I’ll Take Care of You


One day after Mary had a dream about being burned at the stake by her immediate
family, she was eating bacon for breakfast and something unexpected began to happen in
her mouth. Her tongue swelled up and she felt as if it wasn’t the bacon she was eating but
her own tongue. It tasted burnt.
Then everything tasted burnt and Mary stopped eating. Her parents noticed, but
when they tried to talk to her, she said, “Don’t worry about it. I’m dead.”
That night while her parents were eating little white flowers in their salads and
drinking imported water as transparent as their misguided intentions, Mary dreamed
about some other parents who were not hers. One was a true chestnut father of light and
one was a stuffed pretender in a red stuffed chair. And one was a mother with a tickly
little moustache to keep her brisk and jolly.
One of the fathers was insisting, “We cannot move the earth closer to the sun.”
And one of the mothers with an addiction to cautious little Marthas and self-deprecating
behavior was saying, ”Only a flea among elephants. Only a flea among elephants.”
One father, who was painting his face the color of the sidewalk, said, “I hope you
won’t mind if I want to lessen a bit.”
Just then Mary’s real father was giving away one of those handshakes that leave
you convinced you will never need another automobile and thinking, “I am the boy back
home who has never grown up.” Mary’s grandmother was poking her cane between the
bars of his cage and he hadn’t even noticed.
Chump Chump the Roly-poly Little Hedgehog was visiting Mary’s neglected rock
garden when a piece of overcooked bacon flew out the window and landed smack on the
end of his nose. He gobbled it up like a fat green caterpillar and waddled on out to the
meadow for his low impact aerobics class.
Mary grew despondent. Mary did not understand why her chin was so flat. Mary
welcomed a pause in which a saddened world seemed to offer condolences between each
of her sluggish, self-referential movements.
Another one of the fathers said, “Did you hear the one about the American who
couldn’t stop spilling out words because speech was free? Oh how quickly he learned to
say nothing and keep right on talking.”
Just then Mary was imagining herself as a man and thinking, “I am the kind of man
who meets the gaze of women and holds it to the moment of desire or embarrassment. I
stir interest. I stir anxiety. I achieve. I am noticed.”
Mary’s real father continued outlining his uselessness and put the pages in a bright
red box marked “Priest Fodder.” Finally he turned away, looking for some reluctant
heaven in the clouds, and that was the moment when something might have killed him.
Mary’s mother said, “The weaker one always loves without reserve,” and Mary’s
father, who endured despite himself, said, “Because he does nothing, the follower is
mistaken for God.” Tiny voices kept floating across his tongue. One of them sounded like
Mary’s childhood.
Mary listened carefully this time and thought, “It sounds like death, but I’m ever so sure it means love.”
The flames climbed her robe. It had been such an honor to light the cautious fire.

Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.