When I wake up there is stainless steel and screaming.
I try to open my mouth to see if it’s me. I guess not.
I wonder if I can move, if I have a morphine drip.
She keeps coming at me in her lily dress, so white in the blazing sun.
I keep firing. But she pops up again and again, getting closer until
I can reach out and touch her dress,
a beautiful beating blossom of blood from her breast.
We put up a light in the front yard. I go to ask my dad if we can turn it off so I can see the stars tonight. “Nah, we got some people camping and they are less than enchanted with us already. All’s we need is for them to trip and fall in the dark and sue us.”
He’s at his workbench in the garage, plywood and two by fours stained with oil and grease. “Here, unplug this. The cord goes there. See? There.” I look at the maze of pegboard traced with outlines like bodies. He hands me a couple of Kennedy half-dollars. They go in the Amoco oilcan.
Talk about brain-injury. Lady Bird saw Jackie like a coverlet of pink blossoms over the President. Something gray on the trunk of the limo, something darker staining her lithe suit, her face.
“We shoulda named you Jack.” Mother says as she fills the sinks with the beans I planted. On the poles they got almost as tall as saguaros out West. Green, yellow, purple. They don’t mind the sand if they get enough water. A hoot owl and white crested blackbird tore out of the cedar. The owl landed on a power line, it’s white chest feathers glowing golden white in the warmth of the setting sun. I started to hoot at it until Mother scolded me: “It’s back luck to mock the owl. It will call sorrow to your name.”
I look at my IV’d hand. That must have been something when they figured that out: a plastic line to your veins that could be capped and rehooked for each new drip. What if my vein collapsed? When they went to have Theo put down, the vet couldn’t find a vein. He couldn’t walk anymore; everything seemed to be folding up in him. Black cats spied in on us from the top of the cubicle walls and then the poison finally went to his heart. A great gush of blood flooded from his nose and mouth. I crushed his bloody, furry face to my neck. I cried like a baby.
If I can’t walk, I want to be put down. Couldn’t they just let me know now? I’d do it myself. I’d give myself the shot. I’d stab it right in my heart. I wonder if I can lift my hand at all?
I brought Mother yellow roses that she loved and the spearmint that was in bloom then. “The Harrison rose wants pruning every year. Cut it back hard, or it won’t bloom,” she was picking at some imaginary lint on the stitching rows of her quilt. They offered me a book on dying, so I’d know what to expect, the stages, the steps, but I didn’t want to know. Every couple of days I saw a quilt covered gurney rolling out. I didn't need a book to tell me what that meant. Mother smiled at me with her blue eyes shining, “You are my light.” I gave her some mint blossoms to hold, to smell, to remember all the summers. She inhaled them deeply and then began to pick at the quilt again, like at potato bugs or Mexican bean beetles, bright yellow against the broad green leaves.
Blood goes to the site of the trauma. If it leaks out, it’s like acid to the tissue around it; whole sections of the brain could drown, connections break down. I looked at the bruised yellow back of my hand where the IV was taped. Someday they’ll drip nano bits into the blood stream, some kind of mini-chip will run through the body, assessing, repairing.
Mother had a bad dream. A wooden beam was slowly lowering down on her head. She couldn’t lift it up. It was crushing her. I was staying with her when I could, on a cot in her room. I slept with a rose on my pillow. One blossom always seemed to fall off any bouquet I brought her. I liked to think it was my true love longing to be with me.
I rolled her bed outside in a little courtyard where the finches and sparrows chattered. It was nearing autumn; the fuzzy sumacs blazed against the bright yellow of the gumweed while the pines and popples whispered above. Far off a red-tailed hawk circled, sighting for mice.
Mother began to cry. I thought she was crying because she was sad that she was dying, but she said through her tears, “It’s all so beautiful.”