Family Plots

Family Plots

A Story by Carol Cashes
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A sibling's untimely death

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Family Plots

 

Evil is a relative term, I think.  As a child, the lines were distinct, but now, with so many shades of gray, I’m not sure if I can distinguish good from evil as easily as black from white.  I am envious of those who seem very sure of their judgments, they look so well-rested.   Sleep avoids me now, much like my conscience.  God helps those who help themselves.  Surely that includes those who help others.  My brother’s failures were tortuous to us all, but now, with my help, we all have peace.   

 

My mother cries with abandon, much like a child.  It is painful to watch, more painful to hear, but I do not dwell on this, I have coffee to make, dark mourning clothes to iron and set out, flowers to accept at the door, phone calls to return.  Yes, yes, it’s very sad, he was young, only forty.  No, we don’t know why he did it.  He left no note, no letter.  Thank you, yes, keep us in your prayers, my mother and I appreciate that. No, no, there is nothing we need right now. Yes, the service is at two o’clock, the old funeral home on Pass Road. Yes, that’s the one.

 

I kiss my husband, who escapes this sad house grateful for his demanding and important job.  I accuse him of being glad to go, but soften it with my admission of envy.  He understands, he loves me, but is at a loss in the face of  my mother’s grief.   Are you sure you’re okay?   I can call my boss and explain.  No, no, you go.  There’s not much you can do here, anyway, just be there at two o’clock, okay?

 

Time to bathe and dress.  I draw a warm bath with fragrant salts for my mother and coax her to soak.  Her eyes are red, her face blotchy and my heart constricts with her soft weeping.   I wrap her long silver hair in a knot and secure it with a clip.  Do you need me to help?  Would you like me to stay?  Get in, Mama, I used your favorite, the lavender.   Is it too hot?  Good, just sit for a little while, there’s plenty of time and it’ll make you feel better.

 

I close the door softly and walk back to the kitchen.  The fresh-brewed coffee smells inviting, and I feel guilty for enjoying even that small pleasure.   I try to summon the anger that brought us to this day, but I am too weary, now. The practical details, the logistics of living and dying occupy my mind, minutiae that roam freely in the space formerly occupied by deeper thought. 

 

I shower quickly in the guest bath, don my only dark dress and black hose.  Light makeup and the waterproof mascara.  I pull my hair back and tie it loosely with a black ribbon.  I hear Mama stir in her bedroom and I hurry to see if she has everything she needs.

 

She sits on the edge of the bed, crying softly now, her skin flushed from the warm bath.  I murmur to her softly the details she cannot grasp.  Here, Mama, I’ve got your good slip.  Do you want this nice bra with the matching panties " how pretty!  I’ve cleaned your black heels.  Dang! it’s hot, today, do you want to wait until it’s time to leave to put on your dress? Just let me brush your hair out real good and we’ll twist it up in a nice knot.  Is there a special clip you want to wear?  The silver one?  Yes, yes I remember what it looks like.  Here it is.

 

At last, we are ready.  My mother stops at the mirror in the foyer to apply lipstick, ever the quintessential belle, even on the day she buries her son.

 

* * *

 

My mother’s oldest and dearest friends are the last to leave.  They have refused my help  and briskly clear away dishes and ziplock leftover casseroles, soups, and lasagnas.  They shush me out of the kitchen with commands to Sit, it’s been a long day.  We’ll take care of all this.  You want a cup o’ this coffee?  My mother has been put to bed and the house put to rights as only old and dear friends take the time to do.  Each pulls me to her ample bosom, smelling faintly of White Shoulders and Jean Nate’.  Take good care of yore Mama, now, and you call us if you need anything, honey, anything at all, ‘kay?  I nod and thank them, again, for their efforts to ease this time of grief in the only way old southern women know how.  My mother is lucky to have such friends.

 

When they are gone, I go out to the screened back porch and light a cigarette, draw deeply on the menthol and listen to the small fountain in the corner.   I hear a rustle behind me and turn to see my mother.  We look into each other’s eyes for a long and silent moment, my mother’s slowly fill with yet more tears.   She holds in her white, trembling hands a recent photo of my sister, her young face already ravaged by alcohol.   I have one more task, one more soul to help find peace. 

 

“It’ll have to look like an accident.”

 

“Yes, yes, of course.”


© 2017 Carol Cashes



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Reviews

I got the idea this was murder very early on in your story, but I was not convinced until the end. You did a perfect job of conveying the narrator's total avoidance, taking care of this & that, as an excuse to really deal with anything. But I wasn't sure if this was a neurotic mannerism or if she had something very huge to avoid thinking about. This is a well-crafted mystery packed into an easy read of short length for online attention spans! The conversational asides are also well done. (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Month Ago


love your writing
its genius
love it


Posted 2 Months Ago


Excuse my language but holy s**t! I did not expect that ending! To think it was a gruesome cleansing all along, excellent work

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

There is a trace of Edgar Allen Poe in your blood, you understand the darkness in some people and bring it out beautifully. I loved the gentle way you treated your mother, the sympathy and kindness; and then the plot!
I have cataracts .. bigger writing please :)

Posted 3 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

3 Months Ago

The family rumor for years has been Poe's a distant relative...
I remember when I first wrote.. read more
' Time to bathe and dress. I draw a warm bath with fragrant salts for my mother and coax her to soak. Her eyes are red, her face blotchy and my heart constricts with her soft weeping. I wrap her long silver hair in a knot and secure it with a clip. Do you need me to help? Would you like me to stay? Get in, Mama, I used your favorite, the lavender. Is it too hot? Good, just sit for a little while, there’s plenty of time and it’ll make you feel better.'

Superb and flowing language, phrasing precise but natural as if a story being told aloud. Grand touches of place and voices, scents and actions. As to the first-class ending .. .. ..

(Slightly larger font would be useful!)

Posted 3 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

3 Months Ago

Thank you so much for reading this, and again, when I think I'm "dry", I read your reviews and remem.. read more
And so, a new plot begins.
Heartbreaking having to dispose of damaged kin--at least, I've always found it so.
Well-conceived and smartly conveyed story.
Excellent work, Carol!

Posted 5 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

5 Months Ago

Thanks for reading. From all those hours of watching the Investigation Discovery channel, it's prob.. read more
Wha....? I been ambushed! There I was, pouring out sympathy by the bucketfuls, then "wham!" Actually, I'm smiling. Another fine piece of writing, my friend.

Posted 6 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

6 Months Ago

Thank you. You make me laugh. Yes, like yourself, I love a good whammy at the end.
this piece is amazing! I could not stop reading

Posted 6 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

6 Months Ago

Thanks. It was kind of hard to post because I lost my sister a year after it was written and my bro.. read more
xoxo

6 Months Ago

yeah i gotcha. i am sorry for your loss
The last line is captivaymting as you submissively give in to peoples approval of your family,and maybe just sell it soul in the process

Posted 6 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

6 Months Ago

Thanks for reading. I wrote this some time ago, and if you understand Southern culture...well, we h.. read more
This comment has been deleted by the poster.
Rodela

6 Months Ago

Soul meant that u r forbidden to grieve the way u want to,cuz u have to keep up the fake act.And I u.. read more
You hooked me with the first sentence. And it really set up the entire piece.

Posted 6 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

6 Months Ago

Thank you. It's one of my favorite pieces that I've written although when my mother's friend read i.. read more

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Added on June 8, 2017
Last Updated on September 11, 2017

Author

Carol Cashes
Carol Cashes

Biloxi, MS



About
I'm very cynical, jaded, just this side of bitter and the only reason I haven't crossed that line is a good man loves me. I am extremely empathetic, but seldom sympathetic. I can be a ferociously lo.. more..

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