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Some Improbable Jesus
By Donna Walker-Nixon
Like a teenage boy luring an orgasm, Father writhes while the timid followers at the Mighty Wind Church of God bellow in a cacophony of at least three different keys the second verse of “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” He tries to constrain what he wants more than life to experience in the very recesses of his soul; Mariel intuits what she thinks her father feels as he moans when the rest of the church chants, “On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise.”
“Feel it, brother,” the preacher commands, eyeing Father's cold blue eyes and his angular chin, the one Mariel shares with him and that keeps her from being a classic beauty. Or so Mother has determined.
“When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies / and the glory of his resurrection share.”
Like fire from heaven, those words should strike Mariel to the soul, but she can't share a thing.
“I draw the line at speaking in tongues,” Mother whispers. “He knows that.”
Once upon a god-damned long time ago, Father grew up in the holiness church, and Mother often comments, “I do not know why he feels compelled to return to THIS.”
During the speaking in tongues, Mariel and Rodrigo make a planned exit. She purposely looks longingly into the black sea eyes of Rodrigo as they sit on the bench in front of the sparse white stucco building that used to be the egg hatchery but has now been transformed into the Mighty Wind Church of God. Back when the egg hatchery was open, men sat on this bench when they came outside to smoke their Camel cigarettes. At least, Mariel believes they smoked Camels since most old men at this church retreat to the bench to get away from their wives' fussing and groaning. She smells the residue of smoke left over from the Wednesday night prayer service that Father insists they attend.
As the late summer breeze almost separates her blonde tinted bangs down the middle of her forehead, with her fingers she pulls her bangs back into place. “Don't do that,” he whispers. And if she adored adverbs, she might have chosen the word softly as an appropriate indicator in Spanish.; That word should transport her to Marellia, Mexico, the city from which his parents came when he was three. Rod strokes her blonde hair which because of the layers of Aqua Net remains sturdy and stiff, and she anticipates his response, but glares when he remarks: “Your hair feels like starched blue jeans.”
She shudders before hissing, “You son of a god-damned bitch.” She desires with all her heart to experience what Mother has stolen from her. And she wants for him to comment on the after effects of the Madame Rochas perfume that Mother bought at the stand-alone Neiman's store in Fort Worth.
Again, Rod strokes her hair, and stammers that he did not mean to hurt her feelings. She discerns that he did, in point of fact, plan to wound her with his words. Still she plans to win this battle in the same manner that Mother wins her sparring wars with Father. Mariel wants to summon from a dark chasm the soap opera impressions of love: she swoons like Erica Cane on All My Children. She sighs and then whispers, “I'll overlook this transgression because of my deep and abiding love for you.”
She relishes her power—or maybe it's not her power—but the fact that they each in this moment possess a control they might never experience again. They park on the back banks of the Brazos River. He unsnaps her bra. She oozes some words that mean, “Take me. Take me. I'm ready.”
They partake of the rituals. Maybe, they should repent according the the preacher man. Maybe, they should confess their sins because God is faithful and just to forgive—neither will ever let the world know they have sex because they enjoy the orgasmic warmth of their limbs that entwine around the console and causes the car to shift into gears and jolt into the banks of the Bosque.
Mariel's missed two periods, and like a falcon returns to its falconer, Mother intuits her daughter's lapse in judgment. Mariel thrives on the images she finds in books of poetry, the only pure and whole thing in her life. She will never understand why words on pages transport her to visualize Yeats as a tired old man who trudges down rows of rodent children, but those words restrain her from growing into a sad middle-aged mother who spews droplets of saliva as she pronounces: “Just like your grandmother.”
Mariel has heard the story too often: her grandmother hounded Mother until she left the Panhandle to move to Fort Worth and take employment in an office where she took shorthand for an old goat who ogled at her through glasses spotted with dirt and grime. He touched her breasts a few times and pretended he didn't know that his hands were trying to clutch her boobs instead of a pen so he could sign her check for that week. Mother knew and quickly found a job as Father's receptionist at his office on North Main.
Father was married, and in his waiting room nearly blind people came to have their eyes examined. He positioned pamphlets on the coffee tables in his waiting room. They proclaimed, “The end is near.” Or some such shit. Regardless of Father's marital state and and his convoluted religion, Mother told herself anything was better than living in a duplex next to Meacham Field. At least once a week, pilots extricated themselves from flames of crashed planes and from the adjoining duplexes men in t-shirts and boxer shorts rushed to extinguish fires. Mother wondered how with two hours of sleep she'd make it through a day of routing patients and working like hell to make a scrap of a living. Still, Mother would NEVER in this world give her own mother the pleasure of saying, “I knew you could never do this.” So Mother set her cap for Father.
That's the back story Mariel has memorized by heart. She has fallen too short of Mother's fucking plans for her to marry Kevin, who will definitely “make a good match.” Those form the echoes of Mother's words, but Kevin's boring. Well, not boring, but certainly not someone who knows how to treat people.
Although Mariel shouldn't give a good God-damn, she pictures the moment Kevin cornered Chester, the kid who took his classes from Miss Tina Mae Belcher who taught the dummies. One of Chester's legs was an inch shorter than the other, and when he walked, his left foot shot up in the air with each step, kind of like Chester on Gunsmoke. Mother bitched when Father insisted on watching it every Saturday night at nine o'clock. Kevin shouted, “Retard!! Can't you walk like a real person.” Mariel's friends laughed and egged Keven on, but Mariel felt sorry for the kid.
Rod's also not a greater catch—Mariel has realized that fact at the very heart of her being. In church, he often tells about the Africans who might as well worship roots: “They are caught up in their pantheistic indulgence of nature.” Neither she nor Rod realizes what that word means, but it explains to him at least why their worship of the sun and everything else in this world are “not in God's infinite plan of salvation. Someone needs to reach out and bring them to the full understanding of what God can do in their lives. “They won't have to worship any aspect of nature if we resolve to tell them about the Christ who redeems us.” Still, Mariel thinks, why not allow those Nigerians to revel in their sins. At least if they haven't been preached the word, they can still make it to heaven. If someone brings the Gospel to them, they are lost for all eternity.
When they have sex, he folds his arms around her and whispers in measured bursts of spit that curdles in her ear, “This won't hurt. I love you with all my heart.” She knows he doesn't love her to the ends of the earth. Yet his whispered nuances of something that reflects the way the world should be brings her a momentary solace from remembering that Rod has also proclaimed in front of the whole congregation: “The way for young people to maintain their purity is to never be alone together.”
“The trip of a lifetime!!” Mother explained to Father when she arranged the four day holiday. “A precedent I will share with all my children so they will know about life outside of Texas.” She gulped at her morning coffee while Mariel observed that Father sighed as he realized he would not prevail in his futile attempt to persuade Mother wait until summer when Mariel would have a long window of time in which to “explore” a world beyond the confines that Mother despised.
“An Easter break will give you limited access to the treasures of England.” Father explained.
Now, Mother drives with her left foot on the gas pedal and her right on the brake, not at all the way Mr. Gipson instructed them to do in drivers’ ed. Mariel dare not explain the rules because Mother would say, “It doesn’t matter. No, not at all.” Mother’s wrinkles protrude on her forehead like the purple varicose veins in her legs. People can't help but notice the spider vein trailing down her thin neck to her left breast. Yet they never say a word since Mother has this intense desire to portray herself as Scarlett O’Hara at one of those Southern cotillions in Gone with the Wind, but she reminds Mariel of that overbearing mother in The Glass Menagerie that Mariel had to read for extra credit so she'd pass sophomore English.
Mother drives the country roads since she knows how to navigate them, but just as they pass through Burleson, she announces to the hot summer air, “Your turn!! You must take your time behind the wheel.”
Mariel knows a God-damned thing or two about a God-damned thing or two. Mother's afraid she'll run over a little black child when they get to Harry Hines Boulevard. That almost happened a couple of years ago next to the self-contained Neiman's in Fort Worth. Since Mariel received her driver's license on her last birthday, Mother has drafted her to drive convoluted city streets.
On the passenger's side, Mother unfolds a map and pores over the red and blue lines. The outer edge of the map blocks Mariel's view of traffic. “God damn it!! Fuck her!!” she says to herself, but realizes 18-wheelers and Mrs. Baird's bread trucks could strike them head on if Mother retook possession of the red Cadillac that no one else in Lindsey has the resources to buy, except Kevin's mother.
“Stop!” she commands before Mariel has put the car in gear. “I've got to get my bearings!!”
At the screech of her mother's command, Mariel slams on the brakes, knowing that Mother will fall forward, almost lose her balance on the seat, as she she drops the map to her lap and anchors her whole body to the leather seat. She peers through the passenger window at women in shredded bathrobes with blurry blue-black circles around their eye sockets. The night before, they must have tried to look fourteen or fifteen for the customers. Mother hisses, “If you don't watch yourself, Girlie, this could be you in twenty years.”
“Yeah, you'd love to brag about that to your friends, wouldn't you?” Mariel puffs the words into being with her tongue thrust to the roof of her mouth.
“I'm just stating the obvious,” Mother replies, but her forehead is pressed against the window while Mariel slows fifteen miles per hour so Mother can get the full effect of men in long beards sprawled face up as the cool April winds ruffle the hair that touches their breastplates. The night before they must have managed to slide into the 7-11 and whisk out of the store with six packs hidden in plain sight under their coats. These must be the vagrants who fought in Vietnam and saw Jane Fonda thrust dog food from planes as she uttered, “You act like dogs. You'll eat like dogs.”
Mariel has heard this legend from the boy next door who chose to join the Army instead of going to college and later being absorbed into the family's chiropractic practice as his father had done when he was a young man. Mike possessed a burning zeal to fight for his country; he returned a broken man at age twenty-two. He smoked Mary Jane all day while his mother worked in his dad's office to insure that receptionists with wandering eyes did not lure her husband into frivolous afternoon trysts. Mike told Mariel to join him when she skipped class. He despised Jane Fonda, but he despised more the vague promises of glory naive boys became sucked into when they signed the papers and landed in the middle of swamplands fighting and killing enemy families who had nothing to do with the spread of communism. On those days, he strummed his guitar and sang about an answer blowing in the wind. “Only there sure as hell will never be an answer!!” he yelled to the open air as he laid down his guitar and lit a marijuana cigarette. His lop-sided brownish blonde hair looked like freshly mounded hay, and his thin arm muscles swayed as he passed the cigarette to her.
As they drive past these boys turned old men, Mariel pictures Mike lying with his stomach in the air on the streets of Dallas if his daddy had not had the resources to provide his only child a place to call home. As if she has read Mariel's mind, Mother laments, “I don't know what's to become of Mike once his parents pass. They aren't getting any younger.”
“Why, Mother, he'll move to San Francisco and join a hippie band and sing about the answer blowing in the wind when he knows damn well right there's no answer to be found.”
“You always bring negativity to the forefront.”
Mariel slides on the brakes and parks next to a guy sleeping on a bench with flaking red and blue paint that promotes the Pepsi Generation. The guy's beard flakes with dandruff or leftover food particles. Mother commands, “Put the car in gear! You're going to get us killed!”
“No, Mother, you've already arranged for that.”
The guy on the bench stares at them, then wipes a crusted layer of sleep from his eyes. He yawns, and Mariel remembers last summer when newspapers and TV shows echoed stories and photos of Charles Manson and the poor fallen children who slashed Sharon Tate's baby out of her stomach. Father grew up in the same town where Tex Watson lived and was inducted into the National Honor Society. This became one of the few times Father reminisced, “I didn't know him well, but he came from a good family. We can all imagine how that boy's family must be hurtin' inside.” The boy lying on the bench reminds her of the pictures she saw of Tex in the newspapers—matted hair, but kind eyes. Maybe, not kind eyes since they were the eyes of a man who slashed a baby's body from the mother's stomach as she begged, “Please, save my child!!”
All the while Tex chanted, “I am the Devil, and I'm here to do the Devil's work.” When the news broke, Father remembered Tex's family. With no clear transition Father talked about a summer, far, far away with Thad and Chad (her half-brothers) when he was married to their mother and spent summer vacations on the family farm that somewhere, somehow transported him to a better life than Mother had allowed her father or Mariel and her full-blood siblings to experience. Each time, Father created verbal visions of that god-damned farm and his bucolic life, Mariel seethed. Not a seething she ever let Father discover; still she thought, We're his huge mistake. He was happier with his first wife who played bridge at the country club and who adorned her twin boys in identical sailor suits.
Now she extends her leg and pushes her foot on the gas pedal of the nail-polish red Cadillac. She realizes this poisonous green-black mushroom she carries inside her is, indeed, a mistake—some anomaly she will never be capable of correcting, just like her biology teacher allows no “do-over” on tests.
Mother anchors herself to the seat as she directs Mariel to turn left, turn left, turn left. “For the love of whatever God there is, turn left.” Mariel turns right, while Mother screams, “Don't you want to us to arrive at the airport in one God-damned piecel?”
“Hell, no!!” Mariel follows the airstream created by the smoke of a red, blue, and white Boeing 727. She drives by instinct not by map, and she winds her way to Love Field, where they park and lug heavy Samsonite suitcases to the terminal. Mother wheezes with each step and has to stop more than once to rearrange suitcases.
“Ma'am, is this the sum total of all you want to check with us?” a black man asks.
Mother gasps for breath like the forsaken victim of a Shakespearean tragedy Mariel might have read in one of her English classes. In those works of art and genius Mariel grasped meanings and stored them inside herself, but teachers created one-way conversations with narrow minded walls. Mariel desired more than any word could explain to transport herself in some visual way from the dull white classroom to a world that might mean something in another dimension. While Mother gasps, Mariel retracts herself into the walls of this dully colored anterior, anything to extract herself from the current action as Mother confusedly exclaims, “No, here is my daughter's bag.”
The wrinkled black man gives mother tickets for claiming the suitcases later, and he directs them to follow a yellow-bricked road of fancy and fear as they weave around people who stand and nod their heads up and down as they try to talk above the background music. Mother shivers as they move into the refrigerated zones of a world neither has experienced before. Mother makes vapid note of women who come and go dressed in layered Pucci dresses where bit by bit they will unveil themselves as they fly into a great unknown.
“Can you imagine what those outfits cost? I wish I could afford this extravagance,” Mother exclaims as Mariel distinctly hears one stewardess complain about making at most $400 a month and paying monthly installments on a shitty Camaro that costs more than it’s worth. Still, it looks good and makes the pilots and attorneys believe she's a “good catch.”
“These women are simply whores, if you ask me,” Mother whispers so loudly that one of the fashionable women stops her fast pace and turns around to eye out the crowd. By that time, Mother has changed the subject when she discovers an airport bar. They weave toward two spindled sparkled green stools suspended in mid-air. Mother and Mariel hoist themselves upward and shift their skirts from side to side as they cross their legs and wait for the girl whose layered blue and green eyed shadow and plastered white face eerily reminds Mariel of Bela Lugosi when he prepares himself to turn women into bloodsucking creatures.
The waitress in her short, tight black skirt bypasses them and leans against the steel top of the table behind them. The two men in gray business and silk flowered Countess Mara ties have just straddled themselves into their shiny stools. Mother feathers her fingers back and forth as her silent reminder that she had been seated first. Mariel catches a noticeable wince as the waitress flirts, “Coffee, tea, or me.”
“That comment is reserved for stewardesses,” a short man with wiry red hair responds. He attempts to wink at the woman, but his his eye movement turns into what reminds Mariel of the nervous tick of her biology teacher when he tries to tell a stupid joke about frogs to the class.
“I’m in training,” the waitress answers.
“From what I see, you don’t need to train,” the other man banters.
Mother frenziedly feathers her fingers in the air. The two men continue to flirt, and the waitress coyly brushes her thinning hair with her own fingertips.
“Scotch—neat,” one man says. The other says he’ll have the same and to let him cover it since he’s on an expense account.
The waitress’s green-black hair almost shimmers. Her icy blue eyes center inward toward her nose, and she almost stumbles on the lime green carpet when she attempts to jitter past their table. Since Mariel has listened to Father’s descriptions of patients with latent vision “difficulties,” she recognizes this woman suffers from strabismus or lazy eye. Mother taps her feathered index finger on the waitress’s shoulder and announces in her hoarse strain, “Bring me a double shot of scotch—neat!!”
“Sure,” the waitress responds as she corrects her movements and leaves to shout the orders to the bartender.
When she brings Mother's drink, she throws a cocktail napkin onto the table followed by the plunkety-plunk of the square glass that she places halfway off the napkin. “Here!” With a platter in her hand, she moves to the table where the two men are sitting.
She winks at one of the men, and Mariel notices the woman fling her shiny locks behind her as she stands under the oscillating fan. One man winks back, and the other calls her Toots. She says it’s going to be a long night while Mother turns her stool to the side and forces her thin red lips into a bird’s beak of a smile, and the bartender says, “Hey, Toots, get over here. Customers don’t serve themselves.”
“See you boys later.”
The men talk in their code language about business deals gone south while ignoring Mother with her thin purple vein that runs down her neck to her boobs. By intuition, Mother mimics the action of the waitress as she combs her wafer-thin fingers through hair that remains in place.
“Did you see the rack on that new girl?” one man asks rhetorically. With her razor-tuned hearing, Mariel cringes while Mother crosses one spider-webbed leg over the other.
“We’re on our way to London,” Mother mutters.
The men’s chins move up and down as they continue their discussion of women and their racks. Using the dialect and words Mother will never completely discard, she asks, “Where you headed?” Mariel nods also as she brings her half-empty glass of Dr. Pepper up to her lips and desires desperately to be alone in her room, cuddling the stuffed Quick Draw McGraw stuffed toy someone, somewhere in a galaxy far-far away from the here and now gave her for a birthday when she turned three, four, five, or even six.
“You ever been there?” Mother asks. She twists her body so that the men will admire her Barbie-thin waist and her silver-pink hair that retains its shape and reminds Mariel too much of the cotton candy Rod bought her at the Lindsey Sesquicentennial Celebration a year ago—too, too sweet and gooey, but springing back into an altered shape with each bite. Mother bites her lip and feathers her finger up and down her neck as she strokes the protruding vein.
“Mother,” Mariel whispers, not so much feeling sorry for her mother, but feeling trapped by the awkward tension Mother weaves wherever she goes and whatever she does. “Maybe, we should try to find where we need to go.”
Mother finishes the rest of her scotch and slides off the stool onto the floor. She sashays through the steel blue fake awning. And Mariel takes control as they weave in and out of people who stand in the middle of aisles and talk their talk, oblivious to Mother's desire to make a hasty retreat to the terminal twenty gates away. Each time Mariel sees the word terminal, she remembers the backseat of Rod's station wagon as they indulged in lust, thinking of no consequences, no results—just the pleasurable sensation of one moment the preacher would call a sin.
“I call upon you masses to repent,” and Mariel will never repent. Still, she cringes when neon signs announce Terminal 1, Terminal 3, Terminal Infinity. All the while, Mother begs, 'Where are we now? How much longer?” She sounds like a child on some vacation that no one in a family would want to take, but that the father in an odd TV commercial might utter: “See the USA in a Chevrolet,” as the mother acquiesced and took an ill-fated trip to see carved stones of presidents' heads at Mount Rushmore.
Mariel grasps her mother's hand, like a mother would a child who might wonder off into the a crowd of people. Loudspeakers would announce for all this world to hear, “Mary Ann Lucksinger. Mary Ann Lucksinger. Your daughter is searching for you.” Thus reversing the roles of mother and daughter and of Mother's expectations that no one on earth would realize the true purpose of this trip to England during the four day Easter break. After all, Mother is providing Mariel with the trip of a lifetime, something no other mother could think of equaling during the Easter break—those the epithets Mother repeated to Father.
When they stumble upon their terminal, one more platinum blonde woman whose
black hose cling to her legs and whose strawberry red, pink, and orange pastels commands Mother's envy whisks past them while she clutches a purse coordinated to match the skirt. “Layover time!” she exclaims to the male pilot. “Where are you headed tonight? To the big man's toga party?” She exhales vapor from her cigarette.
“Yeah, I've got a layover, too.”
They agree she will drive them in her ranger green-gray Camaro to a place where parties never end. Mother focuses on every word, and Mariel knows Mother thinks she settled for less. With her winsome ways, and almost naturally blonde hair, Mother nods in the direction of the couple, meaning she wishes she had done better than surviving in a North Central Texas county where she has to travel thirty-six miles to purchase wine, liquor, and other commodities.
Mother's face contorts as she in one wide-eyed gaze of terror sits herself down into one of the steel-rimmed chairs to await their flight call. From the actions of the other people, Mariel gathers they should move to the front desk to pick up a piece of paper them to board the plane. She stands behind a bulky man with cotton white hair. He chews on an unlit cigar. “Is this where I need to be?” Mariel squeaks like a mouse when she poses the question.
“If you're planning on flying to London, it is,” he responds and props up his cigar so that gross tawny-brown tobacco spittle won't drip onto his shirt. He growls at the woman at the desk and announces he's flying first class; his name is James Victor Henry, all first names to Mariel.
Mariel stammers but tries to present an equally commanding voice as she enunciates her mother's name: Mary Anne Lucksinger. The man at the stand presents her with boarding passes while Mother curls into her steel-rimmed chair. They wait for the staff to spruce up the plane. Then the boy at the desk announces in a staccato voice, “Handicapped and first class flayers may enter first.” The man with the white cottoned stubbled beard positions himself into the front of the line. We're not first class?” Mother questions. Mariel explains they must wait their turn, and Mother shakes her head up and down like a puppet in a Punch and Judy show.
Mariel recognizes that "jack rabbit-caught in a trap" frown. Mother seductively crosses one leg over the other and alternately shakes her leg and then taps her foot. When rows 15 through 21 are called, Mariel prods Mother's arm. Like limp dishrags, they hobble to the desk and surrender their boarding passes, which the uniformed woman stamps and then returns.
Mariel surveys each seat number, but the numbers blend with the aisles. They stop at what she believes to be their proper seat numbers. They sit with their purses in their laps. Mother attempts to slide her seat into the recline position. The man behind them curses while he snarls, “Seats need to be in an upright position.” Mariel sits in a middle seat, next to a man whose sweat beads glisten from his pores onto a wrinkled, short-sleeved, tone-on-tone business shirt. He grunts, then falls asleep.
Connected with nothing but the spider-web thread of memory, Mariel visualizes a sister group of three who sang in church, “This world is not my home. I'm just a-passing through.” One played the guitar, and they all sang while Larry the mortician sat at the piano and smiled at the sister with the guitar. Mariel knew he was slipping round on his wife who often asked the church to pray for her migraines that lasted two-three days at a time with no relief. And Mariel realized Larry sought his own relief with Maxine, the singing sister. Why didn't she get pregnant? She's old and it happens to women who break the commandments, Mariel tells herself as she sits in the center seat with her purse in her lap. And God knows Mariel almost wishes to believe in the commandments Father chose for them to live by: go to church, get right with God, make amends for transgressions. The list accumulated into rigid rosters Mariel chose to laugh at rather than to obey.
During the almost in terminal flights where they change planes at least twice, Mariel keeps Mother focused while on each leg of this journey she closes her eyes and squinches her face so much that the pores on her cheeks protrude. Mariel wants to bring herself in her mind to a centered world she has never experienced without some potion or drug or alcohol. As she feels the plane lifting into the clouds, Mariel squinches her eyes and wants to transfix herself to another story, another place: the nights Mother left when Daddy—Mariel called him that name during temporary moments of tranquility—listened to The Four Seasons by Vivaldi and taught her about the power of music and art to bring about transformation. “I wanted to study literature in college—minor in philosophy or music or something that transfixes us all to momentary glimpses of eternity,” he explained. But his father proclaimed back, “Those things do not provide a livelihood.” Hence Daddy became Father and followed in the path of his father before him—his own predestined future.
The point for Mariel: she questions what has predestined her—a baby: she wishes she could pray will survive the procedure? Mariel crouches in the middle seat, almost wanting to shout, “Get me off of this God-damned plane. Take me back to some fucking other time.” Her thoughts: incomplete, not quite formed, beneath the surface. Chambers of her brain partition into racquetball courts, where balls bounce off walls and then randomly float into other spots on the court. Like she felt the day after she sat in Rod's Deluxe Chevrolet and participated in his rituals: the heater throbbing without rhyme or reason in winter, many shots of liquor that Rod purloined from his older brother, followed by painful intercourse. But after all, it was fucking—not that painful once she thought about the pleasure of mild orgasms.
Within a quick, soft blink of her wicked eyes, Mother announces, “There's something wrong. I will lose my hearing.” The stewardess attempts to calm Mother and explains it's the cabin pressure. Everybody feels it when flights move up into the wild blue yonder.
Mariel hasn't felt the popping, but to calm Mother, she announces, “It just happened to me. Don't worry.”
Don't worry, Mariel repeats to herself. She revisits a scene from two, three, maybe even four years ago. The Girl Scout Troop on a hot summer day stepped barefoot on pebbles at the Dinosaur Park. Retarded boys with bulging eyes propped themselves on rocks. They reached out for human touch; they wiped snot and boogers off their noses and into the creek bed. One of the retards possessed a blue and green kaleidoscope eye; where the other eye should have been he had a socket of fleshy skin. The eye reminded her of a rare hope diamond.
As they fly into a wild blue yonder, Mariel shudders. Then reminds herself—what with her drinking vodka and scotch at home and at parties—her own baby could be that retard. No, no she must not want this baby. Its life must be aborted. These ideas bounce in her brain as Mother quivers and shakes and explains to an aging John Wayne-hunk across the aisle: “I've never flown before.”
This hunk focuses his attention on a book with a red background and pictures of police with badges as they poise to arrest someone, somewhere in parallel world where Mariel wishes she lived. He flips to the next page. Then the next. And the next. All in such a rushed order that Mariel intuits he's avoiding Mother.
Nothing matters now, Mariel chants to herself. Words don't matter, and Mother snoozes—sometimes like a snorting hog. Mariel winces. But what does life mean? Why does Mother have to exert control over every action and reaction in her life?
All these questions Mariel pushes into the her mind's abstract recesses. The pilot announces over a microphone that contorts his voice into stilted phrases: Now. Experiencing turbulence. Won't last. Feel safe.
And still Mother snores.
When the plane touches the ground, Mariel finally experiences the snap, crackle, and maybe the pop to her ear drums. In an undeveloped paradigm, experienced patrons of the air reach above their seats for brown leather briefcases and backpacks with yellow and blue peace signs sprawled in patches across the front. Mother holds her head as she would in the moment where the vodka gimlets assumed control after one of her many social functions she forced Father to host for the Lindsey State University football, baseball, or basketball teams.
Mother stands and blocks the row as she stands and stretched her arms. Mariel digs her fist into Mother's back. The man sitting next to Mariel curses and with a convoluted accent announces, “I must make a connection to Frankfurt.”
“Mother, we've got to get off this plane.” Mother balks because a huge woman moves into the aisle next to her seat. “Don't let that lady get ahead of us,” Mariel explains while the man curses in a language Mariel has yet to comprehend. “Gott Dammen.”
Mariel counts the minute movements of the people pushing themselves forward and ever forward to escape the tepid humidity that follows when the plane lands and the pilot turns off the air conditioning. Mother fans herself, and Mariel partially realizes that the individual moments while mother snored and she pondered the vast nothingness of life, of existence, of getting impregnated by a god-damned Mexican (as Mother calls him) will be the last time where she controls her thoughts and movements. And maybe, that is for the best. Maybe, god-damn it, no one knows what the fucking best should be.
They stroll down a passage that reminds Mariel of a garden hose where every passenger has been transformed into water droplets used to fight a summer drought so the Bermuda grass will thrive. Mariel pretends she is just one drop of water, “Who the hell should care about a baby conceived in the front seat of a Deluxe Chevrolet?” she chants to herself.
They are met by a stout man with thinning black hair and a thick, but manicured beard. The fellow reinforces Mariel's stereotype of all the English butlers she has seen in television shows. He carries a stenciled cardboard sign where the sides bend backward whilse he searches for Penelope Smith. “Penelope?” Mariel questions.
“Dear, we certainly do not want anyone to know our real names.” Before Mariel responds, Mother swoops into a gift shop to buy postcards—scenes of London to supplement what she has attempted to memorize from travel books. A circular card features Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard; Westminister Abbey, as Mother calls it; and the Tower of London. “Anne Boleyn was beheaded in the Tower Precincts, not the site where her memorial stands. She wore a red slip under a loose gown of damask, ” Mother will stumble as she quotes words from her travel guide. “She suffered the grave misfortune of becoming Henry VII's second wife.” And for Mother, it's Big Bend, just a clock on a tall building, but she does remember it was completed in 1858.
For dinner that night, they are fed fish sticks: French fries: and stale, tasteless English peas. The next morning, Mother devours bangers, mash, and eggs fried in a pot of clear grease that looks like boiling water. Mariel craves breakfast, but they advise her not to eat or she could drown in her own vomit. That is all they will learn about the real London.
At the hospital, a nurse injects some liquid into Mariel's IV. With ice water in her veins, she attempts a futile resistance. She wails through her drugged pain, and tosses herself into the infinity of Terminal 1, 2, 3, then X, Y Z. Words don't match. Images fade to a sepia twilight. Father writhes on the floor of the Mighty...Burning...Bush. She can't recapture the name of that church. Rod coaxes her to an orgasm she will never experience, and Mother purchases a circular postcard that portrays Big Ben.
In her mind, Mariel shouts as venom oozes through her body, “Daddy! Why could you never be my daddy? You swayed impassioned to a God-damned hymn. But not to us.” The backdrop fades to black and grey—the English spelling, as Mother would have it. On a bright and cloudless morning, the dead in Christ try to rise from a hopeless quagmire. Orange, black, green, white, maybe indigo—colors without shape or circumference. Mariel recites vague lines to an imperfect hymn while she is plunged into a ten-minute recess from life.
#Unreal #Fiction #Religion #Sex #LifeHymns
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