by Richard Ballon
Setting: A cluttered kitchen in a small apartment in Queens, New York City
Time: The present
Character: EVA SUCICH, 50-year-old lesbian, first generation American of Croatian descent.
EVA speaks to her lover.
I told you honey, this finger is off limits. You can’t put it in your mouth. I’ve got this sore that won’t heal. No, I’m not suggesting I’ve been messing around, of course we’re careful and everything. Will you get over that idea? I am not messing around. It’s kind of about my mother. What? No I’m not sleeping with my mother. Eww.
She died a couple months ago just before I met you. You would have liked her. She was like a dancing bear. She enjoyed her food and liked to snag relatives in the paw of a good argument. She would shake herself awake as she turned her mattress every morning so her dreams wouldn’t sit there asking to be remembered. My Ma’s name was Griselda. You can imagine what I got as a kid to have a mother named Griselda with a foreign accent in her apron pocket.
My Ma didn’t walk, she lumbered, and things she touched burned bright and shame on the foreheads of the few she gave a piece of her mind. She spread wide as a hen over two bus seats and she would cluck a comment to someone she was bound to overhear, though she claims her hearing was going. She used to tell me, “These ears only fill up with good news.”
Well, give her a bit of gossip and she would peck at it, passing it on, politely, like she was apologetically offering a piece of day old cake.
When I brought her to the doctor for her annual checkup last year, the doctor tells me: “We have an unusual situation here, Eva.” Then he left the room. Great, I thought, ladies and gentlemen, it’s cancer time.
My Ma just shrugged. “You know these doctors.” She speared the word these, its single vowel lengthening like an intestinal worm she was pulling from the belly of one of these doctors.
The doctor came back in but didn’t look at us. “It seems,” his voice tightened. “It seems your Mom has been dead for some time now.”
My Ma shrieked and then there was this loud Pop! Like a balloon exploding. Her head sank to her chest, her shoulders relaxed and she became a bag of flesh with the slightest scent of baby powder and stale beer. Honest to God! You think I could make this shit up?
“She had no vital signs at her last checkup as well,” the doctor said, “but no one knew what to do or say. I’m sorry Ma’am but she had no pulse, no heartbeat but she was somehow still breathing.”
I begged him not to call a hearse. This was a small town in West Virginia, honey. We respect the dead, we don’t send them off to a cold white room. I wanted to have some time with her, so four orderlies put her on a stretcher and we loaded the car and as I was driving I kept thinking how, how could she have kept this from me.
We lay her body out. Griselda left written instructions not to be embalmed—paper-clipped to the will she always kept pinned to her bed board
We filled the parlor with gardenias, but there was no stench. I was keeping vigil. The first guests were to arrive soon when I noticed one of her eyelids flicker. Oh God, I thought, when I saw a dark thing crawl from her eye and sit on her cheek. I took a tissue, thinking it was a flea, when it stretched out its little legs and stood as tall as it could.
“Don’t you dare!” came a little squeak.
There stood my mother, the size of a comma. In command. “I hate doctors,” she squeaked.
“Oh God,” I said out loud, “I am losing it…”
“I’m the one who lost it honey, put me in your pocket.”
I held out my finger and she stood on the tip. She must have been wearing an eyelash as a dress. I almost dropped her because her little heels bit into my index finger like a paper cut. I carried her outside and she stepped down to a forest of grass.
“Get a move on honey; you have folks to attend to. Folks coming to see me.” And she walked away.
But she’s in this little brand on my finger that sings to me on clear days and pricks a warning if there isn’t enough air in my tires. When people ask me how I got this tiny cut and why it never heals, I don’t know what to tell them. What? Tell them that my Ma bit me? That’ll go over. You think I didn’t notice you backing away toward the door? It’s not contagious, honey.
It’s just that when you thought you were being sexy and put my finger in your mouth to wet it so you could place it someplace a little more intimate, do you now understand why I knocked over the table and ran to the kitchen?
copyright © 2010 Lucas Richard Ballon. All rights reserved. _________________________________________________
Richard Ballon’s work has been performed in NYC at Sola Voces / Estrogenius Festival, Stage Left’s: Women at Work and Left Out Festivals, Emerging Artist Theater’s: One Man Talking, and NativeAlien’s Short Stories 5; also in Provincetown, Amherst, Boston, Chicago, Iowa City, Toronto, and Montreal. Richard is a member of the Dramatist’s Guild and in 2010 attended the Playwriting Intensive at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Griselda was performed at the MamaDrama Festival at Stage Left Studio Theater, New York City, in October 2010.