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  • My Mother's Last Days
  • Stephen D. Gutierrez (bio)

"Hello, Mom?" I knock on the door at her house in heaven, my mother dead a few hours, a day or two, a lifetime. "Are you home? Are you alive in there?"

"What do you want? Go away. I'm busy."

"I'm just here to say hi. I wanted to see how you're doing."

"I'm doing just fine. God, ese big man, God—he's a piece of work. How did you get in? Are you dead, too?"

"No, I'm still alive and kicking, Mom. I'm standing on your porch. It looks like your old porch in City of Commerce, the old house."

"Did they paint it at least, for my … enshrinement? Is that right? Do they treat us special here? Qué está pasando? What the hell is going on here? Am I dead, or what?"


"What am I going to do with all my time, Stephen, what?" She starts crying behind the door. "I'm lonely, very lonely," she wails.

"You're going to do the same things you did when you were alive."

"Tell me what, what? What am I going to do? Háblame!" [End Page 93]

"Pass the time. See friends. Read."

"Reading. Reading. I need some books. Go get me some good ones."

"I brought an armful, Mom. Let me in."

"No! I'm lonely, very lonely." She starts with the wailing again. "I'm so lo-onely." She stretches it out.

I want to bash down the door and save her. But I wouldn't know what to do if I were standing in front of her. We're not a hugging family. We've never been demonstrative except in our anger, our joy, our laughter. Never in the deep, abiding ways to express real love. We're love-challenged. As soon as you walk in the house, there's a row of crutches lined up against the wall with everybody's name on one. It's how we manage our missing love limbs. So much comes to me now that she's dead. I'm on the other side of the door, waiting, with my ear cocked expectantly.

"What am I going to do, Stephen? What am I going to do?"

"I don't know. Move?"

"No, I can't go anywhere. How does the neighborhood look, here in heaven?"

"The same as in hell."

"Good one, my son. Good one."

"It's a trim neighborhood, you know. Everybody is keeping up their lawn. Nobody needs to paint the house. Henry could use some tar on the driveway, whatever you call it. But he's still got his damn Cadillac, ha? It's looking spic and span as ever, Mom."

"What are the Lozanos driving?"

"A Buick. I see the top over the fence."

"Should I come out, Stephen? Is it time?"

"Are you dressed for a public appearance, Mom? There might be angels and who knows what floating around us."

"Are you dead too, Stephen? Are you sure you're not dead?"

"I'm positive, Mom."

"We were all dead, weren't we? For our whole lives," she says.

"Me more than you, Mom. I've been dead since my teen years. You know, other stuff made me a corpse before my time. Oh, don't sound so worried, sighing back there." [End Page 94]

"Well, I can't help it. I know you're not exaggerating."

"Don't worry about it, Mom. Look at me now. I'm alive, visiting you in heaven!"

"How'd you get in?"

"Mumbled the magic words."

"Ah, hell! Dead! Shit with this!" She walks out of the house. It's midafternoon. She's descending the porch steps in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt with the sleeves rolled up, ready to do some yard work. She'll pull out some easy weeds from the plot of dirt under each bedroom window, where the rose bushes grow. She'll spend most of her time sweeping up. She'll make sure the sidewalk and walkway are clean. She'll wave to neighbors who come out. "Yoo-hoo, Molly! I saw your...


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pp. 93-104
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