Chapter One – Mother’s Preparations
Mother picked the spot where she wanted me to dig. She wanted her grave to be within a grove of cacti that was just inside our property line. She didn’t have the back to move all that sand, but while I dug, she decorated the surrounding cacti. She used thumbleweeds woven with bright colored strips of cloth letting the resulting bramble catch the needles thus crowning each cacti. When the wind whipped away at the tips of the colored cloth each crown seemed like a burning scrub.
Mother – Did I tell you sent out invitions?
Daughter – To your own funeral?
Mother – Donkeyface was by to pick em up
Donkeyface was the closest thing we had to a postman out here abouts on the Skillet. We called him Donkeyface because calling him “face like a donkey’s ass” just didn’t have good enough flow. That, and he delivered post from ontop his donkey. Sometimes donkeyface would be on top his mount close to the noon hour when you had no choice but to squint, it being so bright so hot on the skillet, those times you couldn’t tell where his face began and the donkey’s ass ended. I weren’t too fond of Donkeyface.
Mother- So Donkeyface comes by and says
DF- Well I’m guessing these are special?
Mother- I said “Yeah” and he says
DF-What’ll they be
Mother- And like a green dum dum. I say what they are, and then he says
DF- I’d hate for any of these special postals to not get where they were intended?
Mother- What the Shit?!!
Once was a time you could get a parcel delivered using stamps. Nowadays on the Skillet, assholes like Donkeyface occasionally require bribes. So Donkeyface asked mother if he could have one more romp since she might be alive and kicking by the time he got back.
DF-Come on now. You know my mind.
Mother – Can’t be done Donkeyface. It’s that time of the month.
DF- No it’s not. You’re too old for it to be no time of no month
Mother- What do you know of it. Hell, tell you what. If you want I’ll go ahead and rub one out.
DF-I’m aok with that just so long as you got the palm spit for it.
Mother- You need that to counter the dry air and resultant friction
Daughter- Mother, why are you telling me this?
Mother- That Donkeyface can be slippery. I want you sufficiently repulsed so as to avoid him being able to trick you into coitus.
Daughter-Well Mother, mission accomplished.
She finished her decoration and I finished digging the hole. It was hot hard work, and when we got back to the hut I collapsed in my cot. In the morning, I woke up to find a note pinned to my shirt. I had a notion what it was, but I didn’t want to confirm it. So instead, I brushed my teeth, staring at the reflection of the note in the mirror. Then, I went and made coffee for two. I didn’t go to see if she was in her cot, nor did I call for her. I just sat at the table with two cups of coffee, the first cup light and sweet for me, the second cup the way she liked it, “stripped”. When I could procrastinate no longer, I pulled the note off my shirt and read it.
I went out to the hole. She was there inside, face down. I think she stumbled her attempt to get inside the grave. Her hip and neck were painfully displaced asif one or both had been broken during a fall. She was face down so I was spared any possible expressions of pain on her face. Still that was a hell of a thing to see. I’m not sure I’ve totally forgiven her for making me see her like that. A bit cowardly on her part. She didn’t want to wake me, but it’s alright to ask me to throw dirt on top of a corpse of a loved one all twisted up like that? I used the shovel edge like an axe and chopped down all but one of the cacti and threw them in the grave with her, aside from myself the only mourners she’d have. No one accepted her invitations. One cactus remained to mark the grave so I’d know where to plant any future tears I might want to shed.
Chapter Two – Mother Love
It was Mother who had taught me a love of westerns. She loved the men. Good guys, bad guys, it didn’t matter to mother so long as they walked tall, so long as they were “real men”. Her all time favorite was the man with no name, Clint Eastwood.
Mother- There aint no Eastwoods anymore. All that’s left is Eli Wallachs
In death, as while living, mother were half woman, half cactus. I held her hard as I could to me. The puncture wounds were a small price to pay to feel her against me, meat to meat, even for a few moments.
Mother – You’re a tough cause that is the way I raised you to be.
She would play a little game every time we watched one of his movies. When he made his very first appearance she’d stop still and stock of the man, breath in deep the fragrance of sweat, saddle leather, and hand rolled tobacco. Then she’d wag her finger at me, warning me off.
Mother- That’s my name girlie! You better watch yourself. Don’t you be eyein’ my man!
I’d tease back at her. I’d pretend I was working up the courage to be eyein her man. I’d get behind the TV and make her dare me to peak around the front and look at the man.
Mother- Then we’d chase each other around the hut with fly swatters, laughin’ and squealin’
Nearer toward the end of her life, after we had burned out most of the westerns we had on vhs, she took a more serious, reverent mood while watching westerns. Finally, there was one left, one left that we hadn’t yet worn out with love and rewinding. An old tape and even older videocassette player. Most of the time we could at least see the shape, the silhouettes of the men against the glass of the television screen, sometimes a fog of electrons would overtake the visuals altogether. Mother and I would huddle close to the television with our eyes closed. She wouldn’t permit even a hiccup. If she couldn’t see she at least wanted to hear. The music, the pauses, the voices of the men. She sat there in the dark holding me tight, and those deep voices gave her a sort of swoon. I too swooned. Everything I knew about men I learned from those old westerns or from listening to the octogenarians at the old VA hospital go on about their youth