Mother, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

We, my two sisters and I, buried Mother yesterday. At least, what was left of her. Last night we shed our tears and got her out of our system. It wasn’t that hard since Mother had run roughshod around our lives from the day we were born.

There were so many things that drove us nuts about Mother. She had a neat fetish. After we left home, she would show up at our houses when we were not there. We never gave her the key. No matter the lock, she picked it. She could have given safe crackers lessons.

By the time we came home, the house would be cleaned spotless and everything put away. She loved playing hide-and-go-seek with our belongings.She never put things where they belonged. When asked where she put something we especially loved, she would not tell. “You didn’t need that old thing,” she answered. If there was something she didn’t like, out it went. I am still looking for that blue dress I bought at Neiman Marcus and wore to my college graduation. That’s been twenty years ago and I loved that dress.

It got to the point when we moved, we didn’t tell her where. Somehow she managed to find us. I once asked how. “I just stick my index finger in the air and it tells me where you’ve moved.”

At the end of each year, she’d show up at one of our homes and announce, “I am your Christmas gift this year.” Then she went about rearranging our decorations. She would insist on making Christmas dinner. But she would make the awfullest tasting stuff. I once asked her what was in it. “It’s my secret recipe,” she said.

There wasn’t a logical rotation to those Christmas visits. The same sister might get Mother five years in a row, then she would go on to her next victim. I mean, daughter. It might be eight or nine years before that sister saw her for the holidays again. Or it might be two.

That is just the stuff I can talk about. There were other things she did that none of us dare talk about. How Dad stuck with her for as long as he did we could never figure out.

Shortly after Alice and Marge left this morning, the FedEx man delivered an unexpected cardboard box to me. It was twenty-four inches by twenty-four inches by six feet long. Attached to it was an unsigned note. “Your mother wanted you to have this.”

This was not good. Mother was eccentric. And there was no telling what was in that box. At least it didn’t smell.

I picked it up. The Box was surprisingly light. I shoved it into the hall closet. It wanted to put up a fight but I shut the door before it could protest much.

I took out my cell and punched in Alice’s number. Before I finished punching, I stopped myself. Maybe I had better not. Mother might not have given her anything. Mother was like that. From time to time, she would give one daughter something but not the other two. It was just another way for he to get under our nails.

So I decided to keep the Box a secret. No reason to rile things up. Especially when I wasn’t about to open the darn thing anyway.

With the Box safely tucked away, I went about my rest-of-the-day doing rest-of-the-day things. But Mother was not the kind of woman who would let a person get her off their mind. God help me but I had tried enough times. Just as I was about to bed myself down for the night, I got this call. “Did you open the package?” said a voice.

“No, I didn’t,” I gave the Voice. “And I don’t intend to.”

“But you have to.”

“Do not.”

“Do to.”

“Now hold on,” I said, just about shouting.

Then the Voice, “I would advise you to open the Box. Otherwise.” The Voice hung up.

“Otherwise WHAT?” The buzzing of a dead phone line was the phone’s answer. Mother always made me want to throw something. Even dead, she was doing it to me.

That night I went to bed earlier than normal. Sometime later a large crashing sound came from the hall closet. I turned over and covered my ears with a pillow. The sound grew louder and louder. I pulled myself out of bed, wiped the sleep from my eyes, slipped my feet into a pair of slippers and tottered toward the closet, bumping into the bedroom doorframe. I steadied myself, switched on the hall light and continued.

Inside the closet, there was a heck of a ruckus. I looked at the door and shouted, “Will you just stop it.”

It didn’t stop the noise.

“I’m warning you.”

The noise kept getting louder. To shut it up, I said, “Okay, you win. If you stop it, I will open the door.”

The noise stopped and the house went quiet. Very quiet.

I stood in front of the door in my night gown and didn’t move for several minutes. Shaking, my hand turned the knob and pulled. Out fell the Box, crashing onto the hall floor, falling open when it hit the carpet. A broom jumped out of it and into my hand.

“What?”

I got no answer. The broom rotated in the air and swept me onto its long red handle. With me on its back, it headed for the front door. Just as we were about to hit the door, it swung open. We flew out into the night, made a right and headed toward the large, bright full moon. I closed my eyes and held on for dear life, afraid that I would fall at any moment. Each time I opened my eyes to peek, the landscape below changed from city streets to green pastures and country roads and onward over a large lake. Finally the broom slowed as it flew through a dark forest. Strange beastly sounds emitted from the forest. Even the breeze sweeping across my face moaned.

The broom came to a complete stop and drop me onto the ground. I recovered my feet and stood. Before me was a black stone, glowing in the dark, providing enough light for me to see two other figures. They were Alice and Marge. Even in the dim light, I recognized them. Like me, they wore a night gown and slippers.

We ran to each other and hugged, partially to quench our fear, partially glad that we were not alone. The brooms at our back stood at attention.

It was then that a soft cackle came from deep inside the stone. We three stepped back, wanting no part of what we heard. A soft red light rose out of the stone. The cackle louder and louder. An apparition like a fog ascended.

Looking down on us, it said, “Well, if it isn’t my three daughters. Lucy, the youngest, the spoiled one. Marge, the middle girl, always pouting about this or that. The not-very-smart Alice, the oldest. Do you not recognize your mother?”

We nodded yes.

“You may be wondering why I brought you here. I have a mission for you, and I want it done immediately. You are to get my slippers back, you hear?”

“B-b-but how?” we daughters all spoke at once.

“You can figure that out for yourselves. The brooms will help you.”

I spoke up. “What if we refuse?”

“Refuse. Never.” A lightning bolt shot from the fog and almost hit us.

“I want my ruby red slippers. You understand?” Then she was gone.

Recovering, I said, “Guess you know what that means.”

No, the other two shook their heads.

“We have to go to Kansas.”

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