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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