“Mom, where’s the leather portfolio with all the important papers? Did you move it from Dad’s desk to the bedroom? Could it be in the top drawer of your bureau?”
Or the drawer below? Or the drawer below that? This is today’s game of twenty questions.
Mom sits on her commode like a queen, wearing all her jewelry but not a stitch of clothing. I wrap a midnight blue pashmina around her bony shoulders and pool it in her lap. I wait for either a bowel movement or a mental connection. Either would be a small victory.
“Yes, that’s where the treasure is, dear.” She tilts her head as if I’m a ladies’ maid. “Lipstick?” She smiles, and I oblige with Devil May Care Red before I rush to the bureau.
Finally. For days I’ve been looking for the will, the insurance, the accounts—everything Dad so carefully prepared before he died.
The bureau drawer catches; its contents overflow.
Inside is milk bag upon plastic milk bag, neatly labeled and closed with a salvaged bread tie: Things Sam took out of the back of the TV. Seeds stolen from the Paris garden. Myrtle’s hair. Dried blood for the roses.
Who’s Myrtle? When were you in Paris, Mom? Whose blood?
Her treasures—secrets I can’t unlock anymore.
“Mom, where’s Dad’s portfolio?” Damn, I didn’t mean to be that loud.
She strains. “What’s that terrible smell, dear? Do take care of the kitty litter.”
And because the cat is long gone, I do. There, stashed in the litter box, is the portfolio.
I wait until my body stops shaking from exasperation or fear. I hug all that remains ordered of my parents’ lives.
Jann Everard lives in Toronto and writes when she’s not feeding ravenous teens or unruly cats. Her work has appeared most recently in The Globe and Mail, Existere, Ascent Aspirations, The Los Angeles Review and is forthcoming in Room and The Nashwaak Review.