One burned, the other vomit-choked.
The burned one was a crime that went uninvestigated. The other was accidental suicide.
On our first date: “My mother just died.”
On our second date: “Can you take me to our old house so I can get some things?” A house blackened by fire. Mostly brittle sticks of wood.
She collected warped and burnt pictures in black trash bags.
“They found her in there.”
Pointing at the closet.
Trash bags in my trunk. Trash bags stored in her stepdad’s new garage.
New house in the rich part of Houston.
New house: a three-story condo bought with life insurance money.
Addicted to Percocet.
Addicted to my girlfriend’s Older Sister. She looked exactly like his now-dead wife. Always eyeing me like I had figured out what I wouldn’t until way later.
A fat little demon.
Here’s what I put together later:
Mom also addicted to Percocet. Older Sister also addicted to Percocet. Stepdad and Older Sister transacting sex for pills.
Stepdad gave Mom enough pills to knock her out.
Put her in the closet. Dropped lit a cigarette on bed. Left the house. Fire ate everything.
Investigators said, “She must’ve passed out with the cigarette.” Investigators said, “She must’ve woke up and hid in the closet.”
He killed her for money.
He killed her so he could fuck her daughter. He killed her.
And I left that relationship before he killed me.
This is the other mother.
She killed her son in a car accident that left her paralyzed. Wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Guilt eating through her.
Guilt quieted by boxed wine and Xanax.
They found her on her back.
They found her purple, on her back, bloated. Overdosed on boxed wine and Xanax.
Couldn’t pull herself up. Couldn’t get to the toilet. Couldn’t.
Vomit suffocated her.
While she was dead, they came in through the bathroom window.
Protected by a filed-down glock.
Human buzzards who lived in the low-income housing complex. Neighbors who claimed to be her friend.
Neighbors who only came over to see what she had worth taking. While she was dead, they came in and took things.
Pills, money, TV.
No one called the police.
Didn’t anybody see?
Uncle called and said, “Your mother is dead. Has been for three days.” We showed up to put things in black trash bags.
Black trash bags in my trunk.
Black trash bags in the trash.
A life condensed to black trash bags.
The mattress stained in the shape of a woman in pain.
What are the horrible things that happened to them in the aftermath of those deaths? They had to navigate those moments with me there.
Emotionless. Unhelpful. A blank page because I didn’t care.
But I do now.
Can’t stop thinking about them.
One burned. The other vomit-choked.
And I’m still alive.
Whining about not getting things published. Eww.
Tex Gresham is the author of Sunflower, This Is Strange June, and Heck, Texas. He’s on Twitter as @thatsqueakypig and online at http://www.squeakypig.com
image: MM Kaufman