Have you ever stood on the front porch of your mother’s house, talking to your uncle, a big ol’ redneck with a big ol’ mustache, the kind of man who gets upset about police brutality and who doesn’t understand why those guys use their guns, because when he worked in the Coast Guard, and they had to subdue a guy, they just kicked him in the head with their steel-toed boots and that took care of that, the same kind of man who is super sensitive and if he does you a favor, you better thank him or his feelings will get hurt and he may never talk to you again, and then when you show up to his funeral to pay respects, your cousin shuns you and spits at your feet because you never thanked your uncle for helping your mama mow her grass that time, her entire yard, more than an acre, and he came over on his lunch break and raked those leaves, and you stare at your cousin, contrite, because you don’t remember that time, because you don’t remember the last four years, living in a fog of caregiving for your sick parents, watching them slowly decay from the inside out, individual pieces of their bodies failing, one by one, doctor visit by doctor visit, your sanity becoming bald long before your tires do, and there’s no warranty on your resilience, once it’s gone, it’s gone, and let me tell you, you don’t stop even when the threads pop and you’re on the side of the road in ninety-degree heat, one-hundred-percent humidity, changing the worn-down tire to the spare, which you know is just as frayed, nothing in your life is whole anymore, and you pray to the Baby Jesus to please just get you through this day and get your parents home safely and into a cooler place where they can be more comfortable, where they can be healthier and happier humans, a place where none of the really awful shit that’s happened ever happened, and once they are safely tucked into this magical place, then you will free yourself to live your own life, and at the same time, you know you should remember your uncle mowing the grass because that’s such a nice gesture and how many other nice gestures have you not thanked people for, and you feel bad and want to express your gratitude to all of them if only you didn’t need every last one of your brain cells left to keep track of your father’s medications and your mother’s moods, and you want to explain all of this to your cousin at the funeral of your uncle, to assuage his anger, but you know he can’t hear you through the roar of his grief, and you turn to meet the eyes of his two teenage daughters, their heads aflame in gorgeous orange-red locks, their eyes piercing you with red-hot pokers, and you know they have already accepted the grudge passed down from their grandfather and they will never let you forget it, no way, no how, not ever, and there’s a part of you that feels jealous of these daggers, these four eyes of indignation because they are united in their hate of you, and what’s it like to be united with your sibling, and how nice that must be to share a hate so strong it makes you forget all the Sibling Bullshit long enough for you to be reminded of the Sibling Glorious Bond and how no one else on the planet gets it or ever could get it, gets these very specific circumstances that you’ve grown up in, that forged you, that would take longer than a lifetime to explain, it would take a shared childhood, and who has time for that, and when you’re standing on the porch talking to your uncle and your mother turns away from the conversation like she’s going to sneeze but instead screams out into the woods “hey you drug dealers turn those radios down!” and it doesn’t matter if there’s really drug dealers in the woods or that they have CB radios, or that she can feel the frequency, none of that matters, because regardless your body becomes seized by lightning and your sanity hardens into glass and in the span of one second time stops and you ponder how your mother was once invincible and being in her presence meant you were the safest you could ever be, ever, ever ever, and now being in her presence is anticipation of emotional nuclear bombs that blow you to smithereens, then dumps your parts into a sink hole with quick sand that sucks you in all the way up to your chin and you’re on your tiptoes with your neck back and sand slips into your mouth and you’re trying to spit it out but it’s already between your teeth and in the back of your throat and in your eyes and you start crying and then you can’t see anything and you know this is your punishment for hating your mother for behavior beyond her control, and you look around and your sibling is nowhere to be seen, you wouldn’t know him if you saw him, and if he were there, you wonder would you choose your gun or would you choose the steel-toed boot and you know right away you don’t want him maimed or comatose or living out a sad existence in some assisted living, you want the satisfaction of destroying him, this person who’s disappointed you on a cellular level, who beat you with an ice cold shoulder to make you do what he wanted you to do, who has no ear for your own grief and who is not interested in your sadness, your “when will it get better”s and “what the fuck am I supposed to do with this”s and then you just turn back to your uncle standing on the porch, and he’s resumed his conversation with your mother as though nothing out of the ordinary ever happened? Anybody? Anybody? Anybody?
Megan Morrison is a multi-disciplinary writer currently living in northern New Mexico. She holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is the co-creator of the podcast Nobody Reads Short Stories. Her fiction is forthcoming in Kestrel, and she is the recipient of a full scholarship to the 2023 Looking Glass Rock Writers Conference. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America West and Puppeteers of America.