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“Breakfast in two minutes,” said Grandmother Booth.

He opened his left eye. His grandmother appeared to him behind a blur of lash and mucus.

“Reports of your mother’s banishment are premature, although — in my opinion — not ill-advised,” she said.


Michael’s right eye popped open. He blinked to clear the haze.

“A diet of lies will starve the soul,” said his grandmother. “I would suggest that you carefully weigh all evidence in support of either one of your fickle parents. Ask yourself, young man: ‘Why indeed am I waking up this morning in this house, and not my father’s house, or — God forbid — my mother’s or my mother’s parents’ house?’ You ought to be thinking about all of these things.”

She was straightening and dusting everything in sight, gliding around the room as if motorized, and edging ever closer to the window blinds that were still thankfully shuttered.

“When your father was a boy,” she continued, “his guile was tempered by innocence, like Tom Sawyer. But once he was out of my hands, and beyond the sphere of my influence, he grew into some kind of wayward sorcerer, some kind of antic druid. He didn’t really begin losing his marbles, however, until he met up with your mother and quit his job at the drugstore. It’s been one dead end after another. His current job is insane. He has no business working as a bartender for the Knights of Pythagoras. Such a disgraceful organization! Does he seriously believe that bowling for charity once a month is a humanitarian agenda? I ask you: where are the comfort and guidance a good Christian wife provides? Am I surprised your parents no longer are able to endure the sight of one another? No, I am not. More important is where they stand in the sight of God, I’m afraid. That’s the $64,000 question, little mister.”

We get some background exposition here, but in a way that throws light on the teller’s character. When providing background always be advancing plot and/or character at the same time if you want to keep the reader’s attention.

And then she disappeared from the room. Her shadow darted across the ceiling.

Michael wondered if there had been a dream of mad dogs that morning, or the night before. He sighed heavily, like his grandfather used to sigh, deep within his chest. The bedsprings swayed with a timeworn wobble. Hurrying into the bathroom, Michael peed and flushed, and nearly slipped on the rug while brushing his teeth. Finally dressed, he sauntered (having been told never to run) through the hallway to the kitchen. His grandmother’s odd green toothpaste was still bitter in his mouth as he sat down for breakfast. Waiting for him was a scoop of oatmeal as stark and elemental as clay.

“You know the words,” said Grandmother Booth.

“Help me with the words,” said Michael. His father often joked that Grandmother Booth’s mealtime prayers were the only salvation from food poisoning.

“Dear God,” she began, her eyes closed. “Bless this food to our bodies. We ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord — ”