Michael D. Davis

The June Selected Writer is Michael D. Davis

Feel free to email Michael at: akamickeymcbride@gmail.com


by Michael D. Davis

It was a cold day in early November: my sister was worrying over the casserole; my brother brought a date of all things, and my mother was in the oven. Yes, you read that right. My mother was in the oven and if I know my sister’s cooking, she’s probably burning too.

My mother had been sick for quite a while before she finally died. It was a horrible thing to see. She lay in her bed, as she refused with every bone in her body not to go to a hospice home or at minimum a nursing home, for months her skin turning a sickly grey. My sister, Jan, and I had to take shifts and watch over her. At all hours of the day, helping her with all her needs.

I wouldn’t say it was her last wish as much as the thing she expected to happen. She expected it of us in the same way any person expects after their death their wishes to be carried out.

It just happens that our family is a little different than what you may call average. We don’t employ somber balding middle age men in dark suits to come and stick my mother full of chemicals and paint her face. We don’t set my mother aflame and stick her ashes in a ceramic knick-knack or put her pickled corpse into a box in the ground just to melt, rot and be eaten by vermin. You will never see a picture of my mother on a piece of beige cardstock at the dollar store announcing her funeral like a high school band’s first gig. No, we do things a little different; we eat our loved ones.

We are not cannibals; we don’t kill everyone we meet. We aren’t criminals or a threat to the community. We are just a normal family. My sister Jan is a kindergarten teacher, my brother Evan delivers pizzas and I’m a librarian. If you met us on the street, you wouldn’t think we were anything out of the ordinary.

This little family tradition started a few generations ago. I have heard that it began during a particularly bad winter and I’ve also been told it started during the great depression. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Either way, whatever season or year it was, hard times had fallen. It’s said that during the Great Depression, my great-grandfather Dudley died unexpectedly. Depending on which version of the story you hear, he either died of the cold, an illness, or while trying to patch the roof he fell off and cried and hollered until my great-great grandfather put him out of his misery like a horse. In any version of events, my grandparents saw food where there hadn’t been before.

It has since become a lovely tradition that shows the love one has for their family. Back then it was about survival and Dudley’s marvelous part in that. Today it’s about my mother and how she’s giving us one last meal or two. I just hope Jan has learned a few things since the last time she tried cooking a family meal.

Mom was an expert cook. She could make almost anything in the world taste like it was baked in the heavens. I remember when Aunt Rhonda died (fell down the stairs and cracked her head open like an egg), the roast my mom made was absolutely amazing. It was like eating food for the first time. All the tastes were new and explosive.

Just the sheer amount of food that Mom could get from one person was astounding. Aunt Rhonda lasted us the better part of a month in all. Mom got from her two roasts, some steak, we grilled out Aunt Rhonda burgers and there was still some left over for the neighbors and to fill our school lunches for weeks.

I’m sure you caught that; yes, Mom used to give leftovers and other dishes to the neighbors.

Mom would cook just so much food sometimes that we were forced to either let it go to waste or share it. So, we shared it. I remember going across the street to the Chaskins with a big platter of cousins Ron and Liz (car accident, just awful both their necks snapped like kindling). They always loved it and were full of gratitude bringing the dishes back spotless raving about how delicious it all was.

However, it wasn’t delicious every time. As there are different grades of beef there are different grades of human. Where Aunt Rhonda was absolute USDA prime perfection, my Uncle Jefferey was not. He was wiry and chewy and completely awful. My mother tried doing all kinds of things with him, but the meat was just plain bad. After a lifetime of smoking, drinking and god only knows what the best we could get out of uncle Jeffery was a hearty stew and not a very good one at that. It was a waste of meat.

There were things my mother wouldn’t do. She’d do the cooking of course, but when it came to stripping the meat off the body, she’d have none of it. It wasn’t that she was opposed to it. It was the fact it was the worst part. There is, after all, a reason why most people call a third party to handle their dead loved ones. It’s that it’s uncomfortable and upsetting, which I get completely. But, also doing it yourself you get a feeling of closure and that you’re taking care of them. It is horrible though.

My dad was the one that always did it for our family and he’s the one that taught me. It was when Grandma Tippy died; we were in the garage with her and dad started by saying a few nice kind words I can’t remember. Then he said, “Let’s get to cuttin’ and it’ll be a tough one she’s got a lot of wrinkles.” I learned several things that day like how Grandmother Tippy had a tattoo on her thigh.

When my father was done with his part, he’d bring in the cuts of meat all ready for my mother. He cut them she cooked them, that was there deal.

When my father died (Just a good ol’ case of pneumonia) it was me who did the cutting. No offense to my father—who was a really good man when he wanted to be—but it took forever to cut up that fat bastard. Mom got more meat out of my father I think than all the other relatives combined. He was tall, wide and all meat. We and the neighbors were eating him for what seemed like months.

During that time, Jan and Evan got so sick of eating Dad that the sandwiches mom packed them for school lunch would be traded off for anything and everything. Evan in middle school traded a triple layer dad deluxe for one pudding cup. I don’t need to say he was a bit desperate for something different in his daily brown paper bag.

Again, it was me doing the cutting in these last few days. It was me who had to cut up my mother, wrap her and put her in the freezer. She was much easier to cut than Dad, less time consuming and everything. That, I guess, is to be expected of a mother.

Jan has been cooking, scorching, and ruining side dishes for days now. She wanted to start a few days before the big family feast to get some practice in.

It hasn’t been going well.

So far, Jan has made salt with soup around it, a steak (beef not Mother) that could serve as a tombstone and mash potatoes that were good except the gravy had what I think was a rock floating in it. I just prayed to God that everything would come together for the big meal.

One of the signs that dinner would not go well was that when Evan showed up, he brought a date. In all the years that we have been having family feasts like this, no one has ever invited anyone outside the family. I begged him to take this trollop out of our mother’s house. One look at her and you knew she didn’t belong. She stood in the corner in her hoochie boots on her cell phone unconsciously scratching at her cleavage before she descended into a coughing fit that made her bend and arch her back like a dying cat.

But he stood by her side saying, “Britney has been there for me these past few days. As I wept over our mother’s passing, Britney comforted me in a nude embrace. She helped me heal by letting me lay my head on her supple breast.”

I stopped him there. I couldn’t hear any more. I told him to get her out of the house, but he insisted she stay saying she won’t eat any of Mom because she was a vegan. I thought about it, hated it, but agreed. I consoled myself with the thought she might choke on Jan’s rock gravy. It helped.

When all the food was ready and the table was set, we sat down. Before we dished out the food, I stood at the head of the table with a glass in my hand.

I said, “First of all I want to thank Jan for making this surprisingly good-looking dinner. I don’t know what else to really say because Mom used to do these. I guess I will say as you…as you eat, think of Marge Bittner our… or for most of us, our mother who without this dinner wouldn’t be possible.”

They all drank to that toast, then started to dig in.

Britney grabbed a big chunk of Mom and slapped it on her plate. I said, “I thought you were a vegan; or at least that’s what Evan told me.”
And she said no, she tried it but it wasn’t for her. The rest of the meal went along fine as we all ate our fill.

After eating we sat around the table reminiscing about Mother. That was until Britney’s comment.  Leaning back in her chair, she said, “That was really good food, but the meat I didn’t care for.”

“What?” I said.

“The meat I just didn’t like it…it wasn’t the cooking. I just didn’t care for it.”

“Hey,” I said, anger flushing my face, “the meat was great, loving, fantastic, if you had a problem with it, it was Jan’s cooking, not the meat!”

“Okay, okay,” she said, getting up, “forget it, I’m going to get some ice.”

Now, this is something I probably should have mentioned before, but either way. The undesirable parts: innards, bones, and the head. We take, put in the freezer and dispose of them at a later time.

Inevitably, when Britney went to go get her ice, she found Mom’s head next to some fudge sickles and frozen pizza. After the scream came some yelling and unwarranted name-calling. She declared us killers and said she was going to the police.

I tried to calm her down by saying that mother died of illness and old age. She asked about the head and I said its simple, we ate her. There was no killing just eating. And I offered her some leftovers. That’s when she really got upset.

So, in this one instant for my family, I did what no other in the family had done before. I took a life. It was awful killing Britney. In fact, I don’t recommend murder. I hated it and I hate myself for doing it, but there was no other way.

Now we got both Mom’s leftovers and Britney to eat up. I know what you’re saying she’s not even family, but what are we going to do? Let all that food go to waste?

Michael D. Davis was born and raised in a small town in the heart of Iowa. Having written over thirty short stories, ranging in genre from comedy to horror, from flash fiction to novella, he continues in his accursed pursuit of a career in the written word.