doublewide book of the dead – Chris Benton

        my mom chooses my sister’s rotting doublewide by the Cape Fear River to die in, though she never actually admits she’s dying, she still believes her Heavenly Father will conquer the cancer that’s eating her alive but she can’t be sure, none of us can be sure, because mom had confessed many years back that she had opened up a demonic vortex with a Ouija Board as a kid.    

        it only takes twelve hours before she descends into the reckoning sleep, where she’s traveling through all the vagaries and agonies and tender miracles and her face is slowly retreating and I gently stroke the ovarian tumor bulging out of her abdomen and it’s hard to deny she’s giving birth one last time. I wonder if her deathbaby will look like her or me or my sister or my dead brother or someone else entirely, or something else entirely, a beast my sister would end up keeping chained to a scrub oak until it escapes and gets squashed by a redneck in a white pickup because rednecks in white pickups are the only squashers on River Road.        

        3 39 in the morning I awake and find my mother staring at me, eyes alive and lucid. She doesn’t speak, so I speak for us and tell her that I’m the luckiest son on the planet and my novel is getting published and I dedicated it to her and I also scored a three book deal with a fancy New York publisher and I never would have become so gifted and talented a fortunate a son if I grew in someone else’s belly and her eyes blink that awful clairvoyant blink that all the sorry ass sons of the world know so well, and she lifts her hand and signs with her fingers that Yeshua was hung alongside Judas from the same dead tree in the same dead village called Roseman Lane… 

        I know my mom forgives my lies and my failures because every modern miracle and atrocity around us is built by a mom, factory workers are made by a mom, Academy Award winning Actors are made by moms, National Book Award winning writers are made by moms, farmers who grow those potatoes we slice like idiots are made by a mom, those Drone operators who bomb the fuck outta women and children are made by moms, the authors of the Bible were made by a moms, Jesus was made by a mom, but what about Satan? He was made by my mom’s Heavenly Father? Was he born outta our Heavenly Father’s eyes? His ass? His urethera? His navel? I’ve been off dope for nearly a year and my hand now holds a vial of her morphine drops, and before you know it they splash into my eyes as loud as fearless fat boys falling in love with our homicidal river. 

        my sister’s poltergeist wakes her and she shakes me awake and tells me her poltergeist has gained access to her temporal lobe lesions, she tells me that she’s feeling the euphoric deja vu every other hour, yet with no seizures. “I can see the future now, baby bro, can see everything now, we’re all gonna be dead soon, this magnificent rotten tree of our existence is about to fall, I hear the lament in every limb on earth, but it’s really concentrated here, man, so beautiful, baby bro, where are those percocets?” She’s wearing her tattered bathrobe bearing dolphins, she’s had this bathrobe for decades. I brood on the deathwish of dolphins, and the vengeful spirit that has been stalking my sister her entire life, it’s a man-sized cloud of thick white smoke that appears in all her birthday and Christmas photos. She never gave it a name. Her husband, a Cherokee who died only three months earlier from a rare congenital liver disease also saw her poltergeist, told me it lifted their entire bed up off the floor one night. She refuses to clean her husbands blood spatter around the toilet. The hot tub three feet across from it is sinking into the floor and all I can think of is how profoundly loving this dry blood spatter is.

        Emma taught me how to grow tomatoes and squash and basil and vengeful demons, she taught me how to build their loving cages, and she, and taught me how to circumcise myself a second time with the rib of a wolf she found in the desert outside of Phoenix, and she taught me the domestic mysteries of concussions. We’re separated for the fifth time because I’m simply too unruly for her, yet eternally faithful. She remembers to give me holiday concussions that sends me into the blackest wombs of mankind’s mind and when I try to thank her she accuses me of being an emotional pervert and I always say unto her, “why are these blows you give me so perverted? They are the purest poetry. I’m in a serene blue wood where an orchestra of roadkill are playing golden flutes and violins in sorrowful harmony while all the forgotton boys and girls born of rotting trees get a pony ride on the back of the Devil to their new tree where they’ll be gently planted.” 

“You have fucking problems, Chris, I’m trying to wake you the fuck up, not sing a fucking lullabye.”


        sends me a text and we talk and we say

        How are you?

        I’m fine, how are you?

        I’m outside the door

        And she is and my heart is pounding and my mom is dying and Emma kinda brushes me aside and helps my sister wipe my mom’s dying ass and they whisper women whispers to each other and I need to talk to her but she looks at me like I’ve fucked a whore behind her back and leaves, and she’s right I’ve taken some of my mom’s morphine drops and like a baby, I want one last concussion for old times, so I chase after her white VW Rabbit for several hundred feet until she vanishes and I like the way her headlights suddenly vanish.              

        the story of the eye begins when mom dies late in the evening, well, not so late, it’s 10:35. The hospice nurse arrives and she wears sunglasses at night. She stuffs the remainder of mom’s drugs into a bag of cat litter (I keep two vials of morphine) and asks me if I want to be the one to turn my mom on her back and I say, “I do,” like some perverted groom and turn my mom’s corpse over on her back and her eye which was hidden by the pillow is wide with unspeakable terror. I turn my head to the water stain on the ceiling and say “I didn’t need to see this.” The water stain on the ceiling which is the shape of all gods, living and dead and dormant, nods.

        tractorhead aka Gene Paine, half metal, half man, built by a lifetime of DUI disaster calls me six hours after my mother dies to offer hope:

        “Has she been embalmed yet?”

        “No, she hasn’t, it’s against her religion,” I say, feeling all suddenly creepy and Judassy. 

        “Well that’s good, man, that’s real fuckin good, cause I’m saying this right now Chris and I won’t say it a second time you need to bring her to my daddy’s farm, because when my momma died of a heart-attack, I helped my daddy carry her out to the hog lagoon behind the processing plant and we carried her in there in her best dress and held her body beneath the greatest foulness the earth has ever known and brought her back up and I’ll tell you right now on this phone her eyes were alive and she was speaking to both of us for almost a minute.” I tap the bright red END circle at the bottom of my phone and take a couple more morphine drops.

        the addict is not mysterious in their pain or mythic in their hunger. I ended my five year oxycontin love affair ten months ago, but here I am again. The death of your maker or any beloved will do this to you, and with narcotic love in your blood you will translate and mourn every tragedy in the solar system, you will learn the psalms of every monster your Heavenly Father has hidden from you, you will find a handsome, swashbuckling skeleton in every mirror, you will be free of all terror and shame, you will be perfected.   

        the box is the priceless simplicity of my dead mom. She demands no embalming, for she will rise from the grave like a romantic rotting zombie during the Second Coming and she wants to be buried in a plain pine box, which has to be up to code. I look online it they’re priced at $5,795. I can’t build it myself. I pray to Jesus to give me his skill to make a plain pine box but he doesn’t answer me and I know why, because I’m not a carpenter and never will be, I was never born to build boxes, I was born to destroy my selves…   

        the buried boy is the nocturnal psychotic rage defining me, the midnight magnetism of storybook monsters, destroying my marriage and the buried boy was buried when I was six years old swinging in a hammock with Danny Kirkland and six years later my father finally disappeared because the buried boy had been praying to the King of Hell night after night with a passion and love beyond that of his Heavenly father that he, my terrestrial trash father would die alone in a ditch, far away from human memory, his face and balls gobbled by dogs. The buried boy prayed with impossible poetry and foreign tongues, defiled the bodies of bibles, the buried boy bought little blond haired Jesus statues from thrift stores and criscoed them up his ass while he jerked off and prayed and prayed and prayed until his fingers finally grew eagle talons.  And then eleven months later the trash father vanished. 



        3 39am were the numbers and letters I remember, the colon separating the numbers had burned out soon after the clock was given to me. Or perhaps they were always burned out. I was awake and remember the red glow of the numbers rimming my mom’s silhouette, sitting at the foot of my bed. Rubies ran down her face. She was speaking in tongues again, as she did many a night over the wreck of my father on the shore of our living room floor, until she abandoned the ritual when a shiny black bubble began growing out of his mouth. She stopped her sacred babble and smiled. It was a terrible smile, slight, fragile, vast with prophetic failure. “I did my best Christopher,” she whispered.

        The box continues to haunt my heart. My life is a race against rot. I call up Tractorhead and ask him if he’s interested in a burglary. Of course he agrees, because he’s pure trash and petty crime is his eternal playground. I steel myself to become a nightstalker for one more time, because I never made my mom proud in life, but am hell bent on making her corpse proud within her impossibly simple plain pine box.

        nightstalkers are crawling through the breathing yuppie window like giant tarantulas and as we beat the shit outta this successful silhouette into a deeper, more relaxing sleep, several black balloons of unanswered prayers float outta his mouth and out the window, and my soul feels like it’s swinging in vast hot breeze beside another dead fraud from a dead tree in a dead trailerpark. 

        the funeral is a success, I sell the other vial of morphine for 300 bucks to a failing restaurant owner I used to work for and sell my mother’s private stash of raw pearls her mother left her and I have enough for her plain pine box. I’m sitting on those church banquet chairs in Greenville Loop Cemetary with my sister and my aunt who is deaf and schizophrenic with a head of horse hair and will outlive us all and Emma is beside me and is holding my hand and the avenging veins of her hand are so gorgeous and I’m feeling like this day will be the proudest of my life until my corrupted retinas happen to find a man peering from behind a Long Leaf Pine like an escape convict and my heart sinks and my balls break like christmas tree balls and I chase after him and run him down and he’s not my father, no, he just confessess to be a High School sweetheart always in love with my mom. He’s crying and saying over and over that he’s always loved my mom, and I remember our rotting tree and a gladness devours me and I laugh and release him to stagger through the stones of the dead…