“Well, this certainly isn’t what it ought to be like, the end of the world; too damn sunny if you ask me. They don’t know what they’re talking about, those fancy pants weathermen with their pink ties and fake tans. Since when do men wear pink, anyways? Girly colors. They stand in front of that damn map and tell you what it’s gonna be like a week from now, when they don’t even know what tomorrow’s gonna bring. Although, Lord knows, I can’t even tell what color is what on that old piece of crap TV I got in my tiny little shithole you call a bedroom. The picture’s so fuzzy I can barely watch my shows. I guess it don’t make much sense for an old lady like me to get a new set, now does it? Ha…certainly wouldn’t be a shortage of kin lining up to take it once I’m gone, I tell you that. Your Uncle Jimmy, good for nothing sack of shit, if he was still alive, he’d be the first in line. Never worked for nothing if there was half a chance he might get a free ride somewheres down the line. He’d be laughing at all this hullabaloo, that’s for sure. Those levees done held just fine all these years, ain’t nothing gonna happen, you mark my words. Buncha scaredy cats, trying to rile people up. I woulda been perfectly happy to ride it out, you know, if I was still in my own place. You ain’t doing me no favors. My house was solid as the rock of St. Peter, despite that good-for-nothing father of yours, Johnny. Oh, he fancied himself a handyman, but he couldn’t drive a nail straight even if he was swinging with Paul Bunyan’s hammer. Damn near took his left thumb when he fixed the porch steps, stupid fool. Lookit all these folks, lining up like sheep, running away just ‘cause the man on TV tells ‘em this is the big one. I tell you what, they said the same thing about Camille back in ’69, and that wasn’t so bad. Ole Tony Brugger told me he’s gonna stick it out, just like last time. Shoot, I could be sitting back in my old chair right now, breathing in the fresh Louisiana air, instead sucking down all this nasty exhaust….you know it’s not good for my condition! You tryin’ to kill your old mama, is what I’m thinking, Johnny. Keeping me safe, my ass!”

Edna paused to take a breath, then continued, “You know….”

“Goddamn, it John,” Ellie hissed, casting a narrowed glance at her husband, his white knuckles clutching the steering wheel, twisting the leather beneath his hands as if wringing out an old dishrag. The muscles in his jaw flexed and tensed in perfect synchronicity with the throbbing vein at his temple. “I told you we just shoulda left her.”

“Shut it, Ellie,” John said, the words barely slipping through his tightly clenched teeth, as he gazed out at the sea of cars surrounding them. “She’s still my Ma.” He glanced up in the rear view mirror, catching a glimpse of those sour lips he’d been putting up with all his life, pursed into their permanent sneer of disapproval. Eyes back on the road, he returned to that quiet place in his mind, the one he retreated to countless times as a child. Nothing could touch him there, not the harsh words, the feelings of inadequacy, or the gnawing fear. It was his own private refuge, and he found himself slipping away there more and more as the years passed. That was the place for John right about now. Best not to think about the woman sitting beside him, either, her fingernails tapping incessantly on the window frame, oblivious to just how alike she was to her nemesis in the back seat.

John sighed to himself, as he entered his world of inner solitude, allowing just one unspoken thought to pass lightly through before evaporating: If I was smart, I woulda left ‘em both behind.

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Published in: on July 23, 2006 at 11:37 pm  Comments Off on