June 15, 2015
And as I parted my lips and then, later, my legs, watching the last clouds of smoke slip upward, I kept hearing my mother’s voice say, “Jesus is a fire.”
Ranee Henderson, Thomas Baker, 2014. Oil on Canvas. © Ranee Henderson.
In the final days of her life, my mother began telling everyone that she was a disciple who had been called upon to write two books for the next testament of the Bible: The Future Testament. The retirement home called me when they found her scrawling on the walls of her apartment, twice in her own excrement, once in the blood of her old dog, Peace.
“It’s just that she’s scaring people,” the Cherry Grove Homes director said in his thin, nasally voice. I could picture him on the other end, a white button-down, a red tie, perpetually smiling. “And we aren’t a nursing home, you know; we’re an independent living facility. I’m afraid we have to ask her to leave.” I flew to Alabama immediately, boxed up all of my mother’s possessions, and flew her away to live with me in California.
She had not spoken more than one sentence since seeing me, standing helpless and frightened on the welcome mat of her apartment. Now, walking around my two-bedroom house in Menlo Park, she began whispering to herself in Twi.
“Why did you kill Peace?” I asked. The retirement home director told me they had found the dog in the backyard with his neck slit, his front paws folded and touching as though he were praying.
She turned sharply toward me. “Sacrifice,” she said, before continuing to pace the house. Her English was deteriorating and, though my comprehension was still good, I hadn’t spoken Twi since childhood. I crushed an Ambien into the tea that I made for her, and when she began to nod off, I tucked her into the guest bed, went into my own room, and cried…..
I read this story and didn’t want to stop but then again that’s why it’s a short story.