By Laura Yates
I’M going out today to buy a really big ass fridge. As big as can fit in my shed. One of them massive getups, with two doors. Good and deep. You know the kind? Not a freezer mind. I only need something to chill, not stop the course of nature altogether. Everything has got to go back to God in the end, right?
What’s that look for? You wondering what an old single lady like me wants with such a big ass fridge? Well, seeing as you’re here, and you ain’t going nowhere, I’ll tell you. See, this all started way back when. That’s always the way, right? These things start as seeds in our bellies when we’re knee high to whoever is looking after us. Not much we can do about it. I mean, look at you! I betcha you got that inkling to poke holes all over your damn body just as soon as you knew that babies weren’t born with pierced ears. Something just plain crazy about all those dangly hoops an’ stretchin’ your ear all out of shape. You got one in your nipple there for Chris’sake, I damn near ripped it out when I took your sweater off. D’you do that to yourself? I thought you had to be over 18? It’s a sin messing with the body you were given, at your age too. World would have been a better place all over if people never started messing with what God gave them.
Anyway – the fridge. I need it to keep some things in, get them good and clean and ordered, then store them up nice, and watch them for a while. You probably wouldn’t understand – about as much as I understand you having those great big holes in your ears – but I can try to talk you through it.
I swear to God, the first one was dead when I found it.
All I had to do was wait. Big fat rat. Found it lying under a bush after a cat had its way with it. I combed its fur while it slipped away, cleaned all the blood off of it. Made it look real nice. I kept it in an old brown shoe box for days after – just to look at it, you know. Course, after about a week or so it started to smell – the box started to go all sticky at the bottom. The smell got so bad, Ma came up into my room, looking round like a crazy person shoutin’ about the stink. She found the box there under my bed, and she went all kinds of crazy. I tried to tell her how it made me feel – good for the first time since Pa died but she didn’t even listen to one word. She told me to take it outside and bury it, or burn it or something. I hid it in the shed – right down at the end of the big field. She hardly ever went down there before Pa died, she sure as hell didn’t go down there after. I’d go to look at it nearly every day. It didn’t last long though, not with it being as warm as it was. I guess God just wanted to take it back, and you can’t argue with that.
I caught a fish a few weeks later. It was easy enough. I waded in the river with my big boots and my dress hitched into my pants, waited and swirled my net against the current. Caught a middlin’ thing, about this big. This big – dammit will you pay attention? Why you keep looking at the window, ain’t no one comin’ this way. Anyway, nothing wrong with catchin’ fish, right? Fisherman haul all kinds of fish out the water for no good reason other than they wants to, every single day of the world. What was so different about me? Although, I never would take a fish again. Smell was the most awful thing, and it’s not the same as the animal flesh, disappearing slowly beneath the fur.
Or the clothes.
Going from warm to cold – that fresh death cold. Jesus! Are you okay? You’ve gone a funny shade of grey there son, if you don’t mind me saying. Don’t you get getting sick now, right? That wouldn’t do now. You take some deep breaths and let me lift those feet of yours up onto the cushion. Does your ma know ‘bout that ring you got through your chest? I bet she doesn’t. Kind of a good thing she’ll never have to find out, n’ go through all that shouting and cursin’. God damn! I said don’t get sick and now look. Hold on, I’ll be right back.
Okay -that’s better. Gotta nice smell of disinfectant and not that nasty ole’ sicky smell. I can’t stand that at all. How did you get your mitts out of that tape? You remind me of that fish – big and slippery, although I never had to do nothing to that. I just left it on the grass and watched it hurl itself around until it stopped.
Anyway, then there were the racoons in the yard, throwing out all the rubbish. Varmints making all that damn mess. First one wasn’t hard to catch – it was strong though, to hold down. It took a long time. I washed it with apple-smelling shampoo in an old trough in the back field. I washed it twice, and combed and dried its fur. I scrubbed out its claws with a wire brush – I even cleaned its teeth with a tooth pick and a tooth brush with thick sturdy bristles. That creature looked better than it ever had before. I’m not saying I can best what the good Lord can do, but I definitely help everything look like God intended.
See those holes of yours? They’ll stitch right up – hold up, Jeesus you’re gonna fall right over on the floor if you throw yourself around like that. I’m just saying – I can make it all right again. Just like God intended you to be.
I ain’t no crazy. I just plain and simple like things to be nice and orderly. I like how it makes me feel. Gives you that feeling you get when you tidy up a whole room, you know? Inside every drawer and vase, all those places that you can’t even see. When you get every scratch of dust off the rugs, rub a cloth right into the corner of the base boards. It’s clean in all the places only you know about, makes your mouth water a little bit, you know that feeling? Washington could send in a SWAT team and they’d never find anything in a house that had been cleaned like that.
What you crying for now? And stop asking about your damn clothes – sheesh – I told you three times already, I’m putting them all through the washer and dryer then I’m gonna iron them and stitch up all those rips in ‘em. Most of those holes looked like you put them there yourself – why would you want to go and do that now? If you’d have just kept them nice and neat and clean and pressed I wouldn’t have to have bothered now would I? That’s what my daddy used to say when I was young – keep everything nice and tidy and I wouldn’t have to get so damn mad about it.
Kids like you – bad enough you hang around the fountain like moving human trash, but then you throw around all that rubbish everywhere, like it’s nothing. Half sandwiches, with meat and mayo that rots and spoils in the sun. The rats have a damn party every single night I’m sure. I watched you for weeks. Saw you spit on the floor at least twenty-nine times. Do you know how many germs are infested in spit? Do you? It makes me sick to think about it. I can see from here that you ain’t been to no kind of dentist for the longest time – I’m gonna have to work hard to get your teeth back to their proper colour.
I want you to know that I don’t expect no thanks. Wouldn’t get any even if I did. No one would appreciate just how damn difficult this whole thing can be, getting everything back to being perfect again. Getting you to come up here in the first place, and you nearly kicked my damn teeth out when you woke up. I’m going out of my way to get you back to the way you’re supposed to be, and all you can do is swear and cry and throw yourself around.
All the kids will stop hanging around the fountain again for a while, stop making all that damn mess. Town’ll be the cleanest it’s been in twenty years but no one will appreciate it. Your ma ain’t never gonna have to shout at you again for not cleaning up your room, or not getting any kind of job. She’ll never have to go through no more stress with you. But I’m at peace with not getting’ no recognition. My prize is knowing I’m getting everything back to how it needs to be.
Just like God intended.
© Laura Yates 2016