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Brad Garber

After her death, Mother was kept in a jar. I'm not sure how she felt about this. After all, she was never fond of tight spaces. On the other hand, she was always complaining of being cold and I suppose it was warmer in the jar. No one was really to blame for keeping her in a jar. It was as good a place as any. But I'm not sure if she preferred that to being in a box. At least, in a box she would have retained some semblance of form. In the jar, her eyes could have been intimately mixed up with her bladder, a situation which I'm sure she would never have approved of.

The jar—with Mother in it—had gone places she had never dreamed. She would have liked that. She hated Wisconsin anyway, and would have loved to leave it while she was alive. I think the jar went to Colorado, first, where it was used as a doorstop. It stayed there for a couple of years until it was kicked over a few times and the lid came off. A fine grayish-white powder got tracked across the floor of my sister's apartment one too many times and she thought it best to pack the jar off to California, where another sister, Terri, lived. So, Mother, perhaps missing a kneecap and some eyelashes, went by air to California. She hated to fly.

When Terri opened the box, containing the jar, containing Mother, the box was coated with powder, suggesting that Mother had, perhaps, not had a good flight. Terri swept most of the residue back into its receptacle and hung it, lovingly, in a macramé wall hanging in the corner of the living room where it became a decorative addition to an otherwise drab space. Mother was the center of attention, at least in one corner of the room. I don't know what it was that Mom witnessed, over there in the corner. It kind of makes one queasy inside to think about it all. I am quite certain, however, that that corner of the room was probably about as feng shui as my sister's living room ever got.

What, with Mother presenting such a lovely topic of conversation, right there in her living room, it came as quite a surprise to hear that Terri wanted to take her to Hawaii, to dump her in the Pacific Ocean. "Why give up a good thing?" one sister wondered. Oblivious to practicality, however, Terri decided to proceed with her spiritual quest. Somehow, the dumping of Mother into the waiting jaws of zooplankton had become a religious imperative for her.

At first, Mother apparently did not really want to go to Hawaii. On the way to the airport, Terri's car broke down and the flight was nearly missed. Anyone else would have seen this as a serious omen, but not Terri. Mother was, by god, going to Hawaii whether she liked it or not. In spite of the threat of bad Karma, Terri persevered and succeeded in getting Mother safely stowed in the overhead compartment of the plane, on top of a used copy of Ebony and next to a duffle full of sex toys that belonged to the gay couple who sat across the aisle from Terri. Mother was always one to extol the virtues of sexual and racial diversity (over, or in this case under, her dead body).

The flight turned out to be a turbulent one, what with Mother kicking and screaming in her jar. A fine, barely perceptible, dust wafted lazily into the airplane cabin to be circulated with the farts, belches and body odors of the other passengers, over and over again. Eventually, small parts of her ended up in every passenger's hair and nasal passages and she became intimately acquainted with more people than she had ever met during her life.

Finally, the plane settled on Maui. This was to be a real turning point in Mother's life after life. Terri was dedicated to making this the best trip Mother had ever taken. The two of them, after checking into the Motel 6, next to the Haouli Tavern, and having a few good drinks together, went sightseeing. Terri placed Mother's jar on the stained seat next to her and drove about the island in the rented Datsun 210. The vegetation was thick and verdant, with the blood color of hibiscus blasting through the green, and Mother was probably quite awestruck at the lushness and beauty of it all. With all of that warm sun, the brilliant tropical blooms and the cries of strange and exotic birds, it's no wonder that Mother finally gave up the fight.

Luckily for Mother, Terri happened to find someone in the Haouli Tavern who just happened to know someone who knew how to perform some ancient, unknown and previously unrecorded, Hawaiian ocean burial ritual that seemed like a great way for Mother to be returned to the Cosmos. Just down the street from the Motel 6 there was this great little gift shop that sold miniature dugout canoes, just like the ones used by the Tiki gods, or something. The plan was to send Mother sailing. Mother, in life, was an experienced sailor of sorts, who sailed off into some weird little place every afternoon on a sea of gin or vodka or brandy.

So, next day, at a time dictated by Pele and the old guy from the bar, Terri and Mother and the boat went to the water's edge. The Pacific was never bluer. The trade winds were never fresher. The clouds never so dazzling. Terri carefully placed the jar on a jagged volcanic outcropping where it immediately fell over, spilling a neat little pile of Mother across fresh white streaks of gull shit. Most of the pile was lovingly scooped back into the jar, but somewhere in Maui there is a new generation of limpets, mussels and other invertebrates that has a nutritious jump on the competition, all because of Mother's last desperate attempt to escape.

It has been suggested that humans need ceremony in their lives, so that terminal boredom doesn't creep in and drive the last nail of depression through the heart (or some such drivel). Mother deserved a ceremony and Terri was the one to give it to her. The old guy from the bar stripped down to his underwear and waded into the tepid water. His back arched with the weight of his brown, protuberant belly, and his navel met each placid wave like a sea cave. He splashed water across his face and mumbled something that sounded vaguely spiritual, then told Terri to wade out to where he stood. Terri gently poured Mother into the dugout canoe and, being extra careful to not dump Mother into the waves, waded out to where the Hawaiian Buddha stood. A few words were mumbled, a tear rolled down Terri's cheek and Mother was set adrift. The funeral vehicle, of course, was not really meant to float and immediately capsized. Mother was dispersed in a fine, nutrient-rich, cloud that quickly became invisible in the emerald water. Terri tossed a necklace of Mother's into the ocean as a last offering and the ceremony was over.

Terri returned home, her pilgrimage complete. In the corner of her living room dangles an unoccupied macramé wall hanging and somewhere along the shores of some Hawaiian island Mother has been deposited in the coastal sediments, no doubt a colorful addition to the monotonous volcanic sands. I suppose it has to be better than the jar.

Brad Garber has published poetry in Cream City Review, Alchemy, Fireweed, "gape seed" (an anthology published by Uphook Press), Front Range Review, theNewerYork Press, Taekwondo Times, Ray's Road Review, Flowers & Vortexes (Promise of Light), Emerge Literary Journal, Generation Press, Penduline Press, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, New Verse News, The Whirlwind Review, Gambling the Aisle, Dark Matter Journal, Sundog Lit, Diversion Press, Unshod Quills and Mercury. Nominee: 2013 Pushcart Prize for poem, "Where We May Be Found." His essays have been published in Brainstorm NW, Naturally magazine and N, The Magazine of Naturist Living. He has also published erotica in Oysters & Chocolate, Clean Sheets and MindFuckFiction.

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