Issue 27 August 2015
“Get down here now, Ben!” she screamed from the kitchen. Her screechy voice was chalk on cement: bumpy, jagged and unsure of its direction. My name wasn’t even Ben, that’s how messed up she was.
“Heard you the first six times!” My answer banged along the walls to where she sat and held off her demands for long enough that I could get into the smoke filled kitchen. It smelled like menthol.
Clothed in a faded pink bathrobe, she sat limply on a bar stool and leaned heavily against the countertop island in the center of the kitchen. She took another long drag of her cigarette. “Can I help you, your royal hagness?” I quipped.
“Don’t you dare talk to me like that, Ben. I will slap that petty little smirk off your face so hard you won’t even remember how to talk back,” she croaked and then let out a gargled cough.
I see a hawk circling overhead and I pause for a moment, entranced. It glides on the high, unseen currents, dipping to one side and then to the other. I haven’t seen a hawk on one of these trips before. They prefer live prey. Behind me and across the field, where my path meets the trees, a couple of large crows are picking apart a dead squirrel. My dead squirrel.
I can hear the earth groaning beneath me.
It started when I was 12 and taking confirmation classes at St. Mark’s. I left church each week confused by the lesson on the Ten Commandments. What was adultery, or covetousness? Who wanted his neighbor’s ass? I certainly didn’t.