Good morning, y’all. You know how you can get a song stuck in your head and not get it to leave? I’ve got one this morning, “Stagger Lee”, by Lloyd Price. “The night was dark, and the moon was yellow, and the rain came pouring down”. A real oldie about a murder, can’t imagine why it’s stuck in my head.
When we left our story, it is Saturday, January 31st, 2015, the day Jackson and I plan to move Mom’s furniture to the assisted living facility, Mountain View. We’ve just had our brains removed, dropped into a high speed blender and pureed. My sister Charlotte, and my aunt Edna have just executed a search and destroy mission on Mom’s condo with the precision of the tunnel rats of the Viet Nam era. I have followed Charlotte and Edna back to the parking lot to see if they are actually going to leave or return with weapons. They leave and I return to the “safe” confines of the condo.
“What the hell was that?”, Jackson calls out as I come back in the door. He is standing at the double windows of the kitchen, which I imagine he chose for their strategic advantage.
“Honest to God”, I don’t know”, I reply, “this goes way beyond anything I thought was possible”. “They must have been planning this since my visit to Edna yesterday”, “I’m sorry, man, I had no idea Charlotte was this bad”.
“It’s ok, it’s not your fault”, he responds, “I just had no idea that they were this amped up about the move.”
“It’s not just the move”, I reply, “it’s probably three or four things, not the least of which is whatever is going on with that ‘Blackberry Root Extract'”
“What was Charlotte looking for?”, I ask.
“I can’t say that she was actually ‘looking for’ anything, I don’t think she was actually cognizant enough to discriminate”, Jackson relies, “She just walked over to Mom’s dressing table and used her arm to sweep everything on the top into her garbage bag”. “Then she went over to her chest of drawers and started opening and shutting drawers, saying she needed to get Mom some more comfortable clothes to wear, but she didn’t take anything”. “She started opening Mom’s shoe boxes saying that Mom wanted her blue loafers, and I just picked them up from the floor and said, “these?” and she threw them in the bag”. “She really freaked out when she got to the dresser and found that it was empty”.
The dresser was where Mom kept all of her financial information, checks and credit cards. I had cleaned it out on my first pass through back on New Year’s day. I kind of chuckled at that, and responded, “I wondered when it would get to that”. “Did she go through the medicine cabinet”, I ask.
“Yeah, and she started poking around underneath, grabbing all of Mom’s diapers and shoved them in the bag”.”I kept telling her that Mountain View provided all of that stuff and she wouldn’t be allowed to bring it in, but she wasn’t listening”.
“Well, maybe Charlotte and Edna can make good use of the diapers”, I smile, “what was the deal where you told Charlotte, ‘a million dollars’?”, I ask.
“She kept asking me how much Mountain View was costing, she kept saying, ‘come on bro, you can tell me'”, Jackson continues, “I told her I didn’t know how much it costs until I finally told her ‘a million dollars a day, and I’m happy to pay it if it keeps mom safe'”. “I kept asking her, ‘why are you here’, ‘what the hell are you all doing?’, but she never answered.””She just kept running around like a ferret on speed until she ran out of steam”, Jackson says, “I guess that was about the time we came back down the hall and ran into you and Edna in the kitchen”.”What was Edna after?”, he asks.
“Everything apparently”, I reply, “She went through the refrigerator and started to empty the pantry and cabinets until I stopped her”. “If I was being magnanimous I would say that she wasn’t going to take everything and divide it up with Charlotte, you know, that maybe she was just going to keep bringing Mom gifts of canned goods like she did with the can of tomato soup and Vienna sausages, using Mom’s canned goods instead of her own”. I wait a second, “but I’m not feeling very magnanimous right now. I think they were here to loot and pillage and basically mark their territory.” “Charlotte was clearly looking for the cash Mom likes to hide around the house.”, “Searching the dresser tells me that she was looking for Mom’s checks and credit cards, or anything else she thinks she can convert to her use”. “The search of the medicine cabinet and bathroom was probably for the bottle of ‘Blackberry Root Extract’ with her finger prints on it, which I have safely stored at my house”.
I pour another cup of coffee and move to the living room where we can sit more comfortably. “I know I have history with Charlotte that prejudices all of my thoughts about her”, I begin, “but I think there’s a lot more here than meets the eye, and God knows there’s plenty that meets the eye”.
“How do you mean?”, Jackson asks.
“I mean, I think that the Witches of West Asheville took a vote around Christmas and decided on new leadership, starting with the new year”. “I think the lack of response to Mom’s requests for help, the fact that Charlotte was trying to dose Mom with a diuretic when they knew she had a bladder and urinary tract infection, point to the fact that Charlotte had determined she was spending her last Christmas in the basement.” “All of this craziness points out to me that Charlotte mentally has Mom in the ground, even though she’s not.” “Even Edna is having a hard time getting Charlotte to realize that she can’t inherit until Mom has been declared, not insane, not incompetent, but dead.” “I think all of this business about worrying about a psychiatrist is a result of Charlotte thinking that if Mom is mentally dead, it’s the same as physically dead, and therefore, she inherits.”
I’m on a roll and I continue on, “I know, maybe I’m crazy for stringing the pieces together like that, but I really think that’s what’s going on.” “I think Edna is a pawn and is hopeful that Mom has either taken care of her in the will, as I’m sure Mom has promised many times, or she hopes that there will be enough crumbs left on the table to satisfy her.” “With Charlotte in the condo and Mom at Mountain View, Edna’s life improves 200 percent, so it behooves her to just go with the flow”.
“Until today, I would have said you were exaggerating the facts”, Jackson says, “I’m not sure anymore.” “There’s a level of crazy with Charlotte we haven’t seen before.” “Maybe the tin hats aren’t keeping out the radio waves anymore.”, he jokes.
I had a good laugh and felt some of the tension go from my shoulders. Jackson is referring to a situation that happened the year before when we had all gathered for Mom’s birthday. Prior to our arrival, Charlotte had sent out a blast email to all living family members in 52 point type font, i.e, you can only see about two letters at a time on your email, outlining the dangers of radio waves from cell phone towers. Honest to God, in this carefully thought out email, with footnotes and documentation attached, Charlotte enlightened all of us less informed to the dangers of having our brains microwaved. As usual, I forwarded the email to my “Charlotte folder”, where it would reside along with the other conspiracy, “miracle cure”, “buy gold”, missives she had sent in the past. This email took on further significance because she followed her “Post All” with a follow up to Jackson and I detailing the fact that she thought the radio waves were giving Mom breast cancer. Charlotte’s logic was, that since Mom liked to keep her cell phone in her bra, “don’t ask, because if you do, you’ll be told that Mom has never lost her cell phone like some others have”, that Mom was drawing those microwaves from the cell towers straight to her breast.
Well, Jackson and I had a good laugh about the email behind the scenes, but the topic was not finished. When we arrived to pick up Charlotte to take her to Mom’s party she was not waiting in front as promised. We got out of the car so Mom could show us where Edna had cut down Mom’s peonies, but not her own. (another story for another time) After being detailed the story and being walked to each crime scene, Charlotte still hadn’t arrived. Mom whipped out her cell phone to see what the hold up with “Miss Priss”, was. Well, about the time of a ring and a hello, we see Charlotte’s flame colored hair coming up the driveway from the side entrance to the basement. Mom hangs up and starts to return her cell phone to its resting place at about the time that Charlotte joined the group. Well, Charlotte lights into Mom like Mom’s a red-headed step child. Charlotte rages about the dangers of the invisible waves, etc., etc. and Jackson and I look at each other thanking the Gods that we had not brought our wives to this one. Jackson decides to jump in to the fray, as I try to get everyone in the car so we can make our reservation.
Jackson gives Charlotte her head for a few minutes before fashioning his noose. Jackson agrees with everything that Charlotte says until she starts to lose steam and then he begins to slide the noose a little tighter. “You know, there’s just nothing an individual can do against these big companies, except to try to protect themselves”, Jackson begins, “you know we’re not going to reverse technological advances, particularly when they’re making so much money from them”. “What needs to happen is for the individual to protect themselves against the microwaves”, Jackson continues.
“That’s what I keep telling Mother”, Charlotte says, “but she won’t listen”.
“If only there was some material that stopped the microwaves effects”, Jackson opines.
Charlotte is all ears, “Yes, yes”, she says encouraged by Jackson’s interest. After all, he’s the handy member of the family.
“What stops microwaves”, Jackson muses, ” I know, tin foil, that’s why you can’t use it in a microwave, it reflects the radio waves”. “Charlotte, when we get back I’ll make you a hat of tin foil, that way we’ll at least keep your brain safe from penetration”, “You’ll have to make the protection for the other parts of your body, but I’ll take care of the hat”.
I watch in the rear-view mirror as Charlotte’s face goes from the excitement that she’s found an acolyte to the realization that she’s been played the fool. Her face goes to full pout, and it is apparent she will be silent for the rest of Mom’s birthday celebration. Mom seems happy though, and is clearly pleased to have Charlotte off her back for a little while. As we get out of the car at the restaurant, I give Jackson a big grin and he grins back. It’s always the quiet ones that surprise you.
Remembering the story lightens the mood a little, but doesn’t change the fact that what we thought was going to be a hard day has become harder for a different set of reasons.
“What do you think we should do?”, Jackson asks.
“I’m going to make some calls”, I reply, “I’m not at all comfortable with what happened here today for a host of reasons.” “I think Charlotte’s crazy enough to shoot us as intruders and try to tell the police that she can do it because her name is on ‘the original deed'”.
Jackson raises an eyebrow at my exaggeration.
“I know, I’m paranoid”, I reply, “but she has tried to kill me twice before, I don’t put anything past her when she’s in a rage”. “What do you think about moving the timetable up?”, I ask, “what if we can catch Charlotte and Edna off guard like they did to us and get Mom in place before anybody knows what’s up?”
“Works for me”, Jackson replies, “I am totally freaked out, and I don’t ever want to face the possibility of having today being repeated”.
“Ok, cool, let me start making some calls”, I say. I start looking through my “Mom” folder for contact numbers and begin “Operation Move Mom”, afresh.