"I wish I'd known," he said. "I hate that drive tonight. It was terrible this afternoon."
"What time do you have to be there?" Mary asked.
"We'd better eat early then," she said. "Do you want a cup of tea now?"
"Yes, please," Birdie said. He turned and went back through the dining room and the living room to the sun porch on the far side of the house. In the sun porch, playing, were two of his three small daughters. They shouted when they saw him, dropped their toys, ran to him and climbed up on his lap. He greeted them with mock formality that amused them greatly.
"Good afternoon, Betty. Good afternoon, Patty. Where is Susan, still in school?"
He sat with them on his lap in the corner of the porch, joking with them until they were roaring with laughter. After a while he let them slide to the floor, and they went back to their toys. He wandered through the house to the kitchen and sat at the table, tapping it idly with his thick fingers, talking. Mary set cups and saucers on the table, and cream and sugar. She poured coffee for herself, then turned back to the stove for a minute, frowning and sniffing. Suddenly she opened the toaster. Inside it was a kitchen sponge, about the size of a piece of bread, and nicely browned around the edges.
"Patty," Mary announced, holding up the sponge. "Playing house."
She turned back to the stove for a minute or two, then to the sink. Birdie tapped his fingers. He glanced at her impatiently once or twice and finally spoke.
"Mary," he said in the classic tones of the patient, suffering husband, "may I please have my tea?"