Have you ever touched a corpse? The one I am touching now is my seventy year old grandmother. She has died in the night in her bed. Her eyes are wide open and resist my effort to close them. She is streaked with blue. When I touch her she feels like a big pile of bricks with a covering of uncooked dough wrapped around her. Grandma had a bad heart and it was only a matter of time.
My mother is still asleep. It’s early on a September morning. This house doesn’t have air conditioning, just a lot of box fans. It’s been in the high nineties for weeks and will continue to be for weeks more. In this heat she will decompose rapidly and something needs to be done. But I am only sixteen and i’m not sure what to do, especially since my mother is menopausal crazy. So I take the only logical course of action. I go back to my bed and sleep, since this is obviously just a dream. It cannot be real.
When I wake I go back to her room where, i’m sure, she will be alive.
She isn’t. She is just as dead.
I’ll have to tell Mom the Menopausal Nazi. And IDK what she’ll do.
When i tell her she takes a heavy glass with pop in it and hits me hard in the temple. As she is bringing it down on the top of my head for a knockout I just do catch her by the hand and twist the glass out of them. It falls to the floor.
She extends her fingers into claws and goes for my eyes. I grab her wrists and take her down to the bed, landing on her solar plex with the edge of my rib cage to take her wind so she wont head but me and break my nose or knock out my teeth.
Get hold of yourself, I say desperately. Things have to be done that I cannot do or i’d do them. Help me! Grow up and stop acting like trailer park trash cause you’re not.
Underneath me she wriggles like an angry snake. Then she spits in my face.
Is this why he dumped you? I say. Because he knew if he didn’t the next time you did this to him he’d fuckin kill you?
You son of a bitch, she says. I should’ve aborted you like I set out to do.
Yes, I say. You really should’ve. I wish you had. Then I wouldn’t be here and we’d both be a lot better off. That makes you a fuck up as well as a two time loser but you can make up for that now. You gotta help me or we’re both fucked. I’m gonna call the undertaker. And you’re going to the funeral home to make the arrangements. I cant. I’m not old enough. You can ride over there with them in the hearse.
No! She says petulantly.
Listen to me, I say desperately. We gotta get her outta here. In this heat she’s gonna start to stink and if that old bitch next door smells her she’ll call the cops and we will both be fucked. Okay, i’ll call the undertaker. You can take a taxi over there later when you feel better.
She looks at me stonily.
I’ll take that as a yes, I say. I’m gonna let you up so for Chrissake behave!
The undertaker knows our family and they say don’t worry about anything, that they’ll be right over.
When the hearse pulls up a crowd begins to form out on the street. As the undertakers roll Grandma out on the stretcher the vultures outside point at the house and at me and gaggle and murmur. They disperse when they see that’s all the entertainment for today.
I am lucky to find Grandma’s stash of Valium and Percocet before my mother does. Mom has a history of manipulative suicide threats and all I need is her in the hospital from some half-assed suicidal gesture. Besides, I know I will need these pills to cope. I give Mom a Valium and make her take it. I take a Valium myself and a Percocet for my throbbing head and put an ice bag on it and sleep.
In the morning I am numb with shock but feel a nauseating urgency, a sense of impending doom. My mother takes a shower and gives me dagger looks and takes a taxi to the funeral home. My nerves are screaming and my head throbs were she’d hit me so I take a Percocet and nibble a piece of Valium.
Two hours later the funeral home calls and asks politely if someone will be there to make the arrangements.
Well, my mother should be there by now, I say irritably.
Just a moment, sir, drones the indifferent voice. I am on hold with Bach screaming in my ear when the voice comes back on and says, No one has been in today, sir.
I hang up the phone and start to sweat. I am terrified now. I have the fear borne sensation of ants crawling over my groin.
Someone’s knocking at the door. It’s two cops.
They tell me there has been an accident and my mother is dead. A car hit the taxi she was in head on and she appears to have died instantly. They are terribly sorry for my loss.
As they walk away I feel my jaw hanging open.
Squarehead next door is on her front porch, looking at them and at me. I slam the door viciously and utter a torrent of curses. Then I take a Valium and another Percocet and sit in my grandma’s rocking chair and rock. And I cry for myself and for them and then just sob quietly, shaking the chair.