Petra

by | Aug 11, 2020 | Fiction, Issue Sixteen

Hoo-hah! Father and Uncle Ray flap their naked fat bellies and bare feet and red necks around town sucking down beers and setting popsicle stick fires which they pee out. At the fire station they pretend to drive the trucks and wail sirens that mourn the loss of their youth. And more beer from the fridge until they weave around the concrete floor, high also from gas fumes. A call comes in! Dopey Dimmer’s house flaming again, flaming like him because he sleeps with men with long cigarettes. They swerve on back roads, the mouths of their beer bottles moaning. They pee some more. Dopey is engulfed, screaming, Have pity! His lover long gone. Father too drunk to remember the procedures, he just runs into the blaze and drags Dopey out by the feet, but not before gulping smoke which roils his lungs. Paramedics poke a tube into his throat and speed him to the medical center. Mother holds his hand and strokes the singed hair of a knuckle. She’s not supposed to do that. She thinks it feels like a caterpillar. Father is on a breathing machine in a coma. Uncle Ray is coughing down the hall. They both catch hell from their wives. The next day a woman shows up for Father. She sings a hymn for him and Mother tells her to beat it. The woman, whose name is Petra, says she will pluck out Mother’s eyes and eat them. She grasps Father’s hand and claims to be his lover. They rumble, Mother’s left hooks missing, Petra’s jabs hard and drawing blood, Mother’s nose crooked. Security comes, but Petra says she will not give up. She returns the next day when Father is dying, disguised as a doctor, and Mother punishes her fiercely. Petra, between Mother’s body blows, describes making love to Father—bouncy, bouncy. Mother rips Petra’s hair, tying black knots around her neck. They pile to the floor, out of breath, when Father’s monitor flattens out. At the funeral Petra stands on the ridge in black glasses, singing the hymn of how Father saved her from a fire as a girl. Mother bolts across the grass, clods flying from her heels, up the hill. We watch the dirt fly through the morning sunlight. The screaming curse words make us feel fine and alive. Uncle Ray sets a small fire at the grave.

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