Andre does not grasp the finer points of math, but he got my gist and sprawled out on the floor, waiting patiently for his number to be called.
I propped the envelope against the cereal box. On the front was my name in Joanie's girly-girl handwriting. Plus the number six. Only she didn't write the number. There were just hash marks. Like an inmate counting days.
I sat there staring at the envelope and spooning up my Cheerios. Andre remained a polite two feet away, both eyes riveted on the spoon. "Explain something to me," I said to him. "How come the Cheerios commercials always show happy Moms with perky breasts, Dads who seem to be on the right career path, and teenage kids with no substance abuse problems? What about real families like us? A middle-aged widower and his Cheeriosloving dog?"
Andre shifted positions and started licking his dick. "You keep doing that at the breakfast table," I told him, "and we'll never wind up on television."
I always put in too much milk, so I grabbed another fistful of cereal, to establish a better oats-to-milk ratio in the bowl. I still wasn't ready to open the letter, so I read the box and was delighted to find that Cheerios may reduce my cholesterol if I make them part of my heart-healthy diet. I decided not to order a Cheerios T-shirt for only $4.99 and wondered why they had to print "Limit 4 T-shirts per household." Are there actually households that need more than four? And if so, why would General Mills deprive them?
I left an inch of milk and about two dozen floaters in the bowl and set it down on the floor next to Andre. He stopped gratifying himself sexually and immediately dove into the heart-healthier choice.
I waited for him to finish so I could pick up the bowl, otherwise Rosa, my cleaning lady, would find it on the floor and have to go to church to ask God to forgive me for feeding the dog out of my dead wife's good dishes. Andre finished his Cheerios and went back to his dick. I put the bowl in the sink, went back to the bedroom, and plopped down on the big stuffed chair. I used Joanie's best cake knife to open the envelope. Dios mio; pray for me, Rosa.
Are these letters driving you crazy? Tough
shit. I've never been dying before, and I'm trying
to figure this out as I go along. It serves you right
for marrying a firstborn, perfectionist, Gemini
Assuming you're following my orders and reading these on schedule (if you don't I'll come back and haunt you) it's been six months. Hopefully Rosa is still coming, or by now there are 180 pair of dirty socks and underwear piled up on the bedroom floor.
I wrote the first five letters when I was between chemo sessions. Today I'm vomiting between paragraphs, so bear with me.
I'm sad for you. The hardest part of this whole ordeal is not that I'm dying (although believe me that sucks big time). It's trying to imagine you without me.
How can I not be there every morning when you roll over all shaggy, scruffy, and if I'm lucky, horny. How can I not be there on Sunday nights at Gino's to split a sausage and pineapple pizza and a bottle of dago red? How can I not be with you? How can you behow can you existwithout me? I don't know how many more letters I've got left in me, but I'll write #7 tomorrow. Just to whet your appetite, I promise to reveal the biggest secret I ever kept from you. No cheating. You can't open it for another month.
Michael, my sweet lover, I know these messages from your dear departed wife must be like getting greeting cards from the Surreal Section of the Hallmark store. But I can't stop writing. I've accepted the fact that I can't hold onto my own life. I just can't let go of being part of yours.
I will love you for eternity. Give Big Jim and Andre big wet kisses for me.
Copyright Marshall Karp 2006. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Macadam Cage.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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