I’m trying to write a book about my mother, or Willa Cather, but she insists on being the center of attention, so I can’t write about her anymore. I want to send her to Iceland or wherever it is they keep moms quiet. Yesterday, while searching through mom’s stuff, I found a photograph of a gorgeous young man, a boy, perhaps maybe fifteen or sixteen years old. He looks so much like mom or so much like the boy she could have been when she was young. I wonder if he is her brother. I wonder if he is my dad. I wonder if he still exists. I wonder if he teaches math. Sometimes I wonder if mom was born a man, or another species altogether, like ape or wildebeest. Anyway, in this book I’m writing that’s all about mom, I use mathematical equations as a way to figure mom out, as a way to find out what she’s made of. I’ve done this because my math teacher says everything is math. Even love. Even when we want life to be about other things, he says, we can always count on zero. I hate him and I miss Amanda B. I miss the way she kept her arms around me and mom. Hugged us as if we were hers. Hugged us as if we were the biggest numbers in the universe. Hugged us and made us whole again.
The aftermath has nothing to do with math or quantum cooking. It has to do with the absence of Amanda B., the woman who left mom and me for another life on this planet. The aftermath is what happens after a brown pelican dives into a sea of petroleum, the Gulf of Disaster. It’s a disaster and mom is a disaster and she doesn’t remember how to cook or clean or eat. She eats toast without the bread. She uses butter instead of sugar. She drives on the right side of the road. Drinks beer before 9AM. She calls our dog Bobo the Mutt Mr. Kitty Cat. She calls people by the same name, Amanda B., Amanda B. Mom thinks she is a fireman. Runs into every building screaming, Fire! Fire! Man, even the children mom rescues from non-burning buildings know to let her roll with it. Those babes don’t say a word. They just listen to mom’s gushing. Not even the therapist or the psychics can fix her or know where ‘she’ is at. I want to move out. I want to get a room at a hostel or hotel. I want to swim away from this disaster in my mermaid suit and find what mom has lost, or let go, to the sea.
I haven’t been able to write much lately cause mom got a new night job as head hostess at Denny’s. She got fired last night for stealing meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I told her I don’t like potatoes and she said she didn’t give a f&uck! I told her not to cuss and she told me to go to hell and said a few more bad words. Like I’ve said before, mom’s not on meds. If she were on meds, it wouldn’t matter anyway cause she’s got the personality of nuclear power plant on meltdown. She’s 24/7 meltdown. In fact she’s about an hour more than 24 hours of meltdown. She’s a freaking day more than 7 days of meltdown. She’s so beyond meltdown I’m surprised the Article Circle is not a jacuzzi. I think I meant Arctic. Well, I’ll have more time to write now since I won’t have to drive her to and from work. She got a DUI last week. I have no idea what that means but mom gave me her license and said I should drive slow and stop even on yellow.
Remember the other day I told you I was really excited because I was going to meet my dad. Mom said my dad works as a Chicken McNugget engineer at McDonalds. She said he operates the machine that mechanically separates the meat from the chicken’s body and then reassembles the chicken bits into a nugget using phosphate salts and some chicken skin to hold it together. I thought he was so cool. Well, he got killed by the Chicken McNugget processing machine. Turned dad into a Dad McNugget. Literally. I’m ok with it cause it turns out he wasn’t my dad anyway, but I’m still sad because he was someone’s dad or son. Now he’s all dead. Gone. Processed into a billion bits, or bites.
Here we go again.
Mom is sad because Rue McClanahan is dead. Mom is sad because she is sad and because the whole fucking world is slick with oil. Mom is sad because Rue McClanahan reminds mom of her own mom just like mom reminds me of my mother. Mom is sad and I don’t know what to do or who the hell Rue McClanahan is or was or why she’s such a big deal when pelicans are drowning in the Gulf of BP Oil. Mom is sad because her heart feels like an empty coal mine. Mom is sad because Rue McClanahan is dead and Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty too. Mom is sad because Betty White is eighty-nine. Mom is sad because I am sad that she is sad. Amanda B. is sad too but mom doesn’t believe Amanda B. is really sad sad. Amanda B. says she’s really sad and I believe her because of her sad smile and the black and blue circles under her eyes.Mom is sad because one day she’ll succumb to the sadness and collapse into her own womb. Bomb. Mom is sad because she misses her mother. Misses her brother. Misses the other weather. The kind of weather that makes a kite fly and a child feel anything is possible. Always. Forever. No one can avoid the gulf, mom said, not even a Golden Girl.
Today is the happiest day of my life. Mom and Amanda B. promised they would take me to meet my father who I thought was dead because mom said he was dead. I knew she was a liar. Anyway, he is not a dead dad, but mom still claims he is a dead beat, which must mean he likes really really really slow music. Supposedly, mom says this, my dad works as a Chicken McNugget engineer. He operates the machine that mechanically separates the meat from the chicken’s body and then reassembles the chicken bits into a nugget using phosphate salts and some chicken skin to hold it together. So cool. I’m never going to eat a McNugget again.
I’m not sure what to wear–a dress, a suit and tie, a top hat, or boa? I’m so excited I almost forgot to pee this morning and had to go in the garden because it was just too late. I was in the garden picking flowers to make a bouquet to give to my father. I assume he likes flowers because I love flowers and since we’re related I know he will love flowers too. I’m very excited. So excited I decided to redo my Little Mermaid’s hairdo. She’s got a mohawk now and looks real butch.
I am afraid. Afraid that dad won’t like me, or love me, or even hate me. I’m afraid he’ll put me through the chicken processor and turn me into “The Boot” McNugget. I’m afraid he’ll look at me and laugh at me and call me a boy-girl or a billy goat or worse, a child-beast, or a butt-ugly duck. I’m not a child even though I am small. Every day I get bigger and bigger. Today I’ve grown a mile.
Mom and Amanda B. say don’t worry because they got my back, which means they’ll probably be making fish faces behind my back. Make me look like a freaking fool. I can’t trust them. Especially mom. Not after what she’s done. Telling me dad was dead when he was really just killing chickens for a living. In any case, I know he’s just a man, a possible dad, the father I’ve never known who is also a guy who makes chicken parts whole again just like I want to be whole. Again. I looked in the mirror this morning and saw my possible father’s reflection. I told him I don’t want to be a McNugget anymore, chicken parts, alone. I want to go home, I told him. I want to go home.
Random Shit: I hate birds this week. I haven’t been able to post a real post because I haven’t been able to sleep so I haven’t been able to write because of the chirping of the birds. Yes, the chirping of the goddamn birds. There’s a bird nest with baby birds or chicks or soon-to-be chicken nuggets in the eave above my bedroom window. Mom won’t do anything about them. She won’t even call the cops. I called the FBI but they said they’re not into birds. They’re protecting us from terrorists. These fucking birds are terrorizing me, I told the receptionist. She hung up. I called her back and she said, get this, she said if I call back again, she’ll call the real cops. Not Miami Vice but the fucking Miami Dade Police Department. I told her go ahead cause those assholes don’t do anything anyway. Besides, a cop lives next door. He buys pot from mom. Not pots for plants but for smoking. Don’t tell the cops. That’s what I told the FBI receptionist when I called back. She hung up, again. Anyway, if I catch them, those chirping birds, I swear I will turn those little chicks into chicken nuggets. I’ll grind them up and eat ’em up for dinner. On second thought. I hope those little birds never go silent. I hope they emerge from the eave and sail West toward the Gulf of Mexico and shit all over the oil rigs that litter the deep sea.
I just want to reiterate that Harvey Milk was really cool because he fought for the rights of Franciscan monks and was assassinated for being one of us. I swear. That’s what I heard on the television. It’s called Hulu. Seriously. Mom says I should become a homosexual just like him. I told her she should too. She said she’d think about it and get back to me when I get back to her.
By the way, I love birds. Beasts. Hairy cars. Things like bees that fly West or left with their own energy, which is neither alternative nor fossil. The wild is full of authority. If we all inhale deep, simultaneously, come on we can hold hands too, I believe we can suck all the oil and gas out of the Gulf. And, if we all exhale, simultaneously, I believe we’ll all die from carbon dioxide poisoning. It’s just a theory I have. Anyway.
Keep driving your cars round and round the mall parking lot. Keep shopping cause you’re gonna need those Louboutins to impress God or Bette Davis when you enter the final Living Room. It’s funny how Louboutins sounds like Louis Vuitton. Must be some phonetic dumbing down for dumbass Americans like mom and people called Babs. I love you Babs.
It’s funny because when I spellcheck Louboutins I get two options: “ignore suggestion” and “ignore always”. I’ve always loved always. Always reminds me of sometimes like the time I was a boy and didn’t have to find my inner child cause he was all around me–kissing me while I was kissing him. My inner child. Looking for the answer to flight.
Mom said the woman in the oven wouldn’t move so she turned it on. The woman wouldn’t talk. She chewed on pizza crust. Mom turned the oven on cause she thought that would get the woman to move out of the oven. The women didn’t look upset that mom was trying to cook her. The woman rolled over and pressed her cheek against my cheek. We were cheek to cheek and the woman let me wrap my arms around her body as if I were her daughter. The woman let me enter her womb and call her mother. While we were on fire. I didn’t say a thing to the woman because she understood sign language. Tongues. Mom didn’t find our relationship funny. Mom didn’t even care to ask if we wanted something to eat or drink in the sweltering oven. When mom turned the kitchen light off the oven froze. The oven turned into something like a whale’s tummy, but colder. I’ve never been inside a whale but it got so cold I felt the opposite of flamenco. I felt safe. Solid underneath the woman’s nose hairs. The woman called the rocks and the rocks waged war against mom. The moon? The woman turned into a rocking chair and the rocking chair turned into mom. In the corner of the oven, Mom rested her back against the charred wall and pulled her knees up to her chin. She was on fire and I couldn’t put her out. No matter how fast I swam I couldn’t reach the flame.
When I grow up, I want to be a bell just like Bjork. I will ring all over the world in clock towers and market squares. I will ring inside the heads of happy humans that gather in front of churches and synagogues and mosques and farmhouses as they pray to their Godless Gods. I will ring in the ears of sea otters, lions, and spiders, so they’ll know, for once, that somebody loves them. I love sea life and simple things like hand mirrors and sisters, bells and whispers. I will ring my bell in the nose of librarians who say be quiet and don’t say a word as they stack ee cummings and Shōnagon. I will ring my bell body in the face of bishops and tell them in tongues as I shake my ass that I’m on their side while I tickle their toes with my freakishly long fingers. No one can raise the dead, but I will ring my bell and raise the dead and the living dead and the living. I will raise my friend Squinny up with my bell and she will float above the surface of the world in her red dress. I will tell her what I’ve done. Tell her that the world is really full of love. Even if it’s really not. Even if she can’t hear a goddamn thing.
Painting by Macief Hofffman, “Gravitation” (2009), Oil on canvas, 210 x 185 cm, © Hoffman. Special thanks to Scene360.