Pawn Takes King Part 24

Marissa and Ronald had been soul-mates. They met at a union picnic thrown by Ronald's work. Marissa's brother worked at the same factory, and they had many common acquaintances, she and Ronald. Ronnie had been sporting the 'fro back then, and it was the only thing about him that Marissa didn't like. She eventually persuaded him to shave it, but it took a year to do so.
    Now, in her faded memory, it was the one shining recurrence she never misplaced. In her jumbled mind, she still sees Ronnie, leaning casually against a tractor. His burly arm was draped across the tire, and he was dragging on a cigarette. The smoke wafted around his head like a halo, the evening sun backlighting him sublimely. Marissa heard females described as angels, but in her young mind, it was the only word she could associate with him. He seemed like an archangel, bright and lively and strong. Only, angels didn't have afros. A checkered green and blue shirt wrapped about his finely-toned frame.
    She, wearing a simple red dress, stuck out from the crowd. Marissa didn't show much skin, but that somehow made her more appealing. It would take someone close to her to be able to see everything about her. Her legs were exposed though, and she found out later Ronald was a leg man. Marissa nervously tugged at the brown waist-buckle looping around her hips and stomach. Her hair was distracting, and she kept checking it, twisting a black stand around a finger complacently. She could feel his eyes studying her, dropping away before it became uncomfortable. But his looks always returned.
    Ronnie smiled at her. She smiled back. He motioned her to come over and she came. They were inseparable ever since. Even in death, she still feels him. Maybe it is best to have only the old memories. Her mind had become a broken transistor radio, unable to pick up certain stations. If only she could forget his dying. Then, it would be perfect. She could revel in ecstacy, oblivious to where she was or why there were nurses around. Evan was already forgotten. He was one of the first recollections to vanish. But she couldn't forget the pale, waxy body in the coffin. Ronnie's hair looked the same, but the rest of him was a lifeless husk.
    Marissa felt the tears. She closed her eyes against them, like floodgates, but they still swam from her tearducts. She heard the approach of footsteps, and didn't want to open her eyes. Marissa had managed to memorize the name of her closest caretaker, but the dementia played havoc with her long term memory.
Marissa wished she was dead, alongside her Ronnie.
    She opened her lids and saw her son Donald standing there.
    The two studied each other for awhile. Donnie saw her hair, a split share of black and grey. A multicolored quilt draped her legs, but above that he saw her purple dress she wore today. Marissa recognized her son, but he looked like a stranger. Ragged clothes and battered shoes hung off this gangly anatomy. His hair was wild, too long. Marissa felt herself activating her mother mode, looking at things he should improve. What was sad, though, was the fact that there was so much about Donny that needed help, it quickly became overwhelming. He was running out of options. That much she knew right away.
    "Hey mom," Donnie says meekly. Marissa smiles, but inwardly she is searching for remembrance. How did they last part ways? It came to her, like a figure emerging from a mist. She feels a pang of regret.
    "Donny," she says happily. Donny stoops down and embraces Marissa from her padded chair. Marissa loves her son, but cannot help grimacing at his atrocious smell. Her child is homeless.
    "how have you been?" Donny asks.
    "Not too bad," Marissa says mildly, "and you?"
    It is a natural response to a greeting, but she feels it is inappropriate, considering Donny's worries.
    "I've been better," Donny says distractedly. He hopes she will not ask any further questions. He wonders if her memory will timeout while they interact. It's like writing on a blackboard, but having an eraser follow your progress relentlessly.
    Marissa was only fifty-something, and her brain was failing. It broke Donny's heart. She was residing in a nursing home now. The other people surrounding her were decrepit and antiquated. There was at least  a decades difference between her and the youngest doddering geriatric. Yet, Marrisa was still infirm. Donny remembered how she had keeled over when the stroke hit her. She had been in the backyard of Donny's childhood home, tending her hosta plants. Donny heard a loud crash as she collapsed, crushing her carefully planted bushes. Marissa was able to come home after weeks in the hospital. Her body was fine, but that most mysterious of organs, the human brain, was now debilitated.
    But the part of her that loved Donny was still there. Her mothering had deteriorated after Ronald's funeral, there was no denying that. Added to the fact, the stroke further complicated their relationship. However, Marissa knew she was dying now. It was long and drawn out, but she was now closer to the end than the beginning. She wanted her last efforts to be for her son.
    "Mom," Donny says in a trembling voice.
    "Yes, Donny?"
    "I need help, mom. I'm in a bad way. Real bad."
    "Are you on the street?"
    "Oh, Donny," she says with a stifled sob, "I'm so sorry, baby."
    Donny cries hard. He is not used to asking for assistance. Even his pride has disintegrated. His life has bottomed out for sure. His converse sneakers are tucked under his skinny legs, giving him a child-like pose as he falls to his knees besides his mother.
    "I got into drugs, mom," Donny confesses, "after the accident, I got addicted to pain pills."
    "Oh no"
    "I've got no money for anything. I'm starving, pretty much. I won't last much longer."
    "I can give you money," Marrisa says with vigor, and reaches down beside her, as if her cash were there. She wears a look of bewilderment.
    "My purse was just here," Marissa says, confused.
    "You don't have any money here, Marissa," one of the nurses points out, "your husband Evan is handling that now."
    Donny sighs, as the stupid fuck's name is mentioned again.    The cozy home of Donny's mother was now inhabited by her gold-digging slob boyfriend Evan. Donny had lost it all because of this imbecile. And now, here he was, taking over his mother Marrisa's affairs, after she suffered a massive stroke.
Marissa was a smoker, same as her husband Ronald. She drank occasionally, and didn't take care of herself after Ronald's passing. The doctor said these poor habits led to her bad health.
    Evan was an unknown, some random stranger in a bar. He persued her, and she didn't put up much of a resistance to his hackneyed charm and one-liners. Had he not shown up, her drinking might've continued. She had never really been an addict, but love was the most unruly drug there was. Without it, her loneliness threatened to consume her. Evan wasn't exactly prince charming, but he would suffice. They eloped, being unable to afford a lavish wedding. Since then, Evan has refused to work, merely leeching off of Ronald's life insurance policy, and pension.
    Marissa looks flustered. She swings her head back and forth, and Donny knows the lights are on, but nobody's home. The attic is bare, but the lightbulb is lit. Donny imagines several comparisons to describe his mother's state. Most revolve around light fixtures and upper-ceiling storage space.
    Donny is light-headed. He hasn't eaten anything all week. After the cab dropped him off in Cedar Rapids, Donny has mainly been snorting Oxy and wasting away. The robbery was at the forefront of Donny's mind, threatening to plunge him straight into madness. He kept seeing the old store-owners arm breaking, canting the arm into an odd angle. Donny needed help bad. He was through one of the bottles already. There were only two left. His usage was accelerating, maybe to pacify his conscience. It wouldn't be long before he was in withdrawal again.
    "I really just need a place to stay," Donny pleads, "I can't take another night in the city without a place to sleep. Please, mom. Can I stay at the house?"
    "Of course," Marrisa says without a moments hesitation.
    Donny slackens in solace. This is good. His mother will not turn him away this time. The stroke seemed to dislodge whatever wedge of character that replaced Marrisa's normal self.
    The nurse steps forward, interrupting them.
    "I really hate to intrude, sir," the woman says softly, "but I think I should let you know that her husband now has control of her estate. It's none of my business, but Marissa here sometimes gets confused about her possessions, and what happened."
    The only problem was, Marissa couldn't remember much from the previous 24 hours. Any permissions, or deals she would make wouldn't be distinguished by her from day to day. Donny chokes down a cry and rests his head on his mothers lap. She strokes his oily hair, unmindful of the unpleasant texture.
    "I can't even help my own son, when he needs it?" Marrisa says to no one in particular. The nurse sadly looks at the floor. Donny's head springs up from her lap.
    "Could your nurse be witness?" Donnie asks, "If we sign a document, she could also be on there for verification."
    Donny's suggestion worked. The nurse even typed up a short permission form, allowing Donny to stay on Evan's premises. Marissa signs the paper, as does Donny. Marissa now looks much more cheerful.
    "I always wanted you to end up with the house," Marissa comments, "I know Ronnie wanted that, too. You know that, right?"
    "Yeah, I know, mom."
    "He was a great man. I miss him so much, Donny."
    "I know, mom. I do too."
    Donny embraced his mother, and feels her tears dampening his filthy jacket. It  wasn't really like he was going home. When Ronnie died, it ceased being a home, and became merely a house. But Donny would gladly take it over a pick between that and a street mattress, any day of the week.

Uploaded 12/06/2012
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