My mother hangs on his crucifix. The grandmother pokes the warned top of the broom handle through the pink kitchen sponge soaked in white vinegar and holds this up to her lips. My mother’s lips in readiness for sucking it greedily when me mother is so very thirsty; all her water has poured out to wash me bad deeds, me naughty goings on. The thirsty mother’s top lip curls and whitens once it finds the vinegar. Another betrayal. Add this betrayal to all the other betrayals to build insurmountable treachery. The crucifixion is the biggest me thinks as my mother eyes seek me own. Me lower my head to ward of shame, but then me wants shame so me looks up once again, avoiding her eyes though. Me notices her wet forehead and me wants to climb up onto the kitchen table, reach up high with a tea towel in hand just to pat dry the wet on her forehead, her sweet forehead where the imprint of me kisses now rest. But me mother is not with me now. She is with the father. She is finally found her place with the father. Me mother is lost to me.
There is nothing to quench, no thirst to relieve when me is holding the thirty silver pieces and me long hair is mattered with me mother’s blood. The Grandmother laughs for the sake of her daughter, for the sake of keeping the show going, for the sake of everything must be all right. Everything is how it should be. She takes the sponge away from her daughter’s now stinging lips, stretches out her arm, nodding a silent command for me to follow. Me takes the broom. It is sturdy beside me with its brush filthy with thick and elongated dust-curls. Me smells the sharp tang of the vinegar from the sponge. Me wants to scratch me nose, but me hands continues to grip the handle of the broom. Me feels as if playing a battle game, waiting for the battalion, waiting for enormous tanks, heavy in tonnage when there is only this broom with a kitchen sponge at its top to use for my defence.
The grandmother’s laughter comes quickly, in short sharp spurts as if a serious of slaps to the behind. It is forced like a madness performed with a face enormous as an oversized clown’s mask that is left to the will of age. Lines and fissures map the continual rise of her worry and fear. The laughter ceases as quick as it begun once she has had her moment with her mouth gaping open; her lips move intermediately. She has discovered the words to a Psalm. She is unable to leave these menacing words to the confines of her messy head.
‘The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the same net which they hid privily…’
She stops for a minute; her mouth left to form a dark hole; her eyes staring at the mess that was once her daughter’s feet. Then, as if there was impetus from blood, as if blood housed the ingredients of rectitude; she jerks her head upwards, and move the words of the psalm forward again. Her voice is husky. Her voice cracks. Mucus crackles in her throat.
‘The Lord is known to execute judgement: the ungodly is trapped in the work of his own hands.’
The last word is augmented with an elongated breath. Her shoulders suddenly drop as if the weight of scripture heaps upon her. Overflowing is the story, crying out, demanding validity. She sighs and it is this sigh that refines her acquisition of another’s choices. She lifts her head; her lips pull apart as if they have cracked and dried as one single membrane.
‘She is cleansing her sins!’
The grandmother almost sings but cannot quite grasp the tune; such is the fierce regeneration of her excitement. Always the grandmother sings when she is busy doing some thing or rather. She is humming ‘The Solidarity Song’ with her arms raised above her head. The skin of their under parts undulate as her eyes focus on the semi naked body of her daughter, wet and heaving on the wood painted black. This is the very wood that is the father’s cross. She reaches, as if wanting to handle but never minding the impurity of flesh; she reaches out as if summoning the heavenly throne, her eyes wide with pleading, needing the heavenly light born from the glory of Christ’s passion. Me look up in the same direction as where her arms are reaching. Me see it; a faint shimmer of light that increasingly becomes brighter till the kitchen is transformed to a glistening spectacle, the answer to the grandmother’s prayer. She is not surprised. She expects nothing less when part of the privileged sect, a special place reserved for her in heaven.
Me try to hide me unfaithfulness when the light has such a threatening force. It has broken through the grease stained ceiling after ploughing its way through the faded red of the roof tiles. The grandmother inhales the heavenly intrusion; it bathes her lined face. She closes her eyes and arches her heavy body so she can soak up every skerrick of what her faith has brought forth. Her lined saggy face is bathed in such a glorious white that it can only be from a heavenly palate. The light fades. Sudden like.
With the Grandmother’s eyes opening wide, she is ecstasy. Her head still lifted upwards towards the ceiling, the fat under her chin stretched out so the creases are flattened lines; she retrieves the boom stick from me grasp.
‘She is taking the long hard path to Christ! He is our Lord’
She bellows. Her perm and rinse sculptured at Olga’s that morning has lost its hold. Strands of hair stick out haphazardly like many antennas as she holds the sponge to the mother’s lips.
‘Drink my child. Drink! For love is knowing that the kingdom of heaven is a long narrow path.’
The Mother’s lips are thin, pale and droop like me can easily pull them, stretch these away from her face without much effort. Uncomfortably, her head flops down to her chest. As if in feeble protest, she turns her head away from the pink sponge, her chest dripping moisture both red and clear, moves up and down as if there were bellows beneath her partly exposed breast. She cries out softly. Her voice is weak and pleading.
‘Water mother. Please mother…water .’
A nipple rises out of the ripped material, erect and brown. Me wants to drink from this and me get excited with the thought of surrounding the pink flesh with my lips. Me want to harm what is hated for she is exposed yet truly invisible. The grandmother is still, the sponge she holds away from her daughter’s mouth. She wants to give. She wants to destroy. She is contemplating whether this or this is allowed. The grandmother does not know which way to move. She stares at the face of her daughter, mesmerized, memories playing. Broken memories. Crucifixions from the past may fail to move her, pull her away from her task.
There are no tears. Mother has no tears. But me know how many tears have fallen down the curvature of her check. Me want to touch each one and bring her check to mine so these can fall down my own cruel skin. When her check is bruised and grazed, me want to drink these tears. When wrapped up in the threat of her arms, in the terror of her arms flinging out of me as if me were merely air, me nuzzle me iced face into her soft bosom. Smell her ! Smell her now! I want to suck in her smell. Her hands and feet nailed into the black wood twitch intermediately from the nerves damaged when the mother’s flesh parted looking like chicken innards. She is doing her duty. Serving is her knowing. Her face is serene when not folding in on itself in agony. The grandmother speaks to me, lowering the broom stick. Her bright floral apron, pinned above her breasts is splattered with blood. Me look at me hands. They are caked with me mother’s insides. Me mother’s insides. Homage to me mother’s insides.
‘This is a moment of glory! Do you know this child? Did you see the light? The father is happy with our goings on? Do you understand what you have to do?’
Me nod my head enthusiastically. The enthusiasm comes to me sudden as me is scared of being any other way. Me is staring hard at me hands because me understand. It is the father’s cross and me understands.
I want to scream this because me does understand
‘Mummy me mummyl’
Me wants to bawl because me wants for everything as promised. The mother plays with me. She tells me such stories and housed within the folds of her words is adoration, is her loyalty. Housed in these words is interest and curiosity in self and other selves. We leap together, bounce upon the enormous bed covered in a thorn coloured floral quilt she shares with the father, sinks beneath with the father, she is with the father.
With me! With me she is like a big sister who shares dreams of far -away places where castles are built to protect the royalty so commoners such as the neighbour may not penetrate, cannot violate with belittling words, The neighbour spies on our world then pass on the synopsis of this inspection to eager ears wanting, craving another downfall when me and the mother have built what all others come to desire. We walk down the street with my small hand folded in her large hand. We walk down the street. We walk to do the shopping. Me and the mother have our magic worlds. She tells me when she has just spied a magical creature, a playful imp, but today we shan’t catch it for there is the shopping to do and the father must have his dinner waiting for him, piping hot, the steam drifting upwards from the plate no matter the weather. Me and me mother have our own private world with so many interruptions. Too many interruptions. The grandmother moved in so now there is one long interruption. This interruption goes on forever. Now she is no longer funny. There is little laughter. Now she is no longer.
Me whimpers. It is in these desperate whining whimper-words, what never can be said.
But everything is all right…isn’t it?
It is chip board because that is all the father can afford. It is his cross. It is a precious cross. It is a precious precious adoring cross! It shines like the blackest of inks found on a treaty for those who deserve. For strangers, his cross was built in the kitchen like any other kitchen except for the crying steel sink; the hysterical kitchen-sink with its unloved tap dripping throughout the long night. Filled with steaming tea leaves, the sink sits above the lime green wooden cupboards with knobs that are frustrated when so easy to pull away. The cupboard houses pots, pans, cups and bowls. Me eat cornflakes from these bowls then me leave for school each morning in a pristine clean and pressed uniform. And while walking to school, me obediently step on the cracks to break me mother’s back. Above the cupboards, the drawers rattle. Knives, forks, spoons hate the intrusion when this drawer is opened. Me hate it too knives, forks, spoons but like me, you have no say, there is no voice. Above the red and white speckled table the cross sits where meals are assembled and devoured off chipped plates given as a wedding present along with silverware, a lace edged table cloth and a sunbeam mix master from the grandmother. The meals are quiet and solemn as the cross rules over all. Me has to finish everything, even the broad beans me gags, but me begs to the swallow to do its work because the father sees everything and what you do not eat can be given to the poor. Me hate it really. Me want to run from this.
There is a place me knows. A small brown house with a bright red roof that sits on a peak of a small hill covered in fine soft green grass. It is nice to take off me shoes and walk on this fine green. Me feet sinks into velvet and in the mornings I can feel the cold tingling wetness of the early dew. Below this hill is a creek where children scurry busily, collecting tadpoles, building dams out of soggy branches, creek bed mud and rocks. The mud is cool and smothers our hands, moves down our fingers, disappears beneath our sleeves. The children sink into the mud leaving mud caked legs; but they are not in trouble. They will never wash. They will sleep in it. Go to bed filthy, wake up filthy and leave behind mud caked sheets. We work together, us children. No one is the master. Each child has their task. What she is good at, of what she can do the best is happily carry out till the tadpoles are caught in polished jars. They then go home with their bounty and watch the tadpoles grow into frogs. The back legs grow first. The tail drops off.
Only children live here. There is no place for the father when we stare and stare at the tad poles after we pore them into an enormous tank and wait for the back legs to appear. We wait for the tail to fall away. There is no one to tell us how a watched kettle never boils as we rest our heads on our folded arms and let our eyes fall shut. It is here we stay for the remainder of the night dwindles away for the morning to reign. Upon waking, we stretch out our tired bodies and as we are sick of waiting for the beginning of frogs legs to appear, we prepare to picnic on the side of the green hill. We pack baskets and forget our coats. There we let our bodies roll over and over down the slope after we have devoured cream puffs, lollies, chips and drink from coloured plastic mugs brimming with lemonade. There is no one to stop us.
And the dolls play happily on the veranda of the little wooden house. With dirt ridden hands, sticky fingers, our faces smudged black, we feed the dolls sweet marie biscuits and black tea with a squeeze of lemon. We dip the marie biscuits into the tea and place the sodden biscuit onto the dolls red painted mouth. Susie the walking doll has lips all puckered up as if she is ready for a kiss. I kiss her and kiss her and kiss her, then leave her to sit and munch happily as we all like to be left alone sometimes.
With the light slowly fading, the green hill transforms, dressed in a softly darkening veil. We are not frightened to go home. There is nothing else left except to play and know the excited heat of our bodies.
This long narrow path. There is too much fear for me to walk let alone run, jump, skip. How can me make this other place as fact when it does not contain men and women making battle with each other? The women giggling lifting there eye lids slowly as they look towards them, these men as they hammer. It doesn’t matter how many bodies counted as dead. It does not matter how many tears, how much wailing over the person who is now a dead body. The battle is what matters. The conquering is all that matters. This conquering; it is a betrayal. It speaks like a scold and there is only the ducking stool to put out me fire. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get somewhere else and all must be quiet because there is not only the ducking stool but the pits of hell. It waits for all unbelievers and the devil has a toothless grin. It’s teeth have warned down from eating an abundance of unpurified flesh. Its gums are tough so it still partakes, waiting for the likes of me to come down and be forever part of its fire, the very fire that has been lit in me long ago, that me work so hard to hide.
We did the hammering together. The grandmother and meself work as a team when pleasing the father; hammering the rusty nails wanting to part the mother’s flesh. She calls me child. The Grandmothers love me when me cooperate; when me acts all fem e nine
She yells so she can be heard as me mother is bursting with unimaginable agony, is now screaming uncontrollably, crying out for mercy but not from God. Her body does not want this metal but it is in her now. Before her crucifixion ,her thoughts had invented a different reality that did not equal the actual sacrifice, the bonafide sacrifice, the sacrifice without romance and flowers. Me is crying too because surely this cannot be right? Me thoughts know this without it happening to me. Me sees what me sees. The flesh is important as it hurts when you strike it and you cry when at the same time try to forget the strike?
It never happened. None of this is happening. Me take the bit of time and cut it out of the space. Me put that little bit of time elsewhere so the flesh can forget the strike. Me know the flesh is not important. Me must not ask why. Me will be the mad one if me asks too many questions. Me busts into tears. Me cannot stop me bawling. My body heaves when me has no control over the rip moving down to my stomach.
‘Child, this is love. Stop wasting your tears. There is no greater love then a child’s love. You have made the grandest sacrifice of all.’
Me must understand. Me must take for granted. Me must accept the ways of the world. We must never describe this as wrong when it is right. Right. Right. The mother wants to be laid down onto the father’s cross because this is what her mother did? Right! She came willingly. Right! The mother did not have to be convinced. Right! History ordained her future. Right! We ripped her clothes. We ripped the patterned house dress away from her body; the acrylic gave in with a sheer shrieking rip. The material hung in shreds. Mother stood, her body limp as a rag doll, staring, staring for another presence. Mother, her back bent slightly, her forehead lowered, her face muscles tightening in a expression of horror. Mother is a child. Mother must be helped for she is a child who once abandoned the path to the Lord. Mother is to be punished. Punishment will make what is right as right in the eyes of me mother. Me mother. She looks after me. She is me mother. When people ask me who is that person me says, this is me mother.
We hammered in the nails from the father’s tool shed. Me found them in a jar marked ‘Nails for the Mother’s crucifixion’ Me admired the fathers sense of order as me retrieved them and ran back into the kitchen where the women, the forsaken were waiting. The grandmother and me hammered together and when the first nail went in, the mother jerked her head to one side, her mouth opened wide and her lips curled inwards. She howled. Spit hung from her mouth and dribbled down her chin. The howl was like the end of me world when me mother feeds me and without her me would be dead. There is no existence without me mother, but me have to please the father. Me sobbed as I worked and these sobs came from the bottom of me body, from the very beginning of me being, from the mud scooped out of the ground by the father long ago. The grandmother’s face is stern like corrugated iron because she is irritated. The grandmother is frustrated, maddened. Me cannot hold the hammer properly. It keeps on slipping from me hand, crashing to the floor. Me want grandmother to do the hammering but she has to tie me Mother’s hands down.
‘Look at my hands Thomas if you don’t believe ’
The grandmother screams at me because Thomas has taken over me face. Me try to shut him out cause me does believe. Me do not want to see the scars, red marks burning in the centre of her hands. One day these will be scars for me too. This is the way. Me understand. Grandma forgets the crown of thorns. Me mention nothing. Skewing the side of her like she is merely mutton dressed as Iamb will be more than enough.