Mom did find out. IDK how. Sherry and I had been careful to the point of paranoia when we’d left that game. But people talk; I guess they’ve nothing else to do. Mom the menopausal Nazi is going to work herself up into some kind of fit. When she confronts me, weeks later, I’m sure she just found out. She doesn’t have the impulse control to hold out for more than a few hours.
And she is pissed off at the world. Her second husband has dumped her, she had to sell her car to pay bills, and now she’s driving a rental. And she believes it’s okay to take it out on me.
Grandma has really failed since her husband died but she is sharp today. Mom’s in the crapper and I have just eaten breakfast on this hot summer morning in this house with no air conditioning, only box fans. It’s just tolerable if you don’t move around much.
I have a bedroom to myself. Grandma Mattie sleeps in the other bedroom and Mom sleeps on the sofa in the room with Grandma. As soon as they are awake they can start fighting. This is auspicious for me because when they fight each other they leave me alone.
Grandma Mattie says to me, Honey, who is Shayree?
When Grandma mentions Sherry’s name I know Mom knows. Well it’s a little warning anyway.
Shayree Harrison, Grandma says.
Sherry Harris, Grandmama. I’ve known her since the fourth grade. You met her that night she and her father drove us home from Grady Hospital.
Is she your howah? Grandma says.
She’s not a whore, Grandma, I say between clenched teeth. You met her. You said you thought she was a nice girl. Now you’re calling somebody you spoke two sentences to a whore?
If she pulled down her pants for you she’ll pull em down just asqu ick for somebody else.
Do you remember her or not?
Well, no Mattie says.
Her father? He owns that tool and die place on Destiny Road. They’re loaded.
This stops her for a moment.
I stop talking because Mom has just flushed the john and I know what will start when she comes in here. Mom storms into the living room and glares at me. WTF did you think you were doing? She demands.
I don’t understand, I say innocently.
Silence but for the droning of the fans and the distant racket of the cicadas.
Fucking that girl and staying all night with her, Mom says.
IDK what you’re talking about, I say. RU asking me if i’m a virgin?
Don’t you sass me, young man! I’m talking about Sherry Harris.
Who? Sherry’s a common name.
You’ve known her since the fourth grade, Mom says.
Oh, her, I say innocently.
When’s the last time you saw her, Michael?
Get bent, I say, tiring of this.
Tell me, you little toad!
Get bent, you two time loser!
Michael, honey, when’s the last time you saw Shayree? Grandma says.
I don’t remember, Grandmama, I say, scratching my head.
Bullshit, Mom says, snorting like a bull.
Oh, wait, I say. It would’ve been the night Mr. Harris brought me and Grandma home from Grady. Sherry was with him.
Mom says, How did you come to be taken home by…
What is this, a courtroom?
When did you see her last? Mom says. Think of a time more recent than that.
IDK what you want me to say.
Maybe a baseball game?
The last game of the season I got hit by a pitch on my hand and had to ice it. Remember?
Did you see her there?
No. I came straight home.
Maybe later that day?
You went back to Oakland Park. You met her there and went home with her and stayed all night.
Do you remember what you did on that particular day that long ago, Mom? I’ll bet you don’t.
You went home and stayed with her all night.
It’s all over the neighborhood.
Since when? People say all kinds of things. Guess they don’t have a life. This sounds like something Squarehead would say.
Mrs. Rivers didn’t tell me.
So now she’s Mrs. Rivers? Whose side RU on?
You tell me what I want to know now!
If it were true what would you care?
You need to stay here and look after me!
There’s nothing wrong with you some Estrogen wouldn’t cure. Besides, I’m not going anywhere.
She’s a romantic, Michael. She doesn’t know anything about marriage or living with a man.
I find it hard to hear that from a two time loser like you.
There is a glass of flat diet soda on the table beside her. She picks it up and throws it in my face.
I wipe my face on my t shirt and say, You’re a ghastly bitch.
And your gf’s a dirty little cunt.
She’s a friend of mine. How dare you use that word. You never even met her. Tell you what. If it’ll shut you up, I did it. I went home with her and fucked her twice and stayed all night.
How dare you sass me like that, she says.
Grow up, I say.
Mom’s face is white and I remember the time she took a butcher knife to her aunt. She stomps off into the bedroom and I can hear her tossing things around.
She emerges with a stuffed suitcase wearing a grotesque pair of fuschia short shorts. Grandma takes exception to the shorts and calls Mom a leaping lizard (whatever that is) and Mom throws a sofa pillow at her. Grandma ducks and swings her crutch at Mom and it smacks her hard on the ass. Then Grandma gets hold of Mom’s purse and pulls and Mom pulls and they go around the room in a kind of square dance, yelling and cussing.
Mom loses her grip on the purse and falls on her ass and shrieks. The purse falls right side up on the floor with out spilling anything. I offer Mom my hand and she knocks it away and says, Don’t touch me, you, you adulterer.
Adulterer? I say. Since when am I married to you?
Whoremonger, then, you filthy little bastard, you…
Then she is on her feet and this enraged harridan is at me, clawing and kicking and snarling with rage. As she attacks she calls, Mother! Mother! Help! Her mother looks at us coldly. Mom bites my wrist and gnaws like a famished ghoul and rips my t shirt. I get my hand in her face and try to pry her jaw loose and we both fall to the floor and in the midst of this sorry ass mess I manage to land away from Mom so I don’t crush her.
Mom gets to her feet and yells, Mrs. Rivers! Help! Mrs. Rivers!
I cant let her do this. Squarehead will call the cops. I am rapidly losing control of this situation and do not know what to do.
I slide behind Mom and get my hand over her mouth. She elbows me hard in the ribs and when she is loose she snatches her purse and glowers. But at least she shut up.
What RU doing, I ask, rubbing my side.
I’m leaving, she says, dangling the keys from her fingers.
I quickly snatch them from her hand.
You’re too pissed off to drive anywhere, I say.
You’re not man enough to stop me, she says.
What do I have to do? Hog tie you and sit on you? You keep this up we’ll all be in jail.
Before I know it she hits me in the face with her fist and snatches the keys away. As she dashes outside I chase after her.
The row must’ve been longer and louder than I thought because neighbors are standing around outside, staring uneasily like a lynch mob. I try to get between her and the car but she gets to it first.
I should’ve let her go. Chasing after her was one of the worst mistakes I ever made. But I feel obligated to stop this lunatic who bit me and cracked my ribs.
I get in the car and she pulls away and I try to talk her into pulling over and letting me drive but her face is white with rage. She goes through the stop sign at the corner like it isn’t even there.
On out Destiny Road until we are nearly at the Dog River. On her way she nearly sideswipes somebody and weaves to the left side of the road and nearly hits somebody head on. I am so busy trying to get her to stop the car I forget to fasten my seat belt.
Pull over, Goddamnit, I yell at her. Cant you see you cant fuckin drive?
She looks at me in hate. She is shaking. She says, I’ll pull over. There’s nowhere for another mile. But…
That’s when it happens. A tire blows out and the last thing I remember we are headed right for a telephone pole.