Housework bothers her, she’s tired.
Her stomach is burning. “I can’t sleep,” she says. “I’m taking pills but they don’t work. I don’t know why they gave them to me. They’re useless.”
“Let’s hire a housekeeper for her,” my girlfriend says, after I hang up with my mother.
“She won’t like that,” I say. “She likes to do things a certain way.”
“We don’t have much of a choice,” she says. “What are the alternatives?”
“We could go there ourselves,” I say.
“When?” she says. “When do we have time, exactly? When?”
“I’ll have to explain everything,” my mother says. “I won’t like that.”
“I’ll explain to them before they come,” I tell her.
"No, no,” she says. “You don’t know what I like.” Here she gives one of her big sighs. “I have no one. Jack’s gone and I have no one. Why don’t you ever say you love me? Lots of sons say that but you don’t.”
“That’s not true,” I say. “I say it.”
“When do you say it? I haven’t heard it. I haven’t heard it at all.”
“Why are you changing the subject?”
“Yes, you are. We’re talking about getting you a cleaner."
“I don’t want that.”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to move closer. You could move closer so I could see you more, so you could help around the house.”
“I can’t just move away from my job. Jasmine can’t just move away. Why don’t you move here, we could get a bigger apartment?”
“Me, live in an apartment? All my doctors are here. Dr. Schavelli is here. I can’t leave him. I’ve seen him for thirty years.”
“He’s probably going to retire soon.”
“He’s not retiring. He would tell me if he’s retiring. He’d tell me. I know he’d tell me.”
We go to see her. I make Jasmine come with me. She gets off work. We clean for a little bit and after eat lunch. My mother makes these amazing pickles. They’re so good. I mean she buys the deli pickles at the grocery store but she marinates them with garlic and vinegar and her own special concoction. It makes them taste better than anything you’ve ever had. I love those pickles. And the fudge she makes. Oh my God. It’s so good. Both my girlfriend and I love it and she usually makes more so we can take some home.
“They’re all coming for us,” my mother says.
“Who?” I say.
“Muslims, she says. “The refugees are coming and they want to take over.”
“What makes you say that?”
“You have to stamp out the bad ones,” she says. “It’s like a dog with rabies, you just have to pull the trigger.”
“What are you talking about?”
“One bad apples infects them all. You know that’s true.”
“We’re talking about human beings, I say, not apples. They’re trying to escape war. War, it’s not just like they don’t life the weather. People are killing their families, fucking bombing them!”
“Don’t swear. I’ve never liked when you swear.”
“Don’t avoid the issue.”
“I’m not, I’m just pointing out I don’t like you swearing.”
“Dessert?” she says.
“Yes, please” we say.
“We just love your fudge,” Jasmine says. We don't even have to see what she prepared. We know it's fudge. “I know we’ve said this a million times but we love it.”
“Oh thank you, sweetie. Nice of you to to say so. Todd never mentions it.”
“Not true,” I say. “I say it all the time.”
We waited. There was silence in the kitchen.
“Mom, you need help?” I say.
“No, I’m fine, sweetie. Just a second.”
“Mom.” I get up.
“Don’t come in here,” she says, “I’ll be right out.”
We go into the kitchen. She’s floating; she’s pressed against the ceiling.
“I can’t help it,” she says. “It just happens.”
"I float sometimes," she says.
“Have you talked to the doctor about this?”
“They can’t even help my diarrhea,” she says. “How the hell are they going to help with this?”
We grab her legs, and try to pull, but she doesn’t come down. It’s no use, we’re just hurting her.
She pushes herself along with ceiling and we went back out to the dining room.
We ate dessert with her pressed to the ceiling.
“How’s your job search going, Jasmine?” mom says.
“Fine, it’s okay. I’ve had a few interviews but nothing yet. I can’t wait to quit this waitressing job.”
"It’s hard to find a good job these days. It’s really hard.”
“Yes,” Jasmine says. “It is.”
“How’s your job going, Todd?”
“My supervisor just quit,” I say. “He got a job in California and is moving out there. Won’t miss, he was a real nightmare to work for.”
“Yeah, but there’s no water. That place is going to be a total desert in twenty years.”
A few hours later she comes down. We say goodbye and leave.
I Google it when we get home. But I find very little information about people floating. On their own, that is. Without jet packs and balloons and other devices. I find one weird sex video that I watch for thirty seconds until Jasmine says “What the hell are you watching?” and she comes over and we watch it until we both start laughing.
I call my mother. I feel bad the way we left things, not really discussing her little problem.
"When do you float?” I say.
“What do you mean?”
“What happens or does anything happen to make you float?”
“No, no. It just happens. I can’t control it.”
“Our wedding night, I floated. Oh Jack, was so confused. And a little angry. I just floated and had to sleep on the ceiling the whole night. I came down the next morning.”
“When else have you floated?”
“Last week when I was watching Matlock I floated. I was so angry. I wanted to finish the end of that episode but I floated and I couldn’t see the TV anymore.”
“What do you do when you float?”
“I used to clean, she said. But now I usually just take a nap. Ooh, my stomach’s burning again. It’s those pills. Those damn pills. I hate them."
“The ones I’m taking. For everything, for everything. It’s no use. I’m dying.”
“Do you think our kids will float,” I say. “When we have babies, when they came out, will they float away? No, we have the umbilical cord. That’s why we have the cord. It all makes sense now. There’s the cord. That makes a lot of sense to me. Doesn’t it to you?”
“Turn on your TV,” Jasmine says. She’s calling me from work.
“Why?” I say.
“Turn it on now, “she says. “Just do it.”
I turn it on.
There’s a news report. Police are chasing a woman who’s somehow floating in the air. There’s news helicopters at a distance. They’re filming her. I can tell it’s my mother. It’s hard to see her facial expressions but when the cameras zoom in on her she gives a little wave. She has the paper in her hand. She doesn’t seem too worried. She’s reading the paper. She must have gone out to get it and started floating.
The reports say the police are not sure how to get her down, not sure how she’s doing it. Maybe there’s a jetpack, maybe some balloons somewhere, but no one’s sure.
I wonder how high she’ll go. High enough to freeze, to die from lack of oxygen? Will she go that high? What if a plane hits her? It could happen.
I call 911. “The woman floating,” I say. “That’s my mother. That’s my mother.”
Finally she starts to descend. I worry she’s going to hit power lines, be electrocuted. So many things could go wrong. They tell me they’re taking to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Reading, I can meet her there. She comes down in a backyard at a birthday party. The children thinks it’s part of the magic show, the news says later.
She lives with us now. She’s not allowed outside without her tether. We can’t have her floating away. I was afraid it would be too much with her in the apartment, but she’s calmed down a little. I mean, she still complains a lot. More so than is necessary for any human being. But she sleeps better at night. She makes us meals. She does our laundry. We all laugh together.
It’s nice sometimes, but I’m waiting for the day when she’ll be gone. Not today. Not tomorrow, I hope. But one day that will happen. She’ll just float away. That’s what she tells me. That’s how she’d like to go. When things are too much, when what little pleasure she has in life is gone, she’ll just float right up to the stars. I don’t know if she can go that high, but we’ll find out.