Ryder Collins
Death and the Big City

Mother took me to the city. It was the first time I’d ever been. I’d pretty much grown up on my grandparents’ farm, but now they were dead. Mother’d come to collect me, two days after the funeral. She was dressed all in black.

“I couldn’t get off work.”

She looked younger than I thought a mother should look. I hadn’t seen her in seven years, since my parents’d divorced.

“You’ve gotten so tall. Come here.”

Aunt Regina nodded at me to go give my mother a hug. I didn’t want to. I mean, she couldn’t even make it to her own parents’ funeral. She couldn’t be here to comfort her only son and sister. She couldn’t do a lot of things, it seemed.

I gave her a hug anyway. She swooped me into her arms, then pushed me away. “Bags and coat,” she commanded.

I went to my bedroom. My stuff was on the bottom bed of the bunk Regina and my mother’d once shared. Aunt Regina and my mother were talking in hushed voices when I got back to the living room; I waited by the door. My aunt was the first to notice, she came over and hugged me. “I love you, little man.”

“I know.”

“All right. We’re out then,” my mother said.

Her car was nice, a newer VW Beetle, much nicer than the faulty 1970 Land Rover that’d turned over and killed my grandparents. She listened to some R&B station as she drove down the highway. She didn’t say much to me.

I wanted to ask her why she never visited me, but I also didn’t really want to know.

When we got to her apartment, she showed me my room – “It used to be my office,” she said. She ordered us a pizza and we sat at the kitchen table eating cheap two for one deal pizza. I pushed the grease around with a crust. My mother drank a tall Tanqueray and tonic.

Getting up from the table she said, “I got you something. Here,” she said.

It was a cell phone. My first. I had no idea how to use it but I wasn’t going to tell her that.

She yawned, then finished her drink. “I got to hit the hay. Gotta go in early tomorrow. There’s cereal for breakfast, and cable if you’re bored.”

She was gone the next morning when I got up. I ate some cereal and flipped through the channels. I didn’t know what to do. I was in the first high-rise of my life. I knew no one in this city, except my mother.

I went out on to her little balcony and scoped out the city. Tall buildings surrounded me. My mother worked in one of these skyscrapers. She was so close, yet so far away. I would have called her but I didn’t know her number. I raised the cell phone to my ear, anyway, and pretended.


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