The Son’s Widow Buries a Good Man
You always bury your dog under a tree, I don’t know why.
The Son’s Widow was not always the Son’s Widow.
When she was young, she was the Seventh Daughter.
The Seventh Daughter believed in the Immaculate Conception and Pac Man.
She loved many Boys Doomed to Die.
After the Fourth Accident, she fled North, but it was cold, and full of lobster, and not at all what she had wanted, with her knit skits and cropped hair.
Still, she could not bring herself to go South, having been warned of the wickedness of certain crocodiles.
With no other options, she fled West.
2. The Son’s Widow Goes West
In the West, she became the Monsoon Daughter.
She was a wreck of cars in ditches.
She would wake up in the desert, hungover and with torn pockets, and think, This is better.
When she felt like working, she worked the clay of the earth and set it in fire.
She made many Vessels, in which she could keep the flash floods of August.
Yet on the eve of the storms, the Good Catholics called home the Monsoon Daughter.
The Fifth Child is riddled with sons, they told her.
So the Monsoon Daughter went home.
3. The Drought
She tried to take with her the flash floods in little jars, but the jars shattered as soon as she left the desert, and soon she became a drought.
As any animal will tell you, a drought is a period of intense living.
To not die demands a deliberate and vicious yearning.
Still, she was a good sister; attended to the Fifth Child well.
She played with the newborn boy, shaking rattles made of cactus spines and dried lizards.
She found that she liked the screaming animal, wrapped in its diaper.
She asked her sister, May I have him? The sister was not pleased.
She sent the drought away.
4. Baltimore, of the Bad Water
The drought found her way to Baltimore, with its Fine Inner Harbor.
She thought, Children are the water around here.
She thought, I will be a mother and have many children.
She asked the Good Catholics how to have children.
They blushed viciously and fluttered their wings.
They told her, You will need a particular ring.
They told her, You will need a Good Man.
For decency, they would not say anything more and went back to polishing their bald and battered knees.
5. The Terrible Ring
At this point, children and water were the same to her.
If they will lead to water, why not children? she wondered.
She asked every animal she passed but they all seemed so busy, so ruffled in their little suits.
A fox saw her desperation and said, I know a man simply full of rings.
The drought shook with excitement.
The fox led her to Club Chuck and pointed to a man at the end of the bar.
The fox said, That’s the floating man. The drought asked, Where’re the rings?
The fox pointed into the mirror across the bar and told the drought to look deep.
6. The Drought Sees the Floating Man as He Would Like to Be Seen
In the mirror, the floating man stretches into infinity.
In each infinity, a different version of himself is dancing.
To carry infinity is a tiring task, so the floating man yells, Can we stop yet?
The floating man does not stop.
The floating man takes a drink and feels an infinity fill him.
He is startled when he feels a warm hand on his shoulder, can barely see where the hand attaches.
He hears, Do you have a ring?
He holds out his open palm, which
appears empty until he gestures towards the mirrors.
There, rings are spilling over in terrible, terrible splendor.
7. The Nine Year Sleep
The drought was no longer the drought.
She didn’t know what She was, though.
She had expected to become a Good Mother but hadn’t.
She would visit home and ask the Good Catholics what She was doing wrong.
They would say, Have you tried baking soda?
She had not, and the Good Catholics would nod, Yes, you need leavening.
The Good Catholics would ask, When are we going to meet this Good Man?
She would say, He’s here, outside.
They would look outside and turn to her,
She would say, No, there, and point to the trail of footprints with bright, yellow forsythia sprouting madly upwards.
One night, though, She dreamed of the desert.
She dreamed of so much delicious clay.
She ate of the clay until her belly was round.
When she woke, she looked down and saw a brown-eyed, screaming animal.
It beckoned, Mama.
Good little changeling, shouting at her,
9. The Floating Man Discovers That He Is Not the First Loved Papa
For years, the animal grew, eating clay and hot chilies and babbling in the old language.
It would loving swing by the floating man’s magnificient mustache and mutter, Baba, buvale!
Now a dear Baba, he was content and would only sometimes burn Mama’s blouses and books.
Things were Pretty Okay until one day he obeyed his little animal and lifted her higher to look into the mirror.
Though he still had an infinity of reflections, he saw that the animal only had one: that of a brown-eyed, brown-haired little girl.
Terrified, he dropped her.
He went through the house, smashing all the windows and doors until his infinity of hands were equally broken and bloody.
10. Mama Misses the Good Emperor
Mama was visiting with the floating man’s father, the Good Emperor.
They got along A Okay.
She liked visiting the Good Emperor, as they would work in his garden, he eating handfuls of color, she of clay.
Things were Pretty Peachy until the floating man barged in and dragged her away.
He said, You will bring me a son, dammit, and stop making a fool of me.
So she brought him two sons, that he might never be able to look at both at once.
The floating man did not like her being clever.
He banished her, shouting, If I ever catch you round these parts again, I’ll take the kids.
11. The VFW Hall
Out of politeness, the floating man dies.
The witching daughter books the wake for the birthday of the grandsons named after grandsons.
Their mother is a good mother.
She brings them cake.
At the VFW hall, she sits with the Good Emperor and says, I’m sorry.
The Good Emperor says, We’re glad to have you back.
He says, You know, you marrying Robert all those years back? That was your first mistake.
He says, Your second mistake was not getting yourself some cake.
He takes a big bite, chews, and begins crying.
He says, It’s so sweet, my teeth hurt.
12. The Son’s Widow Buries a Good Man
It was a larch. It is the only tree I can identify, with certainty. Funny she should have chosen, to bury her dog beneath, the only tree I can identify, with certainty.
The memorial garden is lined with many Plastic Bouquets from Dollar General.
The family gathers, or most, some lost, or drunk, or too enraged, and so the Son’s Widow stands out in the small crowd.
She sits on the grass with her children, draped in flowers, and lets the other mourners—dark-clad Lutherans—say their apologies.
She waits until there is no one else by the ashes and walks up.
She cups her hands, shields the ashes from the breeze, and says, This way, little emperor.
She says, I’ll show you where the good clay goes.