There goes my only chance to understand him, I thought, when my boyfriend told me his mother had died. Marge keeled over dead the week after I moved in with George. He’d had zero interest in introducing us. I could tell you I embarrassed him, but I know how to behave around parents. I could tell you his mother embarrassed him but given the number of glossies of her in silver frames sitting on our fireplace mantel, I’d say that’s not the case.
Friends? Doesn’t have, doesn’t want to know. After work and weekends, George sculpts himself into his La-Z-Boy with his Louis L’Amour collection, a never-ending cycle of rustlers and mayhem, stays glued there. I like to get out of the house, boogie some, have a few brews. I had hoped Marge could’ve been my Dear Abby, helped us bridge the gap.
I’m a people person. I can usually find out a lot just sitting next to someone, alive or dead. So, I planned a stealth visit to Marge. I picked up the phone, inquired with the kind receptionist at The Evergreen Gardens. She whispered the block, lot, and section numbers as if she were speaking through a long tunnel with souls milling around a bright, white light. Then I bought some flowers to leave on the grave. Zinnias. Z for The End Marge never saw coming.
I had to cross a long stretch of freshly soaked lawn to reach her gravesite. A strong swirl of cool air practically lifted me off the ground, whooshed me across the closely clipped grass, and deposited me standing face-to-face with Marge. She was just as I’d pictured her: tight short curls that looked like a bad permanent. Puzzled eyebrows. I got only a fleeting glimpse of her faint and shadowy semblance, and then she faded away. It was really all I should have expected, given we were never properly introduced.
I’m like a Staffie with a bone. I’ve been trying to find an angle on George for three years and two days now. That’s 1097 days of squat. Once-spectacular sex is now a whisper. Our glue is dissolving and we’ve become two islands in a very big ocean.
One night, I’m pacing the living room, wondering how to proceed.
“Why don’t you visit my mother?” George raises his eyes an inch over a dog-eared copy of The Haunted Mesa.
Damn, I think. That’s ironic. No sense asking how he came up with that.
“But she’s, er, dead?” I mutter, crossing my fingers behind my back.
“Gets you out of the house, doesn’t it?” He wets a finger, turns a page. He’ll finish Riding for the Brand by dinnertime.
I drive over to The Evergreen Gardens again. Marge must’ve sensed I was on my way. She’s floating over her tombstone in a housedress and apron. Right away, she lets me know the zinnias I’d brought last time made her sneeze. But she’s holding out her bony hands for the pink petunias and matching blusher I brought to touch up her pallor.
“You take good care of him, all right?” she squeaks, then funnels back into the ground, startling a three-legged stray who’s snuffling around.
Okay, she can talk. There’s hope, I think. I get to my car, put the Chevy in gear, drive home, pull Lonely on the Mountain from the bottom of his reading pile, and slam it on top.
I’m sitting on damp earth, and the seat of my skirt is getting soaked. Marge is hovering a foot above ground. It’s my fifth visit in a month. But she’s as forthcoming as a snail. I see where he gets it from. I still don’t have any insight, let alone hindsight. Neither one of us has said zip since I got here. A cold Corona would hit the spot about now. The three-legged dog zooms past us, a McDonald’s bag hanging from his mouth, long strands of slobber silvering the ground.
“Not sure what to do, Marge,” I shrug, wait for her to answer.
Finally, she breaks her silence. “Maybe you could cook a chicken pot pie for him sometime.”
“Or ask him some questions about Ride the Dark Trail. That’s his favorite.”
“When he was in first grade, he —”
She’s on a roll. I don’t know why I’m still here. “Maybe I’ll leave him,” I mumble, thinking some closure might be in order. I stand up, brush grass off my skirt, hand her a Milky Way I found under my car seat and a wilt of daisies. Tears start running down her cheeks, smearing the makeup I gave her. The cage of her chest is rising and doesn’t seem to want to fall again.
“Daffodils?” I ask her. “You like daffodils? How ‘bout donuts? You like donuts? I’ll bring you some next Wednesday.”
Mikki Aronoff has work published in Flash Boulevard, New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, ThimbleLit, The Phare, The Ekphrastic Review, The Fortnightly Review, Milk Candy Review, Tiny Molecules, The Disappointed Housewife, Bending Genres, Gone Lawn, Mslexia, The Dribble Drabble Review, The Citron Review, Ruby Lit, Atlas and Alice, trampset, jmww, and elsewhere. Her stories and poems have received Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction nominations.