Ron Burch

My Mother's Vibrator Drowns Out the Gay Men's Choir

     My mother's vibrator drowns out the Gay Men's Choir, who are singing on TV. I've asked Mom a number of times to either turn it down or wait until I'm out of the house. I think she forgets because of the number of drugs she's currently on and because she never sleeps.  

     Honestly, it's not really the vibrator. It's more her screams of pleasure. My girlfriend Diane has started calling it PTVD, which she says means Post Traumatic Vibrator Disorder. She keeps asking when she can come over and help, but she's taking care of my cat right now. I don't want to ask too much this early in the relationship.

     I've been here three days and I don't know if I can last another three.

     After my step-father died, Dr. Lewis recommended that I move in with her temporarily. He said she was suicidal but hoped that the meds would. My mother and I haven't lived in the same building in many years. It all comes back to me why that is.

     On garbage pick-up day, Wednesday, I take out her bins to the curb. She's lost weight since his death and tends to not leave the house. Her two black bins are stuffed full, weeks and weeks of rotting garbage, white bags with red ties, sticking out the top. I wheel them all out, the blue bin, which is for recyclables, the last. It makes an odd sound like there are a thousand pennies loose inside it, and it's so heavy I can barely wheel it down the driveway.

     My mother, in her pink robe and open-toed tan sandals, runs out after me. "Stop!" she screams. "Bring that back in here immediately!" My mother points a shaking finger at the blue bin. She has a small white bottle from the pharmacy in her hand.

     "Give that to me, Mom," I say. "I'll throw it out for you."

     "Immediately!" she demands, stomping back inside the garage.

     I wheel the blue bin back inside so she can throw the bottle away. She hits the button for the garage door and it loudly shakes his way down to the cement floor, banging as it hits bottom.

     She heaves a different bottle of painkillers into the large round blue bin.

     "Okay," I say, whipping the bin around on its wheels, getting ready to roll it out again.

     "That's not trash," she says.

     "No," I say, "it's recycling." I take the remaining pill bottle from her hand. It's still full of pills.

     "You can't recycle these," I say.

     "I'm not," she replies. "I'm saving them."

     I think my mom has become a junky. She seems jittery, more absent-minded. Am I going to have to stage an intervention for her? She's 70. "Mom, you're not supposed to really do that."

     "I have to."

     She lifts back the top to the blue bin and it's filled halfway with pills and pill bottles. Thousands of pills. Small, big, red, blue. It's like one of those ball pits for kids except this one contains drugs.

     "It's for the apocalypse."

     "What apocalypse?"

     "The one that's coming. You see what we're doing to the planet, doing to each other. Everyone has nuclear weapons. The earth is heating up due to climate change." She throws the last pill bottle into the bin. "We've totally fucked ourselves."

     "And you're going to kill yourself with all these pills?"

     "Don't be silly," she says, letting the lid slam. "I'm going to need them to barter with."

     Mom's had a tough couple of years. She retired and then her father died. Right after that funeral, then her mother died. Then right after that funeral her husband died from cancer. One of those scary-ass cancers where one day you're fine and then the doctor tells you that you have three days to live. I call it a whiplash cancer because the news is as jarring as the actual disease.

     The TV is always on here. It's loud and in the center of the house in the living room. It's always on. Day, night. Even if she's not in front of it. It must be kept on. The first morning I tried to turn it off only to have her run from the bathroom, pouncing on the remote to turn it back on. "Don't you ever turn it off!" she screamed. I left the room while a commercial ran for a local attorney and my mother sobbed.

     I contemplate hiring someone to stay here with her. A nurse or an assistant. I search on the internet, but the places that come up seem cheap and weird, strangers who might make it worse. Also, I can't really afford it. The only break I get is when I go to work. Before or after, Mom is calling me asking when I'm going to be back, what do I want for dinner? She's trapping me in the house with her.

     After two months and fourteen days, after frozen cheese pizza dinner, I can't take it anymore. I pack up my suitcase. I put my pants and shirts and everything else in it.

     She calls me in to the living room. I’m going to break the news to her, but on the TV is one of those detective shows from the 1980s. My mom's been obsessed. I've now watched more hour mystery dramas from that time than I knew existed. I thought it was the thing that was calming her down but as soon I sit down, she nods off. She did the same thing last night. She must finally feel safe again. No apocalypse for now.

     It’s good to see her sleep.

     In the morning, I tell her who the murderer is. She looks at me with these wide brown eyes and the hint of a smile and says astonished, "No, he seemed so nice."






Ron Burch's fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including Mississippi Review, Eleven Eleven, PANK, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Bliss Inc., his debut novel, was published by BlazeVOX Books. He lives in Los Angeles. 

JD Thornton