"Going kosher with gore and horror."
Suburban Journals of Chicago Inc.
In A Pig’s Eye
She sat there smiling her crocodile smile. She was getting me in trouble again just as planned. There was Maria, my mother-in-law, lying innocently on her bed. She wore her powder blue, flower patterned smock and her long braid done in the Pentecostal way. I wanted to take that braid and wrap it around her...
“Did you yell at my mom?” Hilda asked.
“I didn’t exactly yell at her, I raised my voice,” I answered. “She was driving me crazy! I asked her if she wanted some coffee and she said that she wanted a chispito.
“It means a little bit.”
“Define a little bit. A quarter cup, a half cup, a thimble full? All I wanted was a simple answer that’s all.”
“Give her a half cup next time. Be nice to her, she’s a sick woman.”
“I realize that, but she doesn’t have to be manipulative and drive a wedge between us.”
“Look, she feels as if…Mommy, what are you doing?” Hilda asked.
I looked over and saw my mother-in-law lying on her back with a pillow over her face.
Maria said, “I just wanted to see what it felt like to not be able to breathe,”
I said, “She was in respiratory failure on a ventilator twice last year because she couldn’t breathe. That wasn’t good enough for her?”
Hilda warned, “Mommy take that pillow off of your face and stop being silly this instant!”
“No leave it on,” I said.
Hilda gave me a questioning look and asked, “Why?”
“Because I’ll go over and put as much weight on the pillow as I can so she will really know what not breathing is.”
“That’s not funny,” Hilda laughed.
“Let’s go finish the laundry; it’s almost done”
“You’re kidding right? I’m not interested.”
“I have to explain why I don’t want to do the laundry? It’s all sheets, and I hate folding sheets, that’s why. Laundry is right up there with my hernia surgery.”
“Help me, I’ll be done quickly, and then we can go out to dinner and a movie.”
“Who is going to watch your mom? We can’t let her loose in the house by herself. She’ll try to cook and burn down the place!
“My niece is coming over to take over for the rest of the evening.”
“OK. I have a question though.”
“What is it?” Hilda asked.
“Does your mom ever wonder what it feels like to get shot?”
“Just curious”, I said
The next day, as a peace offering for Hilda, I decided to do some the laundry. After all I threatened to kill her mother twice. Hilda works so hard mothering Maria full time.
As I walked down the stairs just off from Maria's bedroom to the basement, I was startled out of my reverie by the sound of chopping. I looked over and Maria wasn't in her room. Fearing the worst I hurried down the stairs with the heavy load of clothes. As I arrived in the basement I looked left toward the sound coming from the area of my power tools. I had descended into hell.
I stood there in stunned silence and like a cliché from a horror film, my mouth opened and I dropped the laundry basket on both feet. The pain was insignificant compared to my outrage.
In between my beloved power tools was Maria. She wasn't alone, however, because she had a large open 32 gallon plastic garbage bag on my basement floor and in the middle was a very large pig head. She was swinging a machete like a major league slugger. She also was using my expensive Japanese saws and chisels. Pieces of pig head and brain were flying all over my workshop! She looked up at me and smiled.
She was after the cheeks and brains, an apparent delicacy. In Hilda’s family no part of a pig is ever wasted. I marvel at what people eat and call delicacies. Lest we Americans get too smug, consider the rump roast.
I consider myself a patient Jewish guy and I am tolerant of other beliefs and dietary practices. Uncooked pork stuff on my beloved tools, is another matter. I used these tools to make a jewelry box for my wife for our tenth anniversary. I built cabinets and a bed for my kids with that pig defiled table saw. How the hell do I clean pig remains off of my tools, especially between the fine teeth of my hand saw? A dovetail joint will never seem the same to me again!
My face became stone. She was next to a machine that had the capacity to spin a blade at 100mph. While I never thought I would use it to commit a crime, I planned her demise. After all who would know? The ground was slippery from all of the grease. It wouldn't take much for her to “accidentally” turn on the machine in her demented state thinking that it was a deli slicer. Then in a tragic moment, she will slip on the fat, and fall on the blade. She would have a beautiful service punctuated by lovely hymns and praying in Spanish.
Forget it. Hilda would never accept the story and besides, I would have to clean the saw. The thought of the whole family visiting form Puerto Rico was another negative. I would have had 20 people staying in my house for a couple of weeks. What if they were into pig's cheeks and brains?
Maria wasn't really demented; she just didn't have respect for other people's things. Her philosophy was I'm sick, I'm tired, I'm in my daughter's house. Screw you.
I ran upstairs to get Hilda. I was hysterical, wild eyed, and for the first time since high school my voice cracked. I grabbed her arm and dragged her downstairs. Hilda was alarmed because I was so agitated. When she arrived in the basement she saw the carnage and screamed, "Mommy what have you done?"
Maria said in a calm voice, "I'm chopping up the head to get to the cheekbones and brain."
I yelled, "It was a rhetorical question! And yes it is a problem!" The woman was as concrete as my driveway.
Hilda put a hand on my arm to calm me. "Stop this immediately and help me clean up now!" Hilda scolded her mother.
Maria looked forlorn and stopped. She picked up her fetid prize and put it in a huge waiting pot. Hilda saw me eyeing the greasy machete embedded in the pig head and looked at me. Her voice was level, "Don't you dare even think about it!"
"I believe in assisted euthanasia. Besides, where the hell did she get a machete?" I snarled. "And the pig head for that matter? Why don't we buy her a shotgun and let her hunt the accursed squirrels in the back yard?"
"She probably brought it from Puerto Rico and my brother must have bought the pig head for her."
"I want you to go through her stuff after this is cleaned up and make sure she didn't bring anything else that can complicate my life. What's your brother's cell number?”
"Don't call him. He'll just laugh and upset you more"
I let out an animal, guttural growl and stormed up the stairs.
Because of Maria I became a vegetarian for six months. Not only that, I decided to obey the laws of Kosher living. It's hard enough to do in general, but being married to a Puerto Rican woman meant that I had to have meat, dairy and pork plates.
© Suburban Journals of Chicago
published by Suburban Journals of Chicago Inc.