went through her teeth, the salt filled her mouth, and the world settled into normal.