"Did you eat?" William Irvin asked his son.
"No," Shaquille responded.
"Do you want to eat?"
"Not really," the 17-year-old said, as he slumped on the couch, eyes and fingers consumed with his smartphone.
The two are alone now in their Northeastern Baltimore rowhouse. Joyce Irvin, William's wife and Shaquille's mother, was one of two people gunned down on June 22 in the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, a crime that remains unsolved. The home remains neat, but there are subtle signs of disorder — like the bottle of Tide on the dining room floor.
"I have to raise him by myself," said Irvin, 48, a contractor. "Might sound corny, might sound however people might think, but she was the best mother to him."
She could relate better to the boy, and was able to discuss Lil' Wayne and Rick Ross songs. But they worked together to raise him and keep the house.
"I cooked, she cleaned," Irvin said.
Now, "dust accumulates every day," he said as he continued to pace, checking the front-door lock, glancing out the screen door, pulling a dead leaf from a plant on the coffee table.
He feels equipped to handle the load that street violence has left him.
He knows Ajax and water can rub the grime out of kitchen counters and rowhouse steps. He knows how to sew, something his aunt taught him after his mother died when he was 6. "I can make a shirt, I can make a woman's dress, I can cut out the patterns, take pants up," he said.
He can cook chicken, steak — and a ham glazed with a family recipe that his wife loved. But his son prefers fast food, Irvin said, so that's often what they eat.
Leaning against the living room archway, next to a framed painting of "The Thinker," Irvin said he tries not to worry about Shaquille. Worry makes you sick and he can't afford to miss work.
"I don't worry about anything. ... " he said. "I think about making sure he grows up to be the man he wants to be, not the man I want him to be. I think about him getting a job and taking care of himself and being responsible overall."
Until then, he vows that he will not lose his son to violence.
"I'm going to protect mine," Irvin said. "If it takes me, I'm gonna protect mine."
His home is his "castle," Irvin said. Outside, he acknowledged, he can't always keep an eye on Shaquille.
"The hardest thing about being a father is making sure your kids are safe all the time," he said. "But you can't be everywhere. So you pray a lot."
The streets are a lot different from the days when Irvin grew up in West Baltimore. Kids fought with their fists, not guns. When they returned home, they got "whooped again" by their parents, he said.
"You like it that way?" Shaquille asked.
"Yeah," Irvin replied. "Discipline. Teenagers don't have a clue what's going on. They take a life in a minute."
Young people don't think about the aftermath: A victim's family must decide which flowers to display at a funeral and what casket to order. When Irvin buried Joyce, he put her in the pink Adidas sweatsuit she loved and had "Loving wife and mother" engraved on the headstone.
Having worked in building trades for the past 30 years, Irvin chose the materials: Granite because that's how tough Joyce was. Bronze because it doesn't tarnish.
Does Irvin think about revenge?
"All the time," he said. Then he looked toward Shaquille.
"But if I were to get even it'd be senseless," Irvin said. "Another life gone. It ain't going to bring her back. But it'd let them know what they done to my son."