Gulp Fiction #9: Mama's Body & Mango Boobies by Arnie Fisk

Published on 13 May 2024 at 23:29

For Mother,

 

I still love you.

 

- A.F.

 

My mother died the way that she had lived: quietly. In the eyes of my sister and I, she seemed as if she had led a quiet, blameless life. She was the patron saint of our family.

 

As she lay in bed, not moving nor breathing, still, she looked peaceful. Her features were calm, eyes closed restfully. There was even the hint at a smile carefully playing at the edges of her mouth. Of course, I knew that this was fully the work of a talented funeral director or embalmer, as very rarely do they hire an outside cosmetologist for such a thing. Still, the smile looked natural and warm. Her thin gray hair, usually a mess in life, appeared now as if she had done it up nicely right before the moment of her passing.

 

Her entire presence, really, was a great presentation of the calm, collected and caring soul that had once inhabited this now empty shell.

 

I locked eyes with my sister over the corpse of our mother. There were tears brimming hers. I blinked mine rapidly away, practically sucking them back in before they had a chance to escape and roll down my ruddy cheeks.

 

When my sister began to weep louder, uncontrollably, as if our mother had died this very second right in front of us, I started to feel uncomfortable. And, like my father before me, I drank when I got uncomfortable. Or sad. Or bored.

 

After insuring that my sister would be alright for a little while, I decided to excuse myself and head down to the local watering hole for a while.

 

**********

 

“What’ll you have, chum? You look like you could use a stiff one.”

 

I tried my best to call forth a friendly smile to my lips, but I gave it up halfway and settled for a friendly nod of acknowledgement.

 

“A stiff one is my reason to drink,” I said, noting that the joke was only tasteless to those who understood it. Namely: me. “What would you suggest for someone trying to forget about a heavy loss?”

 

The bartended smiled a contagious smile, getting me to finally call forth one to my own face. “Well, if you believe my old man,” the bartender said as he ducked behind the bar and began to retrieve a few bottles, “then there’s only one sure fire cure to get you past any trouble.” The bartender flashed a coy smile and a wink. The light flashed across his name tag a moment, and I saw that his name was Sam.

 

“And what’s that, Sam?”

 

His smile grew even wider as he shrugged and answered, simply, “Boobs.” We shared a laugh and he retrieved another bottle and a large shaker cup.

 

“Have you ever had a Mango Booby?” Sam asked me.

 

“Not yet, but I’m a big fan of apple bottoms,” I joked with him, already amazed at how much better I was feeling. It’s amazing how much better you feel with every step and minute that separates you from a dead body.

 

“Then a Mango Booby it is!” Sam declared, opening his ingredients and lining them up. First he measured out one ounce each of white rum, sour mix, and pineapple juice. “Sweet and sour, like a good woman usually is,” Sam said as he poured the contents into a shaker filled with two scoops of ice. He then poured some grenadine masterfully onto a teaspoon before adding that to the shaker. As he shook the concoction with alacritous speed and efficiently, he told me that the key to life is to make sure you’re not letting anything shake you up. I smiled sincerely for the first time in days. This Sam was really good at his job.

 

He poured the shaken contents into a tall glass and then he replaced the liquid in the shaker with one ounce of tequila and two ounces of mango nectar. I would have done that the other way around, but I’m not a pro, just a high functioning alcoholic like dad. Once this new mixture was shaken, he poured it slowly and methodically into the glass, adding a thick top layer of deep orange to my already sunset colored drink.

 

I licked my dry lips greedily as he finished up and slid the glass across the counter top to me. I cooly caught in my open left hand. The cool glass felt perfect there in my hand. Sam poured the tiny leftover contents of the shaker into a shot glass, which he picked up and clinked to my glass in a type of informal toast.

 

“To life,” Sam said and downed his shot.

 

“And to whatever’s after,” I said, downing my cold drink in three large gulps before putting an index finger in the air.

 

“How about one more, Sam?”

 

**********

 

When I had sucked down as many Mango Boobies as I could in an hour, I headed back to the bedside of mother’s deathbed, where I had ditched my sister for a bit. With the help of more than the recommended dose of the recommended drink, I found myself feeling better. I was more mellow, just the right amount of withdrawn that I would be able to handle a day such as this for a couple more hours.

 

After that, who knows.

 

My sister’s nose and cheeks were flushed like mine, but hers were from uncontrollable fits of crying instead of drinking. She knelt by the bedside, as if in prayer. She held our mother’s blue hand in hers.

 

My sister was always a bit closer to our mother. Maybe that’s just nature, some kind of a female bond thing, I don’t know. I wasn’t close to my father, either. In fact, we had hardly known our father at all. All we really remember was that he was tall. And when he is mentioned, it makes our mother unhappy, so we learned to leave it alone. For her sake.

 

As my sister held our dead mother’s left hand, the right hand held nothing, just sat comfortably over her midsection. The funeral director was giving us a couple of hours, then mother had to be put back in her coffin. And then to her grave, already dug and waiting.

 

The light tapping of a fragile fist on a solid door stirred us from our shared sibling misery. In the doorway stood an elderly priest, recently roused from his dinner. His red nose and rosy cheeks matched our own, although I had a suspicion that his was due to a healthy amount of brandy with that dinner.

 

He looked sad, but maybe he was just drunk. Or it could just be a practiced somber face that he wears for those is mourning. He crossed himself in the doorway and then approached us with a soft voice.

 

“Are you needing any guidance in these hours, my children?”

 

I shared a look with my sister, who spoke our collective thoughts on the matter. “No thank you, Father. We would like to be alone with her, please.” The rosy father was all too happy to go back to drinking at home, although he hid it well. He made the sign of the cross over mom’s body and then once more as he crossed the threshold out of the room. He was gone as quietly as he had arrived. Like our precious mother.

 

My attention turned back to her restful position in our family home. It was unnatural how natural it all felt. So perfectly average, so common place. Just a tired but happy mother taking a nap in her bed. I suppressed a shudder.

 

We remained that way for a while. I was standing watch. My sister was kneeling and holding her hand. Mother was laying down, perfectly still. The dead woman and her children, a real somber trio.

 

To pass the sad time that was going to pass either way, we told stories of childhood and of mother. Trips and holidays and words and smiles. Special gestures and intonations heard during certain well-known phrases, the utterer of which no longer here to speak them.

 

I absently patted the heavy object in my jacket pocket. The solid heft of the snub-nosed .38 special filled me with a distant sort of reassurance. It almost took my mind off the loneliness; the horrible, fathomless loneliness I now felt.

 

I knew I loved my mother. I knew exactly how much I did after she was gone. You could measure the sheer depth of my emptiness and know that the space was exactly how much I had loved her. How much she filled my life. My life that was now forever changed, horribly horribly changed; disfigured was more like it. Scarred.

 

I patted my pocket again. It brought me back to my present. My sister was looking up at me with dry, red eyes, swollen like grapes left in the sun. Her smile was weak when she asked me, “Do you remember how mom used to love reading her old letters? The way she always folded them like they were made of butterfly wings. The paper so fragile, the messages so sacred, the letters were never to be touched or read by anyone. Not ever.” A fresh pair of tears danced down her puffy cheeks and joined together at the base of her chin in a ballet of anguish.

 

Of course I remembered. My mother was crazy for those letters. She always had them close to her. She bundled them together with a beautifully soft satin bow. Once there had been a false alarm from our smoke detector. My sister and I both noticed that she had the letters in her hand when our mom came to get us. We both saw that she had gone to them first. Neither of us ever talked about that.

 

“She said it was because they were love letters from dad, from the time he was away during the war. Do you remember the way we used to make up stories late at night? We’d say what the letters said, we’d talk about all the adventures dad was having and all the times he saved the world.” My sister paused. A brand new set of shiny wet tears were set to perform the ballet’s second act, but my sister heroically sniffed them backstage. “I still can’t believe what the letters actually were,” she said softly, but in a voice that was firm, no longer quavering. Her agitated eyes closed for a moment and, when they opened again, they were harder, now more like stone than grapes.

 

The letters; those mysterious letters. Always wrapped with care and guarded with a silent ferocity that kept our curiosity at bay. We understood how important those letters were to mother. They were all that was left of dear old dad.

 

Edmund P. Sullivan, the head of the household. I remember little of him, my sister even less. I myself was only five or six at the time he was butchered.

 

My father was found stabbed to death, heart carved from his chest and taken as a souvenir for some sicko. He survived the war only to be killed at home. They never found his killer.

 

“Do you think we should have sent the priest away? Do you think….do you think he could have helped?” My sister, resolved as she was, still wasn’t made of stone. She was too caring, too empathetic to ever be so. She had hope. That’s what separated us. I had lost that forever when we read the letters.

 

“I don’t think so,” I answered her kindly but with a tone of finality. I pulled out the gun, released the cylinder latch and eyed the five open holes. “If we know anything for sure about those letters,” I said to my sister, maintaining eye contact while I began loading 158 Grain FMI rounds, “it’s that she loved them. Believed in them. If anyone could make it work, it’s mom.” My sister nodded her somber agreement as the fifth bullet slide home.

 

Mother died three days ago. Her death was the polar opposite of our fathers. Her death was silent and seemingly peaceful. No suffering, no violence or blood. She’s saying goodnight before bed and then, come sunrise, she was to never speak to us again.

 

We think.

 

My sister peeks out the windows to confirm that we’re alone and unwatched. She draws all the curtains and shades and crosses over to my mothers preferred side of the bed. She retrieves from the bedside drawer a large bundle of letters, tied lovingly with a bow made of satin.

 

I pull up a chair and jam it under the doorknob, reinforcing the security of the deadbolt already thrown in place. I sit at the foot of my mothers bed. It was the same spot I had come over the years to visit if she was sick. To surprise her with breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. To sit and tell her all about the bad day I had at school. I sure had my share of those bad days. As I raise my .38 and line up the sights dead center on my dead mother, I had a feeling that today would be the worst day yet. And I had no one to talk to about it. The spot at the end of this bed had never felt so isolated.

 

“When did it say it would happen?”

 

My sister jumped into action, untying the ribbon and searching for the answer to my question. She found it in the third letter she looked through.

 

“Three a.m. At the end of the third day,” she said, tears brimming her eyes again. I glanced at the clock. It was only just past midnight. I lowered the gun, although not all the way.

 

“Why don’t you get some sleep?” I asked her, knowing she was probably feeling the same as I was. Exhausted beyond measure, yet surely too miserable to sleep. Still, the invitation elicited a small smile. “I’ll try,” she said, turning to leave, to attempt a nap in her childhood room. She paused in the doorway. I knew what her next words would be before they left her mouth, but I listened patiently anyway. “Do you think she got what she wanted? Mom, I mean.”

 

She didn’t turn around, only waited for my words. They were a long while coming, but she waited.

 

“I hope so,” I said to my sisters back. I returned my eyes to my mother. My hand tightened on the black grip of my gun. “I hope to never find out, but I think she got what she wanted. At least for a time.” My sister stood there for a while longer, but eventually retired to her bedroom without another word.

 

The letters were left in a haphazard stack on the bed beside my mother. The woman and her most valued treasure, both now unraveled and spilt.

 

The first thing we did when mother died was go to her letters. They meant so much to her. Surely they would be a large part of her memorial service. Her fondest memories, organized and stashed, which she privately read and reread nightly.

 

The letters told a love story, although not the one that we grew up believing. Not the kind we ever would have written during those long talks at night.

 

These letters spoke of love and marriage, and how no distance could diminish their connection. Letters that spoke of upcoming nuptials, of building a family. There were letters from my father to my mother, just as she had said. But there were other kinds of letters as well.

 

Ones who spoke of deception and other women. Ones that spoke of forgiveness and restarting. Ones that spoke of running away, of breaking up a family. Ones that spoke of sacrifices, and being sacrificed. About blood bonds. About eternal rewards and promises of forever. About being reunited, happy and forever this time, for only the price of a soul or two. And a willing body.

 

I heard muffled crying filter down the hallway from my sisters room. I set my bleary eyes on mom. She died so peacefully. Suspiciously peacefully.

 

I checked the cylinder again, uselessly trying to expel my nervous energy. My watch told me I still had hours to wait. I spun the cylinder, trying to think of anything else in the world. Anything that wasn’t me, my gun, and my mom.

 

Anything that wasn’t the fact that soon, she might wake up. And when she does, she won’t be my mother anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mango Booby

 

Ingredients:

1oz white rum

1oz sour mix

1oz pineapple juice

1 teaspoon grenadine

2oz mango nectar

1oz tequila

 

Instructions:

Add the white rum, sour mix, pineapple juice and grenadine into a large shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Shake it severely, shake like you just received the worst news of your life.

 

Next, you pour this mixture into a tall glass. Add the tequila and mango nectar to the shaker. Shake well. Shake it like the ground is splitting. Shake it like a body coming back to life, powerful and full of revelations. Afterward, slowly pour this new mixture as the top layer of the drink, then serve.

 

Enjoy.

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