“Ricky, It’s Jenny’s birthday tomorrow. Please stay for the supper. You’ve missed it for the last four years. Don’t miss the birthday again, Rick. It really upsets her.”
“I know what day it is, Franky. And, I don’t care about upsetting her!”
“Ricky, is that really you?” A female called from the bedroom doorway, small vestiges of drowsiness still in her voice. “Oh, my Lord, Ricky! Boys, it’s Ricky!”
Twelve sets of canine nails clipped noisily across the wood parquet floor, straight over to sniff at my brother’s pant leg. I saw him shake his right leg slightly, then give a sideways kick hitting Silus, the more aggressive of the three, in the stomach. With an “oof” the little dog skittered sideways just a little, only to return undeterred to continue sniffing at Ricky’s feet.
“Now, hush, boys,” Mama said to the dogs. “Ricky, let them get to know you, darlin.’”
He looked at me, not bothering to lower his voice, his drawl deepening with anger, “I thought y’said she slept like the dead. Dammit, I hate little dogs.” He shook his leg again, this time more vehemently. The trio scattered like rats, scurrying, clipping sideways across the floor to stand cautiously just a few feet away.
“Hi, Mama,” he said sounding resigned.
“Mama,” I said nervously, “We didn’t hear you get up.”
“Ricky Joe!” Mama ignored me. Her long coarse black hair streaked heavily with gray, disheveled as always, and wearing her usual white floor length nightgown, she padded over to us, barefoot. “You came for your sister’s 28th birthday!” She sounded downright elated. “Franky, you didn’t tell me he was comin’. You always were the sneaky child. My handsome boy,” she addressed him, pulling him toward her. He had no choice but to bend down, as she reached up. Mama planted a kiss on my brother’s cheek, then patted the place where her lips had been lovingly with her hand. “My boy is home, at last.”
“Darlin’,” Mama said to me, “I’m having a hard time sleepin’, must be tomorrow’s excitement. Can you get me a tiny scotch in that crystal highball that used to be your Daddy’s? Now it is a darn shame he’s buried at the cemetery in Dunwoody. We might’ve had the whole family here tomorrow!” She turned back to Ricky then, grabbed his hand, looked up into his light grey eyes so like her own. “Uncle Henry and Cousin Viv, they’re comin’ too, Ricky.
“Open the freezer, Francesca Jane, give your brother a sneak peek at the special dish we have got for tomorrow night’s supper,” Mama said impatiently. Fully awake, her eyes now alert with that strange manic intensity and zeal of enthusiasm Ricky and I had been so wary of as kids. She spoke casually, with the slow aplomb so common to our Southern Georgian drawl. “Your sister here, bless her heart, got the recipe from the internet for me. She’s using that new hi-fi we had installed. Why, you can find anything on there! But, I could never have found it on my own. You’ve got to know how to—”
“Mama, I keep tellin’ ya,’ it’s Wi-Fi, not ‘hi-fi,’” I said tiredly.
“What the hell you talkin’ about Mama?” Ricky interrupted. He was visibly upset now and getting angrier. “Uncle Henry’s dead, and Vivian lives in Vermont now, remember? Franky, how—do—you—let—this—go—on?” My brother flung each word so forcefully at me, it sounded like bullets shooting from a pistol.
“Oh,” Mama muttered, pointing her finger at nowhere, forehead crinkling. “I have gotten that wrong then. Franky, who did you say was comin’ tomorrow?”
“Mama, please, go back to bed.” I said, trying to keep my voice calm.
“Francesca Jane,” Mama insisted, “Let your brother say hello to his sister first!”
I didn’t move. Didn’t know what to do.
This was definitely not how I had envisioned the evening.
I should have known it would come to this.
“Fine,” Mama said with finality, “I’ll just get her myself. Ricky, she’s just a beautiful work of art this year. When workin’ with brains, it is important to remember that they essentially have no flavor—we learned that from the Internet—although their texture is delightfully creamy and rich. Which is why the flavor of the aspic and the Montpellier butter becomes so very important. Isn’t that what we learned, Franky? You know, I am really likin’ that Internet. Such practical know-how and advice available on there. You just have to know how to look. And, that hi-fi you had me install, Franky, is so convenient.”
Her small form brushed past me, opening the refrigerator door. Her eyes still lit with a fever from within. “Ah, here she is! After 10 years, you wouldn’t think there’d be enough of her left, but there’s still a good bit. My baby, she was such an intelligent child. ‘Remember me,’ she said when she was dying, ‘Have a little snack of me every year on my birthday.’ And, that’s exactly what we did. You remember when you kids were still teenagers we used to call ‘em Jenny Patties? Better than the cat patties we served up at your high school’s Hallowe’en Harvest Fest when you were a junior, Ricky, remember? Our own private trick or treat! Nobody could tell the difference between the cat patties and the cow patties, but if they’d been Jenny patties they would have known! My own angel, Jenny Elaina. Born and died on the Lord’s birthday.”
“Mama, please,” I implored. Ricky was looking decidedly pallid. He’d thought this long over. Yeah, well, think again, Rick. You can’t just put your past in a box, move away, and pretend it doesn’t exist just because you aren’t livin’ it anymore. I still live it every day. Somebody‘s got to keep order ‘round here, and that somebody’s been me since you left.
“I really wanted to stuff her head,” Mama continued, unperturbed, “like we did with Hansel and Gretel. Jenny had such beautiful long hair, remember? So straight and black, like a gypsy’s. But Franky, she said we’d waited too long for that,” Mama gave a slight rueful moue. “So, we pickled her big green eyes and jellied her beautiful brain! And look,” Mama held the brown curd-like half-frozen mold aloft gleefully like a culinary prize at the Georgia State Fair. “How delicious is this gonna be?! She’s a delicacy!”
“Ok, Mama,” I said grabbing the mold from her, “let me have that now, it’s not finished sett’lin’ yet. We gotta put it back in or else it won’t be ready by tomorrow night,” I tried reasoning.
Ricky’s eyes were buggy, staring at me. “What?” I said, annoyed. “Careful or we’ll pickle you, too,” I added perversely.
He was not amused. “Whadaya mean ‘whaaat?’” He snarled back at me, his carefully constructed western pitch forgotten.
Suddenly, we were 11 and 14 again.
“What’m I suppose to do with her?” I asked.
“Well for starters commit ‘er, not help ‘er!”
“Now Ricky, that’s just not that easy. What about the neighbors? Can you imagine the gossip? Poor Mama dragged through the mud that way.” I clicked my tongue, “Is that really what you want for her in her last years? ‘Sides, it’s not like she’s harmin’ anyone, really.” I looked thoughtfully down at the mold. “It really is gonna be a very tasty dish.”
“You’ve become as bat-shit crazy as she is. ‘Ricky spend th’ night’…’Ricky stay fer dinner,’” he continued, mimicking me. “When the bloody hell were ya gonna tell me I’d be eatin’ my dead sister’s brains for dinner?”
“It wouldn’t be the first-time, now would it? And, you’re in the deep south now, Ricky Joe, it ain’t dinner here, it’s supper!”
Writer M.G. Poe grew up in Miami, and now makes her home in the City of Angeles. With over 12 years-experience as a commercial and content copywriter for the radio, retail, and landscape architecture industries, she is not ashamed to admit that she can still crank out copy under deadline in two hours or less. She holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles, and a BA in Telecommunications-Management from Florida International University. Her non-fiction articles, political discourses, and short stories have been published in numerous publications.
Her loves include wine, travel, music, California culture, politics, and all things feline. She believes in Law of Attraction, anarchy Ursula Le Guin-style, and likes to ponder the peculiarities of the Quantum, especially when working on her current project, a novel about time travel, the multi-universe and the nature of existence. She is also an award-winning jewelry designer producing works under the name of Mac Originals.