The ambulance ran over my dog, which I had more fondness for than for my mother, whom they were here to help. There wasn’t a lot left to help at this point. Father had shot himself, she found him, and I found her, trying to scoop his brains back into his skull with her wine glass.
“We need to sedate her,” the EMT said.
“Please,” I said.
“Are they trying to kill me?” mother said.
“I don’t think so.”
“Am I dying?”
“Maybe. All we have is hope.”
Splatter from a shotgun blast leaves pieces everywhere. It’s nearly impossible to clean up. Once a week or so, mother would find a bit of skull, brain matter or flesh in her underwear, or Special K she’d poured into a bowl and forgotten. She’d call me while drinking boxed Chablis and would smell like paint thinner by the time I got home. Sometimes she’d fallen and had shit and pissed herself because she couldn’t get up.
The stupid little Bichon Frise she’d bought from a puppy mill barked at me constantly. With my own dog dead and mother not to be trusted, I fed and walked the little bastard. It still barked at me. The dog ain’t right. The noise from the dog and Fox News made me want to shoot myself, or someone else, though Father had beat me to the punch.
“I talked to my therapist today,” my mother said. “I like it because we don’t have to talk about your father’s death anymore. We can just talk about whatever. And she’s a Trump supporter, so that helps.”
I fill her car up because she doesn’t know how. Father had done it for the last 50 years. Now I do it. I hated letting her drive because the car was always coming back dented. Then would come a story about how someone had sideswiped her. I would nod along while looking for the remote to turn down the volume of the television. People don’t admit loss of hearing, they just keep turning the volume up. She couldn’t hear me if she didn’t see my lips move.
“Do you want these? They’re brand new. Look, the tags are still attached. Your father never wore them.” I picked up the Costco polo shirts as if I was considering it.
“They’re not my size, really.”
“But they’re brand new. And they were on sale.”
I took the dog for a walk. It barked at me the whole time. I tied it up in front of a bar and went inside. It kept barking.
“Is that your dog?” some guy asked.
“You just walked up with it.”
“Can you shut it up?”
“It’s my mother’s dog. And I can’t shut her up either.”
I heard a high-pitched whistle before I opened the front door. In the kitchen, all four burners were on high and water sputtered out of the teakettle. I turned off the burners, walked into the den and found mother typing frantically on her iPad to one of her Facebook friends as Fox News whined in the background.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” I yelled.
“I hate tea,” she said. “Could you pour me some wine?”
I use a wheelchair to take her out now. She brings a thermos of wine and a 16 oz sippy cup full. We go to her granddaughter’s soccer game, and I wheel her into her spot on the sidelines. A larger, more talented player runs over my niece and scores a goal. When the cheers die down, mother screams, “Hey ref, open your eyes! You’re missing a great game!” The other parents say she’s “cute” in an “I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that” way. My niece scores two goals. Her team loses 4-3 on penalty kicks that mother sleeps through.
Three weeks later, when I get to the house, there’s an ambulance in the driveway and I hear the dog barking. The strange neighbor lady with blue hair who just walks in unannounced runs up to me.
“I found your mom on the floor. No. She couldn’t get up. Really bad back pain.”
“Did you call 911?”
“Yes, she didn’t want me to. Screamed at me, actually. Is she always so ungrateful?”
As soon as I stepped off the elevator, I could hear her. “Are you trying to kill me?” Nurses looked down at their charts to avoid eye contact as I went down the hall to the room. As I stepped into the room, a doctor was chewing out the nurse. “Just do what I say. You get to ask questions when YOU are a doctor. Where the fuck do they get these people?” He turned and saw me in the doorway. “You the son?” “We have to run more tests. We don’t know what’s causing the pain and if we give her something for it, it may make things worse.”
“You can’t make her comfortable?”
After two more days of expert care and mother screaming, the doctor told me the primary artery leading to her intestines was 95% blocked and surgery was required. “The arterial wall was punc.. it ruptured during the procedure, and she bled into her abdomen. There was nothing that could be done.” He hurried out of the room.
“Is that how doctors admit to killing people?” I said.
“No comment,” the nurse said.
I took my bag and father’s shotgun, turned on all the gas burners on the stove and looked at that little fluffy white fucker barking at me. He ain’t right, but who am I to judge? “Come on, asshole.” I opened the door to my truck, and he jumped in. I put the shotgun behind the seat, threw my bag in the bed, and we headed west.
When we hit the highway, the little son of a bitch stuck his nose out the window, smelled the open road and never barked at me again.
John Bovio is a writer, artist, and chef. His work has appeared in various publications and galleries around the world. He lives in Oakland, California.