Mother’s Day

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Photo credit: Patrick Dobeson
Mama Six loved that turquoise quilt, the one with the black horses and winding river. It reminded her of the time she was a little girl at the ranch, the first time she saw the wild pony grazing near the water’s edge. The thick blanket restored within her a sense of hope and youth, which is why we wrapped her in it after Cecil killed her.

“Isn’t it a little ironic?” Cecil huffed as he tore the rotten paddle through the algae-infested water. A brown leaf clung to his wet chin.

“Huh?”

Cecil stopped rowing for a moment. “It’s Mother’s Day, and…” His brown eyes darted from the turquoise quilt burrito at the center of the boat and back at me. He pulled his lips to the side, the same smirk that started it all. Who knew a sneer warranted an impaled shoulder? It gave another meaning to knife in the back.

The three of us skidded across the water in the boat, like a puck on ice hurling towards the net. Could he have been right? Had it really been Mother’s Day? Suddenly the ball of fire in my gut expanded. “Just keep rowing,” I spat, feeling his hot glare drill a hole between my eyes. “We need to make a story, a different one than last time.”

“What’s wrong with the one we used the first time? You can’t think they’d notice, or even care – just the thought of possible abuse knocks them sideways.”

We row in silence for the next twenty minutes, both of us simultaneously scanning for a good dumping spot and devising a convincing excuse. He could have definitely chosen a better day to murder Mama Six – that was for sure. I swear I could hear our skin scorching and bubbling under the hot, Texan sun. The water that splashed off our oars did little to cool us off, and only formed an annoying puddle at our feet. Mama Six’s blood leaking everywhere didn’t help matters, either.

Then suddenly I saw it. “There!” I pointed towards the darkest pit in the lake. “That’s where we’ll drop her.” Cecil begins unwrapping Mama Six, and I prepare the boulders. “One on each limb ought to do it,” I think out loud.

“I wonder what she would think of us.”

If Cecil kept it up, he’d be the one sleeping with the fishes. “What now?” I couldn’t tell if the exhaustion in my voice was from rowing God-knows-how-far with a boat full of stones, or from my brother’s sad attempts for small talk.

“Mom.” He smiled sheepishly.

I wait to reply after I got the last stone attached. “Who the hell cares, Cecil? She left us, despised us for being different. So why waste any thought on that bitch?” There’s no way I could tell him that I had wondered the same thing after all the other times. As each Mama stopped breathing, I can’t help but to think about a life where the accidents weren’t necessary. “We got each other. That’s all that matters, right?”

Cecil blinked tears away and gripped Mama Six’s ankles. “You’re right, Blaise. Now let’s drop this wench.”

On three, we heave the plump lady off the side of the boat, and she sinks like an anchor, the only evidence of her existence dancing bubbles disappearing on the green water’s surface.

“Now what?” Cecil asked. We both stared into the abyss, numb, hearts pulsing in our throats.

I took a breath before sitting back down and grasping the wet paddle once more. “Now we go back. I figured we’d use Mama Three’s story.”

Cecil giggled. “Seriously? That one again? I was thinking about Two’s, personally. I don’t know if I can fake that again. At least not as convincingly.”

We snickered together, tears staining our cheeks, but mostly from sheer anxiety and fatigue than from hilarity. My fingernails dug into my paddle, sending splinters in my nail beds. Blood dripped from my fingertips as I wept and laughed with hysteria. “Happy Mother’s Day, Cecil.”

Cecil barely held a straight face, forcing back frenzied shouts. “You too, bro. Maybe Seven’ll be the end?”

“Fat chance,” I chimed, winking. “There are still a few Mother’s Days in our future yet.”

 

Moving Hosts

“Back up, Mom! Shit -” Nate slammed the PlayStation controller against the bloody floor. “I told you fifty times that I can’t pause the game when I’m playing online – you just made me die.” He exhaled. “Thanks a lot.”

Mama’s Garden

Mama has a garden, but she doesn’t know a thing about tending it. Instead of fresh water from the hose, she fills her frosted plastic pitcher in the bathroom and gives the wilting tomatoes outside a toilet shower, all the while muttering how Daddy is a stupid “sonofabitch” who gets what’s coming to him. Then, as if the poor plants haven’t had enough torture, she spits at the failing crops. Mama does this every time Daddy spends the night at his work. I just don’t understand how she could get mad at Daddy; it’s Daddy who should be mad at her for being so rude to their garden.

I gently stir the few remaining, soggy Cheerios in my bowl and turn to Mama, who is clearly lost in thought gazing out the window. Her dirty blonde hair hangs flat and knotted on her head. “Why do you hate Daddy so much, Mama?”

“Don’t talk to me about your daddy,” she barks. “If you’re finished with your cereal, go outside and play.” She coughs. “No need to be inside on such a pleasant morning.”
It is baffling how much Mama has changed over the past few months; she used to be so pretty with her beautiful, yellow curls, and we would often go out for walks by the river where she would smile and laugh with me. Now we seldom spend any time together, and the times I am with her, she sends me away. Daddy says it is because she’s flown off the handle, but he never tells me which handle he’s referring to. I’m betting it’s the one of cast iron.

“Yes, ma’am,” I mutter, dropping my head before stepping out of the dusty dining room. From outside, I hear glass shatter, and Mama’s curses and cries – she must have dropped my cereal bowl – but I don’t turn back to help her because something far more intriguing has caught my attention.

It is a beautiful mushroom, far unlike any that I have seen growing in the garden before; it’s the kind that no one would want to pick out of their crop bed. The thing resembles in color a blazing oak tree; near the base, the stalk is ashen chocolate, with a bright red gradient up the stem and into the monstrous, fiery cap. With every moment, the mushroom grows thicker and taller, and the violent reds turn to muted pinks and grays. It’s like something from one of the Sci-Fi movies Daddy enjoys watching.

Quickly, I turn back to the house – I have to share this with somebody. “Mama, look! Hurry!” Then I add: “Why can’t you have one of these in the garden?” But my words are blown away with a sudden, virulent wind gust. Leaves, dust, plastic sacks, and Little Debbie wrappers violently fly above; the nearby pine forest trembles, and the wind emits a haunting groan. Then sirens begin to wail overhead, their deafening ring forcing me down to the ground, clasping my ears.

As soon as I am able, my attention reverts to the magical mushroom. But rather than a carmine beauty, I am met with a ghastly, white cloud ever-expanding in length until the snowy mushroom turns into a pillar of blood-tinged cotton.

“Son! Get the hell back in here!” Mama screams and tugs my shirt collar, like I was some lost puppy. “We have to get to shelter now!”

“But what about Daddy?”

Mama’s grip on my shirt tightened. “He better hope the radiation gets to him before I do.”
We enter the special cellar, and Mama hands me a pillow and blanket before shutting the metal door. I can’t shake the image of the spectacular sky mushroom out of my head.

Perhaps if Mama had met the person who had grown the mushroom, she could grow a prettier garden that Daddy would enjoy coming home to.