Female, is not synonymous, with quiet. I came into this world kicking and screaming I go out shooting and creaming.
Every morning to maintain her strength he fed her a pale yellow egg and wiped the crumbs off her lips and dressed her in loose-fitting slacks and sweatshirt. On Thursdays he had errands to run. He didn't want to leave her, so he settled her on his back, and like a farmer with a sack of grain, hauled her into town. His attentions made her gurgle with delight. A mother loves her son with relentless absorption, and it is only fitting that a son returns that love with the loyalty of a soldier guarding the gates to an ammunition dump.
Her eyes were sightless. The pupils were clouded with cataracts, as if someone had smeared them with phlegm. In the morning, as she chewed her egg, a cicada buzzed in her throat. It was her death nudging up her esophagus, relentlessly as an insect up a flower stalk. He pried her teeth apart with a paint stick and beamed a light into the depths. Nothing was revealed to him, but he remained suspicious. She greeted these inspections with bubbly upwellings of saliva that spilled over her lips like honey.
When he carried her downtown he was followed by a retinue of scruffy mutts that slavered at his heels. People stared at the spectacle of a middle-aged man supporting on his back the indefinable weight of his decrepit mother. Little towns are renowned for the luxury of sheer gawking they permit their inhabitants, the license to stop and stare for impolite periods of time. In the bank he shuffled a few papers as if intending to make a deposit. "You can't leave her here," a teller said, panic blanching his face.
"She ain't dead," he retorted. "She's sleeping, and besides, I need me some money."
All day, like a man with a load of potatoes, he plodded from one establishment to the next. Monday was wash day. Tuesday he made the beds. Wednesday he dusted and swept. Thursday he went to town. She had taught him this system when he was young. Do the hard work first, then reward yourself with a sliver of pie. Life is a process of attending to chores that may seem humdrum but that when properly acknowledged, can be transformed into rituals. That was her credo, her philosophy. He never took out the trash, even when he was a teenager, that he didn't count his steps and multiply the number by seven and scribble the total on a scrap of paper and tuck it in his pocket.
The dogs were always there when he emerged from the bank. Gelded beasts with lathery tongues and yellow teeth, they chased cats and peed on parking meters and accosted mothers with young children. The downtown merchants considered them as obnoxious as starlings, but no one did anything about them; no one peppered them with rock salt or poisoned their food. They were simply another quirk of small-town life.