A spring day, and we were in Melba. The whole family, sans children. My brother and his friend, Randy, who was there for muscle power, which we needed, Maggie, my sister-in-law, cousin Julie. We were on a mission.
My dad had died the previous November. Our last years with him had been glorious. He was in a nursing home in our town for the three years before he died at 77, with the complications of muscular dystrophy. His doc called him the oldest living MD patient on record. I think that may have been more than the kindness of docs. It might have been true.
At any rate, my dad had been corralled and treated kindly. He was safe, well fed, and had lived long enough to see his grand daughter, Miss Mackenzie. He liked his last years, he was in town where his kids could get to him, the nursing home folks kept him wheel chair bound—fine with us—and entertained. He found a girl friend. Safety and love for a 75-year-old muscular dystrophy patient are not overrated.
He'd lived in Melba all of his adult life. He liked his old friends, and the paramedics would come often enough that he knew them by their first names. He thought they were grand. He kept himself occupied by making world-class plum and apple juice, his famous sour dough bread, and Christmas fruitcake. He was ardent in caring for his fruitcakes, pouring brandy over them liberally every year for years.
So, we were in Melba trying to clear the place for the people who'd bought the trailer. Steve and Randy tackled the outside stuff which had to be packed off or burned off. Maggie and I were in the kitchen. If you've had elderly parents who've insisted on their own lives and that everything is just fine, thank you very much, you know what that means. Julie lost interest about then, and who could blame her. I didn't have that luxury.
I entered the horror of horrors—under the sinks and the cupboards. Maggie talked me through it, there being only room for one cleaner-upper. I wiped up gallons of mice poopies and insect exoskeletons, fought valiantly against the the spiders and their sticky webs. I was nearly hysterical with it, hyperventilating, shocky. I got rid of the detritus, then scrubbed the boards hard with cleansers, then bleached the living daylights out of them. It took me most of the day. Cleaning the rest of the house was a piece of cake compared to that.
I went outside to get parts of my soul back. My brother had a big bon fire going; the pickup was full of glass jars for recycling; things had been picked up, swept up, hauled off. I rescued the doll baby I'd had as a child. Still love that little baby. But everything else looked like it belonged in the fire.
Then I noticed It. It was burning along the edges of the fire, but It was breathing. Or looked like a set of lungs, breathing. It was round, brown, shiny, inhaling, exhaling. Steam was flooding out of the growing-larger-by-the-second orifices which looked like Satanic grins or screams, couldn't tell which, with smoke billowing out of rainbow-colored fire—pink, orange, green, turquoise, blue, blood red. It was wheezing, shape-changing, whistling, and swirls of multi-colored liquid ran off the sides. It was vibrating with hell's own hideousness.
"What is that?" I asked my brother. It was an incredulous moment on my part.
"Oh, just the fruitcake."