Don't Die Before Your Mother, prose by Mather Schneider

Out­side the hotel two lit­tle old ladies climbed into the back seat of the cab and felt the air con­di­tion­er.

2212 North Inn Road,” one of them said to the dri­ver.

Are you sure it’s not North INA Road?” the dri­ver said into the rearview mir­ror. He had long scrag­gly brown hair and his eyes looked as red as a sun­set.

No, no, no,” the same woman said. “2212 North Inn Road. I should know my own son’s address, shouldn’t I?”

The oth­er woman was silent.

2212 North Inn is the South Lawn Ceme­tery,” the dri­ver said.

No it’s not, it’s my son’s house,” she said. “What’s your name, Sir?”

"R.C.” the dri­ver said.

"Well, R.C.,” she said, “when we get there you’ll see.”

R.C. drove to the end of North Inn where the ceme­tery start­ed and then drove around and showed her that the road did not con­tin­ue.

What else can hap­pen, Lin­da?” she said. “We came all the way from Chica­go, we put an ad in the paper that cost me a hun­dred and forty dol­lars, and now the cab dri­ver doesn’t know where John’s house is.”

Ma’am,” R.C. said. “You have the wrong address.”

She explod­ed. “I DON’T HAVE THE WRONG ADDRESS! JESUS! What’s going on? First my son goes and croaks on me, and now I’ve got to deal with all this.”

Lin­da nod­ded and kept her fat hands in her fat lap. R.C. called my boss at dis­patch.

"They’ve got the address wrong,” R.C.’s boss blurt­ed over the crack­ling radio. “She must be talk­ing about North Ina.”

You tell that lady she is in the wrong busi­ness,” the old woman said, point­ing her wrin­kled old fin­ger at the radio.

She’s been dri­ving a cab in this town for thir­ty years,” R.C. said.

"Look,” she said, “my son is dead. I have to find his house and sell it. Ok?”

I’m sor­ry.”

Do your moth­er a favor,” she said. “Get a wife. Get a wife so your moth­er doesn’t have to deal with it when you croak. You mar­ried?”

Yes,” R.C. said.

Good boy,” she said.

R.C. pulled into the park­ing lot of a gas sta­tion and parked.

"John ate fast food every day,” the woman said. “He was a bach­e­lor. He moved here when he was nine­teen, and that’s just what bach­e­lors do, they eat fast food and don’t wor­ry about it.”

Can’t you call some­one about the address?” R.C. said.

I don’t have a phone,” she said. “Do you think every­one in the world has a cell phone?”

R.C. hand­ed her his cell phone.

Who am I going to call?” she said.

You could call Melanie, Diane,” Lin­da said qui­et­ly.

I guess I could call Melanie,” Diane said.

She man­aged to dial the num­ber in 3 attempts.

Be there, Mel,” Diane said, while it rang. “For once in your life, be there—Hello Mel, it’s mom…” She sighed as she real­ized it was only an answer­ing machine.

R.C., frus­trat­ed, pulled back onto the road and head­ed back toward their hotel.

Then she got busy with that phone.

Isn’t any­one home?” she said.

She final­ly got a busy sig­nal. She wait­ed a minute and then called the num­ber again. It rang, and rang, kept ring­ing.

It was busy a minute ago,” Diane said.

Some vaca­tion,” Lin­da said, look­ing out the win­dow at the bril­liant day. Three blocks from their hotel, at Riv­er and Camp­bell, by mir­a­cle a human being was con­tact­ed. How­ev­er, Diane couldn’t seem to get the per­son on the oth­er line to under­stand the sit­u­a­tion. So she hand­ed the phone to R.C.

Hel­lo?” he said.

The oth­er per­son on the line turned out to be a nine­ty three year old woman in Sum­mum, Illi­nois.

Do you know where we are going?” R.C. said loud­ly.

Yes,” the old woman on the phone said.

How do we get there?” he said.

Where are you now?” the old woman said.

On Riv­er Road.”

That’s not where it is,” the old woman said.

You don’t say,” he said.

It’s a long way from there,” the old woman said.

What’s the clos­est cross street?”

It’s off of Park Avenue…”

He hung up.

Well?” Diane said accus­ing­ly. “You fig­ure it out?”

It’s on North INA,” R.C. said.

Diane sank back in her seat, and braced her­self for the g-forces of R.C.’s u-turn.

Lin­da had a slight smile on her face.

R.C. dropped them off at 2212 North Ina. The meter said $74.45. He only charged them 50 bucks because he felt sor­ry for them.

Diane told R.C. they need­ed a ride back to the hotel at 4 that after­noon. They were not going to sleep in a dead man’s house. It would be anoth­er 50, so R.C. agreed.

When he showed up at 4 to take them back to the hotel, they were stand­ing in the yard behind the closed secu­ri­ty gate. It was heavy steel, about 6 feet tall. When he had dropped them off Diane had point­ed the lit­tle hand-held remote and the gate jumped to life, slid­ing slow­ly against the 6 foot cement wall which sur­round­ed the rest of the prop­er­ty. Then they had walked in and shut the gate behind them.

Now the thing wouldn’t open. There was no oth­er gate to walk through, which seemed odd. R.C. won­dered about the strange son who had died before his moth­er. He pulled up and got out and looked at them stand­ing in there like cap­tured ani­mals, half blind in the after­noon sun. Diane had white, short cropped hair. She remind­ed R.C. of an effem­i­nate man. Lin­da was His­pan­ic. She had dark skin with hun­dreds of lit­tle brown moles all over the sides of her face and neck. She used a cane because of a bad right hip.

Damn thing won’t work,” Diane said. “Can you believe this?”

She asked R.C. for his phone and while she used it he tried the gate-open­er, press­ing the sin­gle but­ton on it over and over like an idiot.

They stood there, look­ing at each oth­er through the bars, R.C. on one side, them on the oth­er.

I can’t wait here all day,” R.C. said.

Go on, go on,” Diane shooed him away. “We’ll call the fire depart­ment and they’ll come and get us out of here.”

R.C. stood there. They didn’t even have a god damned phone.

He climbed over the fence with some dif­fi­cul­ty.

There must be a switch or some­thing,” he said, out of breath.
They looked every­where, inside and out­side the house. No switch­es.

R.C. saw a lad­der in the back yard of the neighbor’s house. He knocked on the door but no one answered, so he went around back and grabbed it.

How’s Lin­da going to climb a lad­der?” Diane said.

"We could try,” R.C. said. Lin­da gave a small nod of con­sent.

He leaned the lad­der against the wall and held it.

Ok, Lin­da,” he said.

I’ve got you,” he said, hold­ing the lad­der while Lin­da slow­ly lift­ed her left foot up to the first rung. She reached the sec­ond rung and then the third, one at a time, each a great effort. If she top­pled back­wards with her weight there wouldn’t be any­thing R.C. could do about it.

At the top she cel­e­brat­ed with a “Hur­rah!” Then she real­ized she could not lift her leg up over the wall.

Try going up back­ward,” R.C. said.

The slow process began again down­wards and then she turned around and start­ed to put her foot up back­wards.

Like this?” she said.

You can do it.”

She did it. At the top, she moved, one inch at a time, her fat ass onto the wide flat top of the cement block wall. R.C. put his hand on the pen­du­lous wad­dle of her upper arm. She got both her legs over and was sit­ting on the wall with me and was quite hap­py about her accom­plish­ment. She gig­gled. He moved the lad­der over the fence and hopped over and sit­u­at­ed the lad­der under Lin­da from the oth­er side.

Ok,” he said. “Come on down.” She began to low­er her­self and we held our breath.

All this time Diane was talk­ing on the cell phone.

Yes, Mel,” Diane was say­ing, “we tried that. We’ve tried every­thing. No, I can’t get hold of Bill. I can’t get hold of Bill and the cab driver’s here and it already cost me 73 dol­lars for the cab ride, and he couldn’t find the address and then we stayed out here all after­noon and no buy­ers showed up…”

R.C. not­ed what she said about the fare being 73 dol­lars, instead of the 50.

…they got a lad­der,” Diane said, “What?…Yes, Linda’s going over right now.”

Diane smiled at Lin­da who was just then reach­ing the ground on the oth­er side.

Land,” Lin­da said, like a sailor after months at sea.

…Ok,” Diane said. “Bye.”

Diane hand­ed the phone up to R.C. “My daugh­ter,” she said. “She lives in Michi­gan. I thought she might know some­thing. But of course she didn’t. Watch, she’ll die on me next.”

She nim­bly climbed up the lad­der and over the wall, a reg­u­lar gym­nast.

Now do you see?” Diane said to me, shak­ing the gate con­troller at me. “Can you blame me? What else can hap­pen? I can’t believe this.”
“Some vaca­tion,” Lin­da said.

But you climbed the lad­der,” R.C. said.

I can’t believe I did it,” she beamed. “What was I think­ing?”

Let’s get the hell out of here,” Diane said. “If John was here I’d kick his ass, I swear I would.”

They climbed into the cab and were laugh­ing by the time they were half way back.

R.C. radioed dis­patch and they talked and joked about it. The dis­patch­er said, “I guess we all learned a lit­tle les­son today.”

R.C. showed Diane and Lin­da a bak­ery near their hotel and sug­gest­ed they have break­fast there. He rolled up to the hotel doors. Diane paid, includ­ing a tiny tip. They moaned and groaned with the creak­ing of old bones as they climbed out of the cab and stood on the side­walk. They waved good­bye and dis­ap­peared into the resort lob­by.

232 Clear,” he said into the radio mike.

10−4, 232,” the dis­patch­er said.

R.C. sat there for a minute. Then he slow­ly drove over to Jacob’s Park, where he found a shady spot and parked the cab. He dialed a num­ber on his cell phone, back in Illi­nois, and put it to his ear.

 

I was born in Peo­ria, Illi­nois in 1970 and have lived in Tuc­son, Ari­zona for the past 14 years. I love it here, love the desert, love the Mex­i­can cul­ture (most of it), and I love the heat. I have one full-length book of poet­ry out called DROUGHT RESISTANT STRAIN by Inte­ri­or Noise Press and anoth­er called HE TOOK A CAB from New York Quar­ter­ly Press. I have had over 500 poems and sto­ries pub­lished since 1993 and I am cur­rent­ly work­ing on a book of prose.

 

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2 Responses to Don't Die Before Your Mother, prose by Mather Schneider

  1. Misty Marie says:

    awww. i live in the world of the lit­tle old lady at the moment, and i have to admit, it's like the cutest world ever. you wrote them well and made me smile!

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