by Ann Mohin

Mamie once reminded me of a big cat, a tigress swaying on two block feet, spitting at the storm. Now as I watch her through the screen door, I hope she doesn’t smell me, for that is her one sense that I cannot calculate.

She quit speaking when Edward died—a remnant of her old stubborn streak, of course—and has no sight left under the skim-milky film of her faded iris eyes. Tub says he gets so tired of her he could puke and Lord save me, I know what he means.

Keeping her alive is like keeping a goldfish—too much food and uh-oh—but the lady does love to eat. Donuts and hard candies, white bread and cabbage sandwiches. I can tell when she’s hungry because she puffs out her tongue like a kind of third lip and jiggles her bubbly mouth.

Oh, I parcel her food out carefully. “The more we save today, Mamie, the more we have tomorrow.” I always sing it real loud, right in her ear. I like how her hair sort of dances in front of my mouth.

My husband Edward, rest his cold soul, used to tell me that I could win any old Patsy Cline Sound-Alike contest. But his mother, who has now lived here with us on Eden Road for nearly ten years, paid no mind to my talents. Tub says we should just kill her off. “Stop your feedin’ her, ma,” he says. “Who’s gonna know? Mamie’s check will keep comin’, long as we don’t tell no authorities.” I think he has a point; no one ever travels down this dirt road anymore, not since little Lucy Willow came running over the hill, calling and calling, ” Moses! Moses? Here, Moses.”

I’d looked out the window and there was Tub, standing in the parched yard like a fence post, butcher knife dripping. It was too late to punish the boy; you’ve gotta catch him at these things early. I called him inside right away while Lucy screamed horrible and her clay-stained bare feet flew like two tiny red flags right back up the hill. I dragged the dog into the woods and covered him with leaves all right, but I guess Lucy told her momma and that was that; now all of Lee County believes that Tub is capable of unspeakable acts.

So no one comes down Eden Road anymore, which is just fine with me and my boy, as fine as the taste of rain-fresh air. It is as fine as a plunge in cool water on a steamy day like this, and as I calmly lead Mamie to the pond behind the house where Tub sits whittling on the bank and others have already said their goodbyes, I smile, thinking how fortunate Tub and I are to still have each other.

Ann Mohin‘s novel The Farm She Was (Bridge Works Publishing, 1998) was one of the New York Times‘ notable books of the year. Her short stories and poetry have been published in anthologies and literary magazines across the country.