A man drove most of the way from Phoenix to the Detroit area this week
with a corpse for company, authorities say … It’s strange to think someone
could drive 26 hours with a dead person sitting next to them.
~ U.S. News, June 4, 2014
A man has responsibilities.
A man has a 92-year-old mother
buckled into the back seat of his van,
complaining that the rough ride
hurts her neck, that the air conditioning’s set too cold,
that she needs the red sweater in her suitcase,
that she’s thirsty again, that he never was as good
as his dead brother Eddie at anything.
That she wants to go home to Michigan. Now.
How far is that, Ray? How far
before we stop for the night? You got a plan, Ray?
Eddie would have a plan.
A man has responsibilities. A man has 1,900 miles
to cover in 26 hours; long steep climbs
through the Tonto National Forest behind him,
every sorry peak from the New Mexico border to Detroit
still ahead. She needs to pee, Ray, and don’t you know
a woman her age can’t squat beside a tree?
Can’t you hear me, Ray?
Can’t you stop, Ray?
A son has responsibilities.
The 31-year-old woman in the passenger seat
hitched a ride, then closed her eyes
after the Burger King east of Flagstaff fell
to the fantasy of distance. The red lipstick prints
on her coffee cup lid make him say
“Two lips to tulips” to himself,
which makes him smile sadly, which makes him
reach over the console to pat her hand.
A hand as cold as the coldest day
there ever was in Albuquerque—January 7, 1971.
A minus 17 brutal enough to freeze the water
in a young man’s eyes stupid enough to deliver tulips
to his brother’s widow, who threw her grief at him
like butcher knives and his flowers in the trash.
Still stupid enough to say “You want something?”
to this sweet young thing beside him now whose eyes
are washed out roads. No jerks, no moans or groans,
no cries for help. The young woman just plain fell asleep.
And he just thought of a plan to take her
to the Macomb County morgue
because that was his plan now. Because a man
who has responsibilities should also have a plan.
Because a man has a 92-year-old mother in the back seat
who won’t stop picking at him like he’s some kind of sore
and he’s got to get her to a home in Michigan. Now.
Because she doesn’t ever shut up. Not once in 62 years.
Because he can’t hear himself think anymore.
Because he can’t stop. Because he knows
he’ll be in some kind of trouble
either way. Because the cops in Warren
might call the young woman a corpse.
And the coroner might call her a corpse.
And the medical examiner too.
But a man with a plan might call her his girlfriend, kiss her
two lips back to dark red tulips before he delivers her,
before he lets the sweet hush go.