Magrïethé

Illustrations by Neil Peter Dyck. Warning: Violent content.

The Giesbrechts moved into their new home on 16 March 1992. The two-storey, built circa 1933, on 2038 William Street was of a deep chocolate brown, and red cedars grew higher than its steeply pitched roof. The up-trade cost them 107,000 Canadian dollars as their previous starter home had fetched 157,500 while this house near Rose Street was priced at 264,500. The Giesbrechts were among that much higher percentile bracket of those growing families selling yet still able to make a viable attempt at remaining in the Vancouver area. At the time of writing, roughly 67% of this demographic chooses to leave the city for affordable housing.IMG_0728

With none of these concerns, Kyle, fourteen-years of age, found a curious momento the next day in a bleach-corroded box under the kitchen sink. A Memorex cassette tape. He unpacked his dad’s ghetto blaster and slid the cassette in. Why Kyle labelled it with the word “Magrïethé” before pressing play, he would never be able to say. Nor could anyone be found linked to this name or those that follow.

Speaker #1: Everyone in my family is dead. Almost all. My husband, Gary. Two adopted children, Troya and Kevin. Two out of three cats picked up at a yard sale on Graveley. Goners. Iddle and Biddle on Kingdom Come Way. It is fair to say that I am readjusting in a world after tragedy.

It struck three years back. Year of the monkey.

[break]

Perspectives change. People change. No one can say they don’t. I now understand the kind of truth only horror can speak of. Horror novels. Horror movies. Stockhausen when the house is empty. All that other stuff — science, the philosophers, our literary classics. They can hum and haw and pontificate all they want but they do not exude the truth of existence like a good old-fashion scary movie. Sheer panic. A membrane pulled to snapping. The other side of black. It is the only course. (Pause) Sorry, I’m being too heavy. Fridays were family movie nights, so forgive me if I’m especially emotional today.

[break]

I won’t say this is not true. I won’t say this is not not true. The thing is I am bound not to say. So I am not not saying.

[break]

You know conversations? (Pause) Go ahead. Keep on working. Just nod. An old typewriter, huh? Neato. (Pause) But tell me, you know the conversations — even with best friends (pause) kindred spirits — and feel like you’ve violated them and when he or she gets a little snappy or advisory, you then in turn feel violated? And by violated I mean sort of (finding the words) come to emotional end-points. Not emotional third-base infraction. Emotional rape. (With emphasis) Yeah, it’s traumatic. That’s why I’m asking.

So I’m trying to see friends less often. Correction. I must see no one. I can’t give off this vibe and, god forbid, be given it. It’s everything I’m against. Everyone is against me it seems.

[break]

I wish Gary was still here. He was so gay — homosexual is the term — wrong for me ultimately, but I never felt like I was putting him out when I laid problems or concerns before him. He’d always listen. Sure, he’d argue a bit. Who doesn’t? A little of the advocate of Satan in him. But he was there for me, you know? And now he isn’t. There it is. Now he isn’t.

Oh I suppose you’re thinking that I should mention my two dead children before a husband. What kind of a mom are you? You’d be right to ask the question. Is it because your kids were adopted that you still cozied up to a cheater like Gary? To the first question, I’d say — the wisdom of hindsight — I was a more than alright mom, though no parent feels like they did all they could do or that they didn’t somehow mess up somewhere. Or give their kid some deep incalculable issue. Whatever we do gives us shape. That’s what making life is. We just hope growth occurs in the right direction.

As for your second question: No, that’s ignorant. I have no prejudice against adoption. We’re all adopted into the world. (feigning disbelief) How can you even think such a thing? Or (pause) have I caught the ear of a liberal-minded listener? For all I know I might have misread you. You might be saying, No judgement here. No offence taken.

That’s nice of you. IMG_0731

But you will judge by the end of this. God, you will. By the time all is told. Or written, I mean. I’m not sure what to call it. It’s not a story. More, an event. By the time all is told. Let’s say I’m writing with my voice. Words in the air. Yeah. I like that.

[break]

Where did it all really start? Besides Gary’s gayness, which he couldn’t admit. That’s some messed-up Rock Hudson madness. Gary would’ve lost his job had he told all. The ripple effect would reach our church. I understand that. Coming out of the closet is no picnic, but things could have been so much easier. If he only could have admitted that he didn’t like sleeping with women. With me. Who does that? Stays with a woman, lives a secret gay life, doesn’t have sex with her, adopts three children to complete the illusion, and publicly tells friends and family that he is unable to procreate? Something wrong with my semen, he’d say. What the heck, Gary? Actions have repercussive actions. As we have seen.

Don’t get me wrong, children are what it’s all about. So were mine. So my Shelley still is. I know that some people, I mean parents — mothers in particular — won’t have the empathetic listening capacity to understand what I had to do. Nor if they don’t understand already, can I really explain it to them. I’m bound to the silence here. A covenant of sorts.

I’ll just say that in some moments I couldn’t fathom the wonder that tomorrow or a week later or four months down the road I’d notice my children had grown in some way. New teeth, more lustrous hair, taller. They would never return to what they had been the moment before when last time I’d noticed. To think of them aging — wrinkles and shortness of breath — that unrefined insult of living, was so far removed from my thought as to be only something that happened to someone else in the work of fiction, read out only to pass the time. And death? I couldn’t even grasp the meaning of the word itself. My children physically growing up was plenty to deal with.

[break]

It was 1:30 in the morning and a wet winter was setting in to start. As was this event. My youngest Shelley had what seemed to be the makings of an earache. I was running down — driving literally — to the Super Valu on Commercial and First which I’ll have you know is unceded Coast Salish territory. And the only place open twenty-four hours nearby. I was hoping they sold NyQuil. I remember that question in my mind. Will they sell NyQuil? Something that would allow Shelley to sleep through the night. She’d woken me, quietly crying, holding her one ear in the darkness. I didn’t want another trip to ER. Felt like I’d been there a dozen times already that year with Kev. Shelley was more robust. A good soldier. I said that to her once. She didn’t need the mollycoddling Kevin did. Why am I telling you this? I guess to say that I knew my kids well, and did gosh-darn nearly everything I could for them.

Anyway, while I was walking through the aisles, bleary-eyed, looking for some kind of pain relief medication and starting to think I should have gone to Shopper’s Drug Mart — duh! — when I found some over-the-counter medication in the toiletries section. A man in a lumber jacket was there comparing prices of diapers. Another shopper. Not an employee taking inventory.

Late night emergency? he asked. His jacket was a felt material, almost like a heavy shirt. Navy with tan cross-striping. A ball cap even, a logo from some rural company. He probably knew people working in the pulp and paper industry. Sawmill workers. Some old-time log-riders.

Yeah, something like that, I replied, trying to ignore him.

What’s your poison? he asked.

That’s not really any of your business, I wanted to say, or how that expression wasn’t used as he’d used it. Instead, My youngest has an earache.

Have a house up in Spatsizi Plateau, he started. Oh you know, he went on, about three-hundred four-hundred kometres from Iskut. Don’t know it? In the wilds-like to you city dwellers.

I questioned the relevance of this information but kept it to myself, as he went on.

Smashed my own head in on rock tracking wolves. Made do with T3s, horseradish and ginger root. Some other grub from the land. Boiled her all up in one fell batch. Works magic on lots that ails ye. Earaches for sure. I was up and rifle-ready in less than a day. Truly.

When I realized he was giving me his home remedy, I asked if white sage would work in a pinch? Did that count as grub? Had he said kometres?

Don’t see why not? He stood evaluating me perhaps, invading. Anything else I can help with, he asked. The prying was particularly tiresome at the late hour.

I looked at him more closely now. The whites of his eyes were yellow. Rheumy, too. Not the poet. Like moist. Almost oozing. He looked old for a dad. Wait, he hadn’t said he was a dad. The diaper browsing, I suppose.

No, I’m good. Thanks for the tip on meds though.

How bout your stocks and futures?

I gave him my best you’re-weird-but-god-love-you look. No, I’m good really, I said, trying my best to keep it light.

A tip on what is yet to come perhaps, he clarified. Gratis-like.

Without my consent, he planted a boot on some Pampers Phases stacked there between us, and weighed in on what was yet to come.

Here’s how it’s going to pan. You do something that you forever regret and you are in complete control of your actions. How’s that strike you? You think it through — deliberate over it, you know — and knowing you are in the wrong, you do it anyhow.

I put forth an interjection: Hold on, bub. I really don’t have time… but he spoke right through my protestations as if I hadn’t spoken at all.

Even though you have a feeble and weak justification for why you’re doing what you’re doing when you do it, you do it anyway. And you’ll never figure out why you really did what you did except that you were weak and feeble.

I knew he’d overstepped his bounds, so I said, Hey listen here buddy… Yeah I hey-listen-here-buddied him, but after such a witty triumph, I couldn’t think of anything to add.

You ever come up round Spatsizi, you welcome to it. No one ever does though. They say they will. But they never do. It was abandoned soon after the seventh day. Not even a crow could convince you to make roost. But should you ever come up. Got a Canucks jersey tacked to the door, he said, as if to clear up any confusion, and I certainly did look that and somewhat frazzled to boot. Anyway I can help, happy to do so, he said. I stood there with a package of Codeine T3s and watched him walk away.

[break]

It was Mr Pulp and Paper’s fault. He’d gotten my mind restless, searching for something that it would forever regret doing. I knew immediately what it was. Killing Gary was it. Seems I’d already done so.

About those conversations I mentioned a few minutes back. You know when interactions force you to reveal the smallest aspect of yourself, like when I tell someone my age or my name even, I’m filled with anxiety or that I’ve somehow crossed a line of decency somewhere. It is along those same rails that I must then reveal everything to you. I hardly know the line between pertinent and impertinent subjects than I know the differences among fine wine. All conversation gnaw me inside. (pause)

I see you mouthing words. Why are you…? Are you still listening?

[break]

So humour me as I continue down these rails. I’ll get on with it. Gary had this thing he’d tell the kids about some Saturdays. On three Saturdays at least, that I can recall. Troya asked once if it was a dream and he’d say, no I’m just telling you. He was usually still wired from lack of sleep and whatever else.  13474129_10153617836287267_1128764622_n

He began with a seal. A harbour seal. There was a seal swimming out, he’d say, into the ocean, into the Strait of Georgia, through cormorants and killer whales, she swam. Oh, she’s a girl-seal? Troya said excitedly. Yes, now no more interruptions, please. This seal wanted to see what no seal had seen before. The areas along Indian Arm, she’d thoroughly explored these and was, to tell you the truth, getting bored with the region. She planned to go out deep into open water. See what it offered. But as she neared the old lighthouse and what is now Whytecliff Park, this seal, on a morning very much like this one, saw something white waving at her from the shore. It had a very big white bushy tail. The seal swam closer and saw it was a skunk. The skunk said, Hey seal, could you hold up for a sec? I’m in desperate need to get back to Richmond. My family lives there. I woke up in these bushes and I have no idea how I got here. Even if I were to take Lions Gate Bridge, and walk through downtown and then take Main all the way south, I’d never get to my son’s baptism on time. At Kingsway Mennonite. Hey, cried Kevin, that’s our church! Sssssh, Gary shushed. The skunk was in the middle of an explanation, saying, the old traditions still fit with our kind, you see. I know it’s my fault, that I’m here. Though I don’t have a clue how. One second I’m dashing away from a flashlight and the rustle of a garbage bag and the next I’m waking up in West Vancouver! Some practical joke! (Scoffs) Catch and release. How far will they take it?! But were you to help me out, I and all of Metro Van skunkdom would recite encomiums for all seals for ages to come. We will sing your praises at each new moon. Mark my words.

The seal saw this as a solution to his boredom and told the skunk to get a good grip on his head. The oddest sight: a white skunk perched on the head of a seal. So, the seal swam the skunk across the bay between several tankers toward Locarno beach around Tower and Wreck, past the jetties, and the airport and the skunk was home in time for his son’s baptism.

Each time Gary told the kids this story, he’d been out for most of the night, as I’ve said. Probably the result of some drug washing out of his system. Was I the harbour seal in this? I remember wondering.

Troya, our oldest child and girl — so in love with her daddy — asked Gary if the skunks ever came through for the seals or just a favour never repaid. Oh yeah sure, Gary said. In the animal world everything comes round some time.

One day, not too long after, Gary continued, there was a big oil spill, nearly 8000 litres of raw crude. All marine-life were affected by this disaster, though the captain of the oil tanker and his parent company wouldn’t admit they were the culprits. What’s a culprit? Troya asked. Well, it’s the person who is guilty. Who did the wrong thing. I wondered why hadn’t Troya asked for a definition of encomium. I wanted one.

Anyway, so the seal came to the skunk panicked. She needed more than songs tonight. No one else had had anything in the way of productive to add. What ever are we to do? the seal asked. We are dying. The oil is killing the plankton and the crustaceans and so the herring and ling cod we love to eat will leave these shores if their prey die off. The skunk thought for a minute and then said wait right here. He spread the word and gathered all the skunks he knew and though they were lousy swimmers they jumped into all bodies of water around Vancouver. They paddled into the Strait. Into False Creek and the water where the oil slick was the worst. Tar soaked into their fur and they were able to clean the water for the seal and all the water creatures and plants. Their fur had a special absorbent quality, you see. Skunks, on behalf of all land animals, had evened the score.

And that is why, Gary would say in conclusion, skunks today are mostly black with white stripes. Because of the tar and oil. And all the toxins they ingested have something to do with bad smell they spray, but don’t ask me to get into that.

Each time in the telling Kevin’s questions became more precise. If all skunks absorbed oil, he mused, then they’d absorb it on their bellies and not on their backs. Their lower half. So why do skunks have black on their back between the two stripes? And why are they swimming now? I thought that was the point of the seal helping. And why do baby skunks now have this same white and black appearance if… Look, Gary said, picking and choosing his answers. I said skunks were lousy swimmers, didn’t I. And the colouration of skunks went directly into their genome, which then affected all descendants. Heredity, you understand? Kevin wasn’t buying it. What if there’s another oil spill? he asked, pessimistically. Then, the skunks will die out, because if they mop up anymore oil and all the white disappears from their fur, their bodies will shut down. Skunkdom has already sacrificed over half of their visible surface and who knows how much of their inner. An inner surface? I’ve never heard of that, Kevin said. Look Kev, it’s just a story where a group of animals have chosen to live with a sacrifice they’ve made for the greater good. The common weal. Wheels? Kevin said, fuming, now you’re making shit up. Kevin, I yelled.

It was utter agony for Kev to hear Gary’s leaps of logic in the imaginative liberties of the story. He grasped his own head between his hands as if to tear his hair from his head before tramping up to his room and was grumpy for the rest of the day. Troya, however, seemed satisfied. And Shelley always silent throughout the telling appeared pleased enough. Gary would then do something that indicated he’d righted all wrongs. Lean back and stretch. Close his eyes. Or enthusiastically jump out of his seat to continue building the back deck. Which was never finished, by the way.

Skunks carry on though their bodies are compromised, I thought. Walking toxin. Living poison.

[break]

Shelley’s fine by the way. The sage concoction worked a charm. Tested it on Diddle the cat. Tried it myself. Hair-bristling, but effective. You can see Shelley in that grey Chevy Lumina over there. Wave Shelley. She’s busy. Nose in a book.

After the kids were tucked in, I told Gary I was planning to kill him. This was the day after Super Valu. He chuckled and asked me how I would manage that. Rat poison, I said not telling him he’d given me the idea. Do we have rats? he said, suddenly sitting up.

Rats, no. But yeah I told him. Yes, I said clearly and deliberately, it will be poison. You skunk enough, Gary? Should be less traumatic for all parties involved. Mostly for me, I mean. Death has no status quo.

I thought you’d dealt with my quote unquote hustling problem years ago, Gary asked, and I remember his voice was soft. A bold emptiness to it. Had he actually believed me? About the proposed poisoning? I thought we had an agreement, he said, Friday to Saturday you let me be my inner me and the rest of the week I am the father and husband our kids need. I think I’ve done that. I think it’s worked out well. Afterlife in flames notwithstanding. While he spoke I stared at an ever-shifting pustule on his neck. It was my go-to place when he tried to convince me of something.

How could you miss the coming-out boat? I asked him again. Even I was well up on it. Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS advocacy. Errol Flynn was also a queer man, they say. Boy George all over the news and MuchMusic.

Continuing this arrangement is good for me, Gary reassured. It’s good for us. We have our health and growing children. That kind of value can’t be measured. Gary was a head of marketing at True Gospel Music. He was always measuring market worth.

I just need to be reminded sometimes, I said, that’s all, I told him and snuggled into him, but not before giving him a sharp jab in the lower back. We were playful.13459541_10153617912702267_59723630_n

Gary is of a certain race. I think you should know that. It’s not really important. But it’s important, too. Where we come from. We all come from the same place. But don’t, you know? Gary’s a visible minority, and I’m not. That somehow made us see things differently. I won’t say which group he’s from, to avoid sounding racist, but it’s obvious if you see him. He wouldn’t have to inform you about his ancestry. You’d just know. He’s very… that.

I won’t say always, but I’ve often in secret thought that Gary’s disadvantages were the cause of his sexual inclinations. Every day treated as the odd man out. Every day someone beyond earshot does an impression of you, does an accent, what have you, even though Gary doesn’t have an accent. His grandparents did, but Gary doesn’t. He’s adapted. We all must. Life is new every single day. Each day, though seemingly immeasurable, is a process of assimilation.

Well, the day finally came. A Friday in early December if my memory serves me. I’d prepared the ingredients for Vietnamese salad rolls, blending the peanuts into the sauce with a hand blender. My kitchen wand. Every home should have one of these. Fantastic for dressings or pureeing a soup. All our kids knew how to wrap rice paper neatly around rice noodles, pork, lettuce, basil, sometimes whatever was around really. I loved how you could see everything tightly wrapped through the rice paper. Food without secrets. One of our family traditions. Salad rolls, popcorn and Friday movies. A way we defined ourselves unlike or like any other family. There was a mood or an atmosphere about us that couldn’t be found elsewhere and I know now it is pointless to look for that. Can’t be replicated. We were five unique personalities built upon the foundations of one another. You can’t go it alone. I’ve learnt that much. Ten hands and fifty fingers full of it. Gary was right, we were a thing of value. I guess I’ll take the blame for that one. My feistiness. But that’s the thing, I wasn’t really angry. But what was I? I can’t say, but it was in me. It had breathed me in and it couldn’t be stopped. It is breathing in me still.

So we all sat down for dinner, all the ingredients spread out on the coffee table — bean sprouts too that day — in front of the tv, and Troya asks where Biddle and Iddle are. The other cats. Only Diddle there nonchalantly rubbing up to Shelley. No one can answer her. Gary goes to the backyard to look, but returns shortly, saying they’ll turn up sooner than we can miss them.

The kids are already well into wrapping their rolls. I give everyone their own dipping bowls with peanut sauce.

What movie are we watching? Shelley wants to know. None of your business, Kevin says. It is her business, Troya defending, since Shelley will be participating as a viewer in tonight’s film. It’s dad’s turn tonight, so he chooses.

I was going to say Ghostbusters, Gary says with a wicked grin. Everyone screams no. Ok Ok alright. I’ll spare you all my Bill Murray love. Thank-you Jesus, Kevin exclaims. Don’t use his name like that, I chide. Troya starts in on another defence, on how Bill Murray was in fact a wonderful underrated actor. That’s how our Fridays went. Once.

It takes longer than expected. I even began to change my mind. But I know if I go back now, I’ll turn into salt.

Then, Troya stops and is waving her hand near her mouth as if to cool down something hot. My mouth is burning, she garbles through noodles spilling out. Are you choking? Spit it out, Gary commanding. Kevin is doing the same and runs to the kitchen and sticks his head under the tap. Troya chases him in and so do the rest of us. Kev’s face is unusually red compared to his normal tone. Gary puts his hand on Kev’s cheek, whose eyes have rolled back. He holds Kevin who has gone weak. Troya is lying on the floor now against the wall under the window which looks into our lush backyard with its tall cedars. She is vomiting yellow. Gary looks at me for assistance. Helpless. Shelley is also looking at me. I don’t move. A look of much disgust wells up in Gary. I reach for my wand. It will be some years yet before I forget how he lost all power over me then and there. I lunge with the hand blender at his throat. I aim for the pustule thingamabob — and I think I’ll sheer it off. A bull’s eye. Gary’s hand comes up to block the spinning blade, holding Kevin limp in his other arm. Gary cries out. That blistery region is never going anywhere. Gary grips his injured hand tightly. He’s in an embrace around Kevin. In the split second that he puts his head down to inspect the damage, I leap on him and dig the wand into the crown of his head. A royal seal. I dig it in until my blending wand’s whirring motor slows and stops. Who knew the fortitude of cooking appliances these days? It even starts again as I pull it out, but the safety guard has broken away from the blade and is mangled badly. I expect Gary to look up, maybe to retaliate, but he is on the floor now, too, smothered over Kevin. I hadn’t expected to churn through the skull-plate so efficiently. Crumpled on the floor there I noticed how much Gary has aged in our fifteen years of marriage. His hair thinner than I thought around the tonsure I’ve given him.

Married. Married. Marry. Marry. Marry me Mags. Mags. Mags.

He is saying my name. Over and over. I looked at Shelley, who is too scared to scream, backed herself toward the washroom at the edge of the kitchen. Everyone is speechless. They are choking. But not Shelley. She must not have tried the peanut sauce. It was wolf’s bane, not rat poison. Rat poison doesn’t work on people. I lied. I’d ground wolf’s bane root into the peanut sauce which then burns through esophagi, sears the linings of stomaches and blocks tracheal passages.

Esophagi. (pause) Vancouver is lovely come April. The plum blossoms emerge. Each branch on the East Side is festooned with white flowers. The kind of a white that glistens with just a touch of violet. Reminds me of enormous petaled phalluses. Is the plural phalli? That’s why I bring up esophagi again. I wonder what it would be like to make love to flower blossoms such as those. Am I alone in seeing the romance in this? No, that’s fair. “Bed of Roses”? Jon Bon Jovi.

Shelley. I am patting Troya on the back, but she is nearly gone I figure. I feel a dark tremor move in my heart. How will she think of me from this moment forward? A mother who has killed her cats? Her siblings? Her father? (pause) Surely, she will experience some kind of victim trauma, like soldiers do after returning from war. I’ve heard of what Vietnam vets experienced. I’ve watched an exposé on Gulf War soldiers. Some of them can’t seem to live with themselves after what they’ve gone through and seen. Done what they’ve done.

Shelley. I take the chef’s knife now from the cutting board on the counter. My wand broken. I approach. I grab hold of the back of her head, like a paediatrician supporting a newborn, and put the point of the knife to her temple. It slides through easily enough, shining out between her black curls and between my fingers in the back. Shelley’s eyes are closed. She’s been quiet the whole time, without struggle. I pull the blade, expecting the red spurting that had burst from Gary’s head but here there is nothing. Just a diagonal, off-centre slot running up from Shelley’s right eyebrow. A black smudge, almost.

[break]

And then, she awoke. Her eyes blinked back open, and she looked up into mine. She didn’t say “Is this a secret?” or “Mom, whatever have you done?” like Troya would have. Or Kevin. Oh I can’t even imagine. Had she said a word, I would have finished skewering her without hesitation. I’d even planned a storage unit I’d bring her too before I fled. But she said nothing, and I knew then that she would always be with me as I was, bound to silence. My stalwart soldier, Shelley. Team player.13459634_10153617449822267_823230765_n

If you are coming to a crossroad of hating and not hating what I’m telling you, Shelley, and the manner in which I do so has become suspect to you, then, at last, I have achieved partial success. It is only when you fully hate these words and words themselves — their hastily constructed scaffolds — will you know what it is that I am bound to, in silence. What we are bound to. I can only hint at what it is. That I’m allowed to do. But the explanation itself is only a representation of muteness.

We, you and I, Shelley, are bound. I can’t break trust because something that can’t be told cannot be betrayed.

Is this familiar to you yet? How much is the sound of my voice not unlike yours? Or is yours? That’s what I’m getting at. How much of this is not your story, not your event, too? Not the supper fiasco, but this. All this we’re in. These gaseous molecules we’re swimming in. Ears make one complicit, you know, just by being present.

Ok. Alright. I know. I know. You get it. You get me. I’m just saying. Just writing. And you’re just reading these words. Lulling, isn’t it? A lullaby, wasn’t it? How far from a thought is an action? It’s on the spectrum. That’s a given. And how hard a push does it take to slide down the rails before coming to a deed? And you are in agreement, reasonably so, that we are pushed to act each and every day. Some say, by the minute.

Have you heard your own recorded voice before? Would you know it to hear it? That’s always at least somewhat unnerving. One can get used to it. Especially in the singing profession. You have to hear playback there. Part of the job. Gary knew about that stuff.

So here I am. Looking for a Canucks jersey stuck to a door somewhere. I’m guessing a cabin. Not much to go on. Are you on your way somewhere? Or are you on your way here? You still listening? Just don’t report me. See there? Shelley’s perfectly happy sitting waiting in the minivan. She’s a solitary soul. This kind of a trip suits her temperament. Wave Shelley. Wave at this kind stranger. Stop typing for a second and look at her. Oh you can see Diddle there. Diddle, our cat. The one that taste-tested the earache remedy. The one that got away, so to speak. Shelley’s wearing one of Gary’s old caps, pulled low over her brow because… Oh god. I am thee worst mother! What can you be thinking? You wouldn’t report me, would you? That’s not a confession you’re writing out. (relaxing) I don’t take you for the reporting kind. Something about the way you’ve been writing as I talk to you. Can I see what it is? Would you read it out to me? I haven’t heard another human voice for it must be hours or days now. What? Yeah, I did mean this tragedy three years ago. That’s when it happened. And yesterday, too. Three years ago and yesterday. Enough details. Show me what you’re writing. No time for shyness after all I shared with you. Bore my soul. No, no, no, I’ll be the judge of that. I’m waiting right here until you read it to me. Waiting. (Pause) Still waiting.

Speaker #2: (distorted voice) Everyone in my family is dead. Almost all…

The tape cuts off. Side two is blank.

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