When he was in the grip of it, he’d yell: “You are such a fucking bitch, mom!”
No kid should talk to his mother that way. I thought I was doing the right thing. It was better than reacting; it was better than yelling, “Shut up, you little prick.” So I said nothing. I kept the door locked. I closed the curtains.
Sometimes, the pounding went on for hours. “Do you know how this makes me feel?” Bang. Bang. Bang. And then the crying.
I ignored it all.
Did I drive him to it? What should I have done?
This was the voicemail I received: “Mom, you can find your son on the corner of Jefferson and Alter in the parking lot around the back of the bank building. Mom, this is not a prank call. I’m sorry.”
It sounded like a computer generated voice. I put the phone down and sat on my hands, which were freezing. I sat on my hands and stared out the back window at the trampoline, which had a layer of snow across the top of it. The trampoline I bought seven years ago when he was eleven.
I am thinking about the call and maybe the call was made a minute after he died? Did they find him dead or did they toss him out there afterwards? Did they even notice he was dead? Could they have saved him, but they were too high to help?
I think he must have OD’d in the house and then they transported him (how?) to the alley. A couple of junkies trekking across the empty lot and heaving him into the dumpster. One of them phoned his mother. How did they get my number?
I would like to kill every single person in that fucking funeral home. My sister with her, How are you holding up? look. Aunt Betty and her simpering pink mouth and her fat fucking arms. When she puts her puffy mitts on me, I want to spit in her face and I want to spit on all of her children too and I know they are all thinking: this could never happen to us, we’re all so fucking perfect, but I’ll tell you what—I thought I was a good mom. A year ago, I would have been sitting in the back of the funeral for a heroin addict and I would have been sure that nothing like this could EVER happen to me.
When the priest says, “Michael is with the Lord, we wish he could have stayed with us longer, but it isn’t for us to understand the plan.”
And that’s when I realized I am possessed by the devil and I am going to start screaming and tearing my hair out and running up and down the aisle. But I don’t. I just sit in my pew and shake like a leaf, Ronald next to me. We don’t touch. Not even once. I hate him too.
There is not one fucking person on this planet that I do not hate.
I know Ronald blames me. I know Ronald is shuffling around the house in his bathrobe looking at the ground because he knows that if he looks up at me, he will take the coffee pot and pour the hot coffee over my head. He hates me. He thinks that because we fought, because I was hard on him, because I wouldn’t let him treat me like crap and borrow the car, because I changed the locks and called the cops on him when he robbed the Nicholson’s next door, I caused it. I drove him to it. Everybody hates me, I hate everybody. I got up today, went to the bathroom and went back to bed. The doctor had the nerve to offer me Xanax yesterday and Ronald had to hold me back, because I tried to kick the man. The thing that started it, the fucking wrestling injury and the fucking doctor who prescribed Oxycontin. And do you know what I did? Dutiful mama? I gave him two Oxycontin every six to eight hours (or as needed) and I did it when he said he needed it and I got him more when he said he still needed it two weeks later. I wrote a ten page letter to the AMA and then I wrote that stupid fucking doctor and then I wrote to the newspaper. Then I called the doctor’s office and when the nurse said, “Doctor Richardson’s office,” I yelled, “Murderer!” and hung up.
You know what they do now? They don’t bring you down to the morgue anymore. They pull the face up on their computer screen. They push a button and bingo, there is your beloved son, his face, the scar on his chin from that time when he was four, when he jumped off the bed and cut it open on the dresser. The little divot and the scar above his right eyebrow from the time he was eleven and fell off his bike. That was before he sold his bike, that was after the Oxycontin and before the Heroin.
When he died he weighed 117. He was 6’2. Maybe if I hadn’t yelled at him…. Maybe if I hadn’t yelled at him to come out of his room, to pick up the dirty laundry, to turn off the computer, to make it home on time, to stop using, to stop stealing, to stop wandering off, to stop running away, to stop selling…..to stop….
When he was little we used to take naps in the afternoon. If I woke up before him, I’d roll on my side and stare into his beautiful face, his skin was so soft and his lips were pink and his blonde hair was like a curtain over his eyes and his little hands were cupped as if he was praying.
About the writer:
Kelly Fordon’s work has appeared in The Florida Review, The Kenyon Review (KRO), Rattle and various other journals. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks. The first one, On the Street Where We Live, won the 2012 Standing Rock Chapbook Award and the latest one, The Witness, won the 2016 Eric Hoffer Award for the Chapbook and was shortlisted for the Grand Prize. Her novel-in-stories, Garden for the Blind, was chosen as a Michigan Notable Book, a 2016 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Finalist, a Midwest Book Award Finalist, an Eric Hoffer Finalist, and an IPPY Awards Bronze Medalist in the short story category. She works for the Inside Out Literary Arts Project in Detroit.
Image: “Untitled” photograph by James Metelak, Oklahoma Photographer in Kyrgyzstan. @privit_fotog