29 May, 2017

The Death Bed

(7 weeks on)

A week or so after the incident with the cat Grey headed home for Thanksgiving, slated to return to his creative den as soon as possible to continue work on his model for NIDA[1] .

Left alone to our own devices, Kent suggested it might be time to start thinking about changing The Death Room— to look forward.

    “A new bed, for sure” he said, “perhaps some paint, a little classic Cath-ay DIY?”
    “Great idea” Mom said, and three hours later, Kent and I returned from grocery shopping to find that mom has discovered beautiful solid hardwood floors beneath the early 90s carpet, ripped all of it up, rolled it up and taken it out to the curb. Now, she was already hard at work on the hallway, breathless, sweating and determined. All of this served to reaffirm a notion I already knew about Mom: once you put an idea in her head— there’s (possibly literally) no stopping her...[2]

The three of us spent the remainder of the night ripping up that hideous death-beige carpet and hauling it out to the curb with the bathwater. By 3am we had disposed of the detritus of our former life upon the lips of our lawn filled with an odd sense of higher purpose— we were not scavengers rummaging through the ruins of a fallen city. We were excavators! Like Heinrich Schliemann! Below the carpets lay new, undiscovered Troys and we would be the team to peel away the rubble, reveal the past and simultaneously, the future, just like the anthropologists of yore![3]

When we woke the following morning, the artifacts were gone— taken to the same unnameable place all life’s mysteries disappear to.

But we were not empty, we were lighter somehow.

The top floor of 1367 had been stripped bare to make room for new life, and we dressed that morning with a purpose— we were going to buy a new bed.


Art Van on Woodward at 14 Mile was the first and only thought that sprang to mind. It was constantly blaring its name on radio and local television commercials, and besides, it was on the same strip of Woodward as Dairy Deluxe, which gave it street-cred, not to mention 0% financing til 2004... Word.

Art Van as it would turn out, was above a Mercedes dealership, to be entered by sky-scraping escalator which crested onto a cavernous warehouse of fluorescently lit sofas, dinettes, media stations and bed frames (ostensibly, a well-furnished piranha tank).

Mom, Kent and I were each splayed—snow angel style—on a series of mattresses,
     gazing upward at the humming lights.
No, this was not a party at Elton John’s house— this was Art Van.

    “Too firm over here—” Kent called out.
    “S’okay. A bit squishy.”
    “I’m on one of those individual coil ones over here,” Mom said, “the one from that commercial with the glass of wine and the bowling ball.”
    “Oh yeah!”
    “How is it?”
    “It’s great. It’s just right," she pronounced, “It’s a Sealy...

Just then Mort, a short, middle-aged gentleman whose comb over, jacket, smile, and every gesture indicated that he was an Art Van salesman, leaned over into my vision, blocking my view of the fluorescent lights like a slightly-malevolent dentist, and, hands clasped behind his back, chimed,
    “Anything I can do for you?”
He smiled a slow motion smile like a cartoon drawing from the 80s.
Nobody moved.

    “We were just waiting for our porridge to cool” I said.

Mort’s smile was as frozen upon his face as our extremities were to the mattresses, only our eyes shifted, locking on him.

    “We’ll take this one” Mom said.

Throw in three bowls of porridge and a blonde girl and we’d have had ourselves a fairy tale ending.

   “Excellent” said Mort, straightening upward, eying us still. “You’re certain of the Queen?”
    “No doubt about the Queen” Kent smiled at Mom. Plus downsizing from the King-sized Death Bed felt right.
    “And we’ll take this frame” said Mom, “I like it— it looks like a sleigh.”

It did—a chestnut, caramel-stained Queen-sized sleigh.

    “I’ll draw up the papers” said Mort, as he turned on his tiny feet, hands still behind his back.

As Mort trotted away, comb-over blinding us, we turned to Mom, who was deep in thought.
    “A new bed…” I said.
    “Yes” she said, running her hand along the hip of the frame.
    “Happy?” Kent asked in a low voice.

Mom thought a moment before answering. Of course she was not happy, her one and only love was gone— gone almost as callously as the upstairs carpets. Our family was evil and the government unhelpful. She was lost, abandoned once again, and living in Detroit with a gaggle of equally lost teenagers. It all crossed her mind, you could see it in her face, and in the thoughtful hand still caressing the chestnut bed frame.

At last the hand stopped, Mom paused and clutched the wood, felt its solid weight. She focused on the bed—her brand new Queen sized chestnut sleigh bed, with thick orthopedic mattress, box spring and 20% Thanksgiving discount, all fit for a Queen.

    “Happy...” she said.

This was a step.
A Baby Step, as Bob would say,
     toward the next stage of our new life,
and that made her happy. 
That fact.

[1] The National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, Australia
[2] do not get between my mother and a power tool
[3] There was also an element of peeling off the used layer of a lint roller… But I’ll stick with Trojan excavation metaphor for now. However grand.

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