Mahty strikes a match and lights the first candle. “Hello, Momma.”
Something just went bump in the night. In the kitchen, that is; it’s currently night, the middle of the night. Mahty’s in bed with his fuzzy Franklin Turtle feetie pajamas on and he was just dozing off into a dream about pterodactyls with saddles on their backs like they were horses when something went thud and did so with vitality. Tonight is one of the Early Nights so his Momma is still up, but she couldn’t have made that thud. That was the thud of dead weight.
The floor creaks as Mahty tiptoes across his room, but that’s the only noise in the house. The foundation in the hallway is more solid than the foundation of his bedroom, giving the rest of Mahty’s journey to the kitchen in the middle of the night on one of his Momma’s Early Nights a kind of silent quality that crawls up his back and lays its unwashed hands on his shoulders, and Mahty’s better off that it does. It’s the only thing that keeps him standing when he sees his Momma on the floor naked with her skin painted up all culty and blood leaking out of her like a bag full of water poked in seven places with a safety pin.
“Sweetie!” she says faintly, addressing the ceiling. “Oh no, sweetie, the yuckyuck’s all gone now! Momma’s okeydokey, sweetie! Momma’s okeydokey!”
Mahty shouts hysterics through the phone line and into the ear of an emergency operator. When the ambulance arrives it’s escorted by four police officers, two of whom are sitting in passenger seats with shotguns in their laps. Central Wuester isn’t a warm and cozy place, it’s mountain. Deep mountain. Folks are odd out here, anything could happen.
“I forgive you for the bloodletting,” Mahty says with reverence. He lights the second candle with the same match, the head of which is no longer burning.
“He’s coming with me, woman!”
“NO!” roars Mahty’s Momma as she hurls a hot frying pan full of scrambled eggs loaded with enough cheese to constipate a black bear directly at Mahty’s Poppa’s head. He ducks in time to dodge a direct impact, and while he pushed Mahty out of the way in time for the boy to dodge the eggs, he catches them to the right shoulder and up the side of his face. Mahty’s afraid to open his eyes; everyone is screaming, the alarms are ringing, anything is happening in the very worst of ways.
“You bitch!” bellows Mahty’s Poppa. As he’s struggling to stand up, he reaches his left hand over to the counter, uncomfortably close to where the frying pan landed, and starts grasping. His right hand, meanwhile, is trying to scrape the egg off his face and body, but the stuff has the consistency of fresh slime and every surface it touches is immediately burned to the second degree. He makes no more words, only screams and shouts.
“You’re lucky I don’t kill you now!” booms his Momma. “I read your diary, I know all about you, you rancid sick deviant! Get out of my house, get out of my son’s life!”
“I thank you for being both parents when one failed his job,” Mahty says with reverence, his voice a low rumble. He lights the third candle in the tall burner, set up between the other two, with the same match, refusing to let go until the candle is lit no matter how many blisters he can feel forming on his fingertips.
“I’m not long for this world, Mahty,” whispers Mahty’s Momma, her voice fighting the air conditioner for dominance. “We need to have a little talk.”
“No Momma, you’re gonna pull through. You’re gonna be okay, it’s gonna be okay.”
“Mahty… I’m an odd one, Mahty, but that don’t mean I’m no good. Neither does it mean I’m stupid. Now when I’m gone, I’m’a do my best to look after you, baby. Anything you need, you just light candles in my burners and ask. If I did everything right and I can hold on, I’ll come and help you. Anything you need…”
Mahty’s tears flow. “I love you, Momma.”
The life support machine weeps with him, its cries long and hollow.
“Well I got my first client, Momma. His name don’t matter, he only gave me a few things today, sort of like a trial run, but he has his own business he runs, too. It’s, uh… it’s an odd business, but that don’t mean it’s no good. I have a few phone calls I’m waiting to answer, and the first big sale is tomorrow. Momma, I’m just askin’ for some help in keepin’ myself goin’. I believe I can make it work, I can make stuff move, but I want all the help I can get, Momma. If you’re holdin’ on, please help me however you can.”
The candles in the smaller burners blow out simultaneously. The taller burner bursts with light, flames howl out of the top and the holes in the sides, illuminating the photograph of Mahty’s Momma hung on the wall above the shrine. Her eyes glow like orbs of molten glass, fiery and orange.
Then, the room goes dark.
Mahty stands and takes his leave.