"Well, where the hell is she?" Harmony asked, just in from his construction job. “Her car’s gone.” His raisin pupils were tucked into slits passing for eyelids. He dipped his head under the cold water tap, shook it, and mopped it with the dishtowel.
“She’s on the flat rock out back.” Delia took the misused dishtowel from her husband's hand and chose a folded replacement from a drawer.
“Hell, it’s a couple of football fields to that rock. Delia, she’s sitting in the desert on a rock!”
“I can see her just fine with my binoculars. She drove herself out there. Since you fixed her truck in four wheel low, it only goes five miles per hour. Why are you so angry? You don't even like my mother."
"What the hell is with your family? How are you going to feel if something happens to her?”
"Look, I can't help that she decided it was time to die. You’re the one who said it was you or my mother. She's eighty-eight years old and wants to die. Anyway, she's got her car if she changes her mind." Besides, I really don't care what she does any more.
She answered the ringing phone. "Delia! Hi, George. Yes, I want to let you know that our mother is...” she explained, paused. "Bye."
"That was doubtless your monosyllabic brother?" Harmony said.
"I can't help it if he doesn't talk." Is this pick on Delia day?
The phone rang again. "Delia!"
Harmony rubbed the top of his graying crewcut and walked out the back door.
"Hi, Aunt Dottie. Yep, Mom’s on the rock...” she explained. “Yep, George just called. No, your sisters don't know yet. I'll call you tomorrow."
She looked down. No shoes. She searched for them briefly, knowing she was late for her art class. She ran to her
The changeling flipflops materialized from under the driver seat after she slammed on the brake at the art center. Jamming her toes in them, she dashed off.
* * *
Planes of back musculature on white paper snapped into focus as she drew with charcoal. Next time she wanted a model who looked like a God! She wanted definition--a workout junkie. Could she be a voyeur? She giggled.
Her cell phone rang. The instructor glared. She fished in her purse with charcoal blackened fingers.
"Delia, where's your mother?" Cousin Chloe asked.
"On that rock out back,” she almost whispered. “Yes, I know it’s hot. She’s got a parasol. How's your dad?"
“Oh my God, Delia, he got mad and left his wicked witch second wife, but forgot why he was mad at her before he got here. We've got to get her out of his house. Uh, is your mom okay?"
"Yes. I tried to talk her out of going so I'd have some time to get her some Prozac or something, but she got in her car. I followed.”
The other artists stared.
"Oh boy, and I thought we had problems with my dad."
"I've gotta go. Sorry," Delia said.
"What are we going to do with these senile siblings?"
“Good question.” Delia turned back to her drawing.
Later at home, she glided into her kitchen’s drifting fragrances. Cool tile met her bare feet. “I smell tacos?”
"And pretty good ones, too." Harmony relayed a bite of taco meat from his simmering skillet to her mouth.
"These may be the best tacos you ever made.”
He smiled. "Yep, I think so, too."
"Magic meat? Exotic spices? How'd you do it?" She pressed her front against his side.
"That's my little secret, and you are
He grinned and slipped his arm around her shoulders.
Delia snuggled into his black T shirt which smelled like cologne and cumin.
He planted a kiss on her forehead then turned to his stovetop.
She grabbed her binoculars and looked outside. Mom still on the rock, a portable canopy over her head. I wonder how that got there.
She left Harmony with his taco meat and tiptoed into the master suite where she found a demolition project. "Eerk," she yelled to the kitchen. "What happened to my fireplace in here?"
"Oh, yeah. It never looked right anyway. Should have been lower!”
She stared at the empty hole. "Shucks. I liked my fireplace."
"Don't worry, I'll build you a better one," he hollered.
So. Gain a taco, lose a fireplace. She mouthed to her image in her vanity mirror, "If he wants to go through all that work, I guess I shouldn't complain." She took a deep breath and changed into a pair of Mexican peon pants and orange shirt. I liked my fireplace.
"Tacos for dinner? Alright!" Her grandson, Christopher had arrived from the basement with his tuba slung over his shoulder. He wore an emblazoned band-of-the-week shirt.
"Why do you have that monster at home?" Some day he would discover women and forget the tuba. His bold copper hair, shocking blue eyes and chiseled chin would cause trouble soon enough. Meanwhile he had his tuba.
"Huh? Oh. Gotta practice new liplocks." He sidled down the hallway like a sandcrab with its shell.
Of course you do.
* * *
Delia attacked her new commissioned painting. The client had seen one of Delia’s pictures at a local art show she liked, but wanted a larger one. It wasn’t Delia’s normal impressionistic type of thing, had in fact been an experiment into abstract painting but she was determined to give the woman what she wanted.
She worked from dark to light, all soft edges on vibrant colors. The gesso undercoating held well but the whole picture seemed to shimmer. Fluorescent confetti.
Sonesta stuck her head into the loft. "Hi, Mom. Aunt Arlene and I went to see grandma this afternoon."
"That's nice dear," Delia was thinking purple but glanced up at her daughter.
"She's doing OK, in case you want to know."
"Hmmm." How'd I do that anyway? A pool of color had made its own shadow under a marquee she’d added to the city street scene.
"She's not dead yet," Sonesta tested. "I think it's going to take a few more days."
"Of course it is, dear," Delia mumbled, eyes on a drip.
Delia looked up. "Why are you yelling at me?”
"Because you're not listening!"
Delia set her brushes down, wiped the paint drip off her the canvas with her pinkie. "OK, I'm listening now. What is it?”
“I thought you should know she'd like to see you some time."
"She's only been out there for one day."
"Yeah, but she didn't remember that. She thought you took her out there last week.”
Delia blanched. “Strange." A gray ball of guilt grew quickly in her stomach.
“Maybe you should go get her."
"I don't want to go get her yet," Delia said. The guilt ball vibrated. “Remember last month when she told the family that I stole all her money, that I was going to make her go stay in an old folk’s home? She said she’d keep it up until I took her out to sit on her stupid rock? Well, I figure if she sits on that rock for a couple days, she'll get over it. She’s got plenty of food."
"It might rain.”
"The desert rain table is about two inches per year."
“But it could rain."
"You don't want me to leave her out there, do you?"
"It is a little weird, Mom."
"Well, you're right, of course, but the woman is not insane."
"Daddy thinks she is. Aunt Clarice thinks she is. Uncle James says you should put her in an assisted care facility."
"Honey, your grandmother hates “nursing homes,” but is not crazy. I have to respect her wishes. She loves the desert—its heat, its dirt. Delia crossed to her window, picked up her binoculars, checked her mother. A large dog sat next to the woman under the canopy. Where did he come from?
"But she's a really old woman! She shouldn't be driving either."
"Yes, she should—but only in the open desert. Should I tell her she's useless and take away all her independence?"
"No, but I wish she would act like a grandmother is supposed to."
Delia gulped. "Like sitting in a rocking chair and knitting, maybe?" How she had longed for a normal mother. Not one who painted her house rooms vivid fuchsia then bordered them with wild rose wallpaper that had made Delia gasp when she was five.
Sonesta’s blue eyes softened a little. "Well, wouldn't it be nice to have just one normal person in this family?" A halo formed around the top of her wavy red hair.
"Your hair looks like red gold right now. And the answer is, I'd get that for you if I knew how."
"I love you, Mom."
A faint roar grew louder outside. Stopped. Door slammed. Grandma entered the kitchen with a large dog. “Me and my dog want some ice.”