The Cinderblocks

The Excerpt that Sparked Controversy

(Earlier today Neighbors North Editorial Staff decided to post the text which has ignited a firestorm in the Cinderblocks and neighboring community of Pleasant Arms.

Staff decided it was doing readers a disservice to post “Emma Goes Too Far,” which was critical of Cinderblocks’ resident Emma Mulberry’s reading from her Whole Story at Thursday’s It’s About Time reading, without actually posting the offensive text.)

Mom’s dead.  Dead, dead, dead.  Mom’s dead rattles around in my head. Mom’s dead hangs over our bowed heads, bumps into the pink roses waterfalling off the coffin, and streaks through Immaculate’s stained glass windows.  Mom’s dead squeezes through the vacuum cleaner pipe and slides out the FLOORS WALLS attachment and sails out through the jagged-edged hole in the floor-to-ceiling picture window.  Mom’s dead floats into the cedar tree in our back yard and dances around the knife in Petra’s bony fingers and skates the greasy rim of the fish plate.  Mom’s dead blows up into a giant pink bubble gum bubble and traps us inside.

Johnny’s lucky.  He has the Army to go back to.  We have nowhere to go except our house, with the boarded-up hole where the living room window used to be.

Johnny is the one I used to worry over—him and his bad influence friends and what trouble they would get into next.  Now, with their JC Penney polyester suits on, you can’t tell Roger and Big Oatmeal and Greasy used to be troublemakers.

Everything they did was a joke—the pot parties, skipping school, growing marijuana—but as soon as Mom and Dad found out about Petra and Jim it was no laughing matter.  Mom and Dad had to drag us to Holiday Island and make us prisoners.  But if Petra had just gone for Greasy, instead of Jim, Mom and Dad wouldn’t have cared.  Petra and Greasy could have made out all they wanted.  They could have gone on dates and Greasy would have been welcome eating dinner with us and going with us on weekends.  Greasy was allowable.

Father Donnahey goes on and on, praying to the saints.

I think backward and forward, imagining Mom alive and imagining how she’s going to keep getting deader, like the cow that floated onto Holiday Island the summer before last.  It had been dead a long time, with smells and flies buzzing around it.  The crows took what they could peck and flies circled it and fly larvae set up house in it.  The cow bloated up bigger and bigger, its stomach ballooned and stretched thin as plastic wrap.  Every second a little more air crept in and a little more life crept out.  All that was left after a while were its stinky cow bones with pinprick holes.  The cow was too dead to imagine it being alive.  But I can still imagine Mom alive.

Forward her deadening happens, but backward her living happened.  How can a person go from alive and living to dead and never coming back? Oh, God! Give me Mom back.  I promise not to fight with her ever again.

I feel so small, so tiny, tiny, tiny small.  I want to tell Mom I’m sorry and that I love her and it’s too late.  Only the deadening can happen now.

Then my feelings get all mixed up and I’m mad at Mom for making things happen with Petra the way they did.

No matter what anybody says, I didn’t make Petra stop eating.

I wish there were some place to escape to, some other place to live.  I wish I could live in the pinkness of the roses dipping down from Mom’s coffin.  I wish I could live in those rosey rosebuds’ hearts.

I shut my eyes tight and hear the shadow of a song.  I hear the music just barely.  One, two, three.  One, two three.  Stronger on the one than the two three.  Waltzing music.  I heard it when I used to pretend about things.

It was coming from the living room stereo.  The drapes were drawn back from the picture windows and the rain sliced sideways into the cedars and hemlocks with their green-blue-black robes, whispering spells to protect us and stirring their branches along the ground until the whole back yard was a pot of mud.

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