There was a light breeze playing in the woods, rustling the tree leaves; an echo of birds claiming their territory; a passing car on the distant highway; the crunch of dirt and rocks. And then, there was my mother.
“You know what would be nice to hear once in a while?” she said as we paused.
“Silence?” I suggested, though not terribly hopeful.
“‘Hey, mom,'” she offered, “‘why don’t I take you out to dinner?’ ‘Hey, mom, I just called to hear your voice.’ You know what I hoped for today? ‘Hey, mom, happy birthday.’ But no, I don’t ever get those kinds of phone calls, do I?”
“Maybe you should have had another kid, then,” I said, in no mood to be lectured on familial duties. I took a drink from my flask.
She continued our ‘conversation’ as if I wasn’t actually part of it. “No, I get the 3 AM phone calls, the ‘can you bring the car ’round’ phone calls, the ‘I need a new dump spot, the last one is compromised’ calls.”
She dropped her shovel and waved for the flask. I sighed and handed it over. “Yes, and I pay dearly for it. You make sure of that.”
“Don’t be impertinent, dear,” she said after swallowing.
I tucked the flask back in my pocket, then wiped a rag across my forehead.
“Hey, mom,” I said, voice mockingly sweet, “How about when we’re done here we go out for ice cream and get our nails done?”
“Well, you may have no femininity to speak of,” she huffed, “but a manicure wouldn’t go amiss after this. Just look at my nails.” She held her hand out for me to see the chips in the polish and the dirt caked beneath. “You know, it wouldn’t take much for you to be real pretty.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Can we please just get done!?”
“Why don’t you let me take you shopping? Get you some nice dresses, some make-up-”
“Over my dead body.” We both looked down. “Over my dead body,” I revised.
“What ever happened to Elias?”
“He was Mossad,” I reminded her as we hoisted the bag between us.
“So what? He was a very nice young man.”
“His mother threatened to disown him if he married a non-Jew.” The body made a soft ‘thud’ as it rolled to the bottom of the hole. We grabbed our shovels again and started to fill it in.
“Well, blood is thicker than water, dear,” she said, lamenting my singleness yet again.
“Yeah, but water doesn’t leave incriminating stains on your clothes,” I pointed out.
She pursed her lips. For a few minutes, only the sound of digging passed between us.
“Fine, I’ll get you a manicure when we’re done,” I said. Her silence always made me feel guilty. Lectures and pleadings I could ignore, but silence was her true weapon of evil. Silence got me offering things that I shouldn’t, and got her hopes up for more.
“Oh, manicures! You’ll come, too, of course,” she insisted.
“We can make a day of it!”
“And then we’ll have brunch at the cafe. I’ll invite May, her son just got out of prison-”
“We’ll have to buy you some good bras.”
“Not gonna happen,” I said as I put the shovels back in the trunk. She wasn’t listening, as usual.
“And we’ll get our hair done, and go dress shopping…”
“If it’s your birthday why do you keep insisting on buying me things?” I said, exasperated.
“It’s my birthday, I get to do what I want,” she sang sweetly.
“I am not getting a dress!” I said as we got in the car.
“I know this delightful little Turkish lady,” she mused as she checked her hair in the rear view mirror. “Always wears the prettiest scarves. Just got a new shipment of guns in.”
“That I might do,” I conceded.
She refreshed her lipstick before putting the car in drive and pulling away from the scene. A few miles down the road we passed a lighted sign across the highway.
UTAH HAS NOT HAD A
TRAFFIC RELATED DEATH
FOR 4 DAYS
“You’re due,” I mumbled and opened the folder on my next target.