In in few minutes they would arrive with sirens. The rubber on the tires would heat up and squeal against the sand swamped roads. For now, she enjoyed the quiet hum of sunset. Even in the desert, there was a cool calm to this time of day. A breeze whistled through the cactus spines and the leaves of the dry Joshua trees. Although she tried to focus on these things, the weight in her lap was unforgettable and her bony ankles ground against each other. The heaviness of her mother’s body surprised her, but she could not leave it behind.
A lizard crawled up over the edge of a rock, blinking sideways and then skittered away finding no warmth in the remaining light. There was no rock big enough for her to hide under now. As a child she took every opportunity to hide. Sneaking into cabinets and under crawl spaces for hours at a time, she patiently waited for the voices of grown-ups wondering where she gone before she would unfold her legs from their cramped position and appear in some other room, never to reveal where she’d been. Plenty of big rocks, even caves in the desert could offer her cover, but she had no use for that now. Her mother was dead.
She clung to the body, still warm near the center. They would be here soon, she thought. Then they would take away her mother, lay the body stiffly and gracefully onto a rolling bed and close the doors of the ambulance around her like a mausoleum on wheels. She tried to imagine the clunk, clunk of the doors closing to prepare her for this last sight. There most likely wouldn’t be a funeral, at least not one she could attend. The breeze whipped up.
Beside her the Ziplock freezer bag full of cash jingled in the wind. She wasn’t sure what to do with it now. Probably best to let the cops handle it. She was crap with money anyway. It would have bought them both a nice enough life, she thought. There was a cabin that the bus had passed on the way to the prison. The chimney emitted a soft dove grey smoke signaling a distance from the road about a mile back, hidden inside the trees. That would’ve been nice, she thought. There we could have both hidden out.
In the tree overhanging them both, an owl fluttered its wings lightly and she looked up to see the outline of its shadow against the sunset. Everything was darkening now and the breeze stiffened. The gravel from the road tumbled. She wished she had a harmonica with her so she could play a song. That would complete the picture, she thought. A sad tune to match the wind and the body sagging across her lap would do it. She started to tap her foot, thinking of the beat playing out in her head.
It wasn’t a sad song, really, but you know, at this point it hardly mattered much she thought. And hey, this way they could say they found her in the middle of the desert singing a song to her ma, and they could haul her off for good. Then the sirens whirled in the distance and her breath caught. This was it.
In a minute the doors slammed and lights flashed, scaring the owl away from his nesting tree. But she was still there, holding the body. They thought at first maybe she was dead too, she was so hunched over. But when they prodded her with the tip of a rifle, expecting the shoulders to fall back, her head lifted instead and her dry eyes blinked at them.
A few of the men swallowed shouts of surprise then hollered at her to raise her hands above her head. She did. Then they walked her to the back of a car and drove her away. The body still lay on the desert ground where she’d gently laid it down next to the cash. She stared out the window, and watched as they stood around the body, shifting back and forth on their feet. They looked uncomfortable. A paramedic trotted over and reached a hand down to her ma’s wrist and shook his head.
The door of the car slammed shut and her head spun. The cop adjusted his mirror and started the car. They were going to take her away before they even moved her ma from off the ground. She sat up straight and thought of pounding on the glass, but then thought better of it and sank back, turning her head from the scene, so as not to start to cry.
In a few days’ time, they’d pick her ma down to the bone, but they’d know it was a heart attack killed her. Didn’t matter, though, she thought. I’ll be gone by the time they’re done.
I’m a little late in posting, but here goes. This week I chose the song “Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma” covered by Miley Cyrus. So check out Trebez here.