“Get out,” I say. “Get out of my house, you murdering pig.”
And, when he doesn’t move fast enough, I scream it louder and louder until I am sure the entire Bone can hear me. Get out! Get out! Get out!
He crawls like a dog. Pathetic. I turn away, turn my back on him until I hear his car door slam, and the rev of his engine.
“You okay?” Judah asks.
“That was my father,” I say.
Judah is quiet for a long time. I don’t look at his face to gauge his reaction, though his emotions are so even, so fair and balanced that I hardly need to see him to know that he is frowning. Fathers should be fathers by Judah’s account. Even if they don’t want you, they should still provide for you. Like his did. Like mine didn’t. Never would. Do I have a daddy complex? I think, as I watch Judah watch me. No. I have a complex, sure. But it’s more of an I hate humans thing. Disappointed. I am so disappointed in people. It’s like they live without souls.
I feel it then—my mother’s death. I start to cry. Great, big, gulping sobs. My knight rides his chair over to where I am bent in half by my grief. Folded like a piece of paper. He grabs me before I can blow away. Around the waist, pulling me into his chair until I am half sitting on his lap, hiding my face in my hands.
“Shhhh,” he says. “You are worth loving. They just don’t have any love to give. Forgive them, Margo.”
I TAKE THE MONEY from the floorboards and lay it out in rows. There are piles of hundreds and twenties. I separate them and begin counting. My mother was a rich woman. Rich by anyone’s standards in the Bone. Seventy thousand dollars. Her whole life amounted to a rickety old house, a daughter she never spoke to, and seventy thousand dollars.
“Bravo Mama,” I say. I lean against my bedroom wall and stare at the money for a long time. Then I gather it all up and wrap it in her red bathrobe before stuffing it back under the floorboards.
Two gentlemen callers come that night. I send them away. Tell them my mama’s dead, and unless they have a taste for necrophilia, they need to get the fuck off my porch. The news haunts them. I see it in the whites of their eyes. They’ll be in a stupor tonight, going home to their wives with the knowledge that their whore is dead. Their wives will ask them if they’re okay, and they’ll make up some excuse about not feeling well, retreating to their offices or their bedrooms to ponder over my mother’s death.
The next morning I dress in one of her old flannel shirts. I’m shorter than she was, so it hangs mid-thigh like a dress. I pull on her Docs and catch the bus to the funeral home to pay for her cremation. I pay with a wad of twenties, and the lady behind the desk looks at me like I stole it.
“What?” I say. “Haven’t you seen a working girl’s money before?”
Her eyes get big, but she reaches for the money with her age-spotted hands and stashes it somewhere I can’t see. I can hear the clicks of disapproval she makes in the back of her throat.
“You get to choose her urn,” she says, motioning to a shelf behind her. There are prices printed on paper and taped beneath each jar.
“I don’t want her ashes,” I say quickly. The thought of being in charge of her burned remains alarms me. Too great a responsibility.
“Well, neither do we,” says the lady. “You’re the next of kin. Unless you want to pay monthly for a storage cubby, you have to take the ashes with you.” I sigh, glance at the urns again. I can’t just leave her here.
“The green one,” I say. It reminds me of the leaves she used to touch, before she became someone else.
The leaves and their varicose veins…
I squeeze her voice out of my brain.
“$78.21,” she says. I hand her all dollar bills this time. I wander around after that, searching the eyes of the people I pass, looking for answers.
When it starts to rain, I catch the bus that Nevaeh and I used to ride together, and sit in the back staring out the window. I’m not ready to go back to the eating house and all of her ghosts—the bodies of babies and mothers filling her mouth. The bus driver asks me to leave or pay more fare when it gets dark. I haven’t brought any more money, so I reluctantly climb off. I walk slowly, dread building.
When I get back, it’s dark. Judah is waiting on the sidewalk in front of the house, his chair angled so he can see me walking down the scythe of Wessex.
“Nice legs,” he says. I look down at my legs—so white they’re practically glowing in the dark. I don’t usually show them. Suddenly I’m self-conscious.
“You know…” he says, sensing my discomfort. “Because they work and all…”
I shake my head. “So inappropriate,” I say.
“Yeah, I guess…” He rubs the back of his head, his mouth cocked up on one side. It looks like he’s getting ready to say something that’s going to make both of us uncomfortable.
“So, your mom—” he begins.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” I start walking past him, up the sidewalk to the front door.
“First Neveah, now your mom,” he calls after me. I stop, but don’t turn around.
“It’s just strange,” he says. “Like death is everywhere.”
I don’t know what he’s getting at. I don’t like the tone of his voice, the way I can feel his eyes on my spine.
“Night, Margo.” I hear the wheels of his chair rolling over the sidewalk, back up the scythe.
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