Big deal, Parnell thought; he could’ve gone there, too, he had his GED after all. He got off the service road and back onto the parkway south. Joe didn’t smell like an abstraction, that was for sure. Parnell cracked his window. “Well, Joe, I’m sensing you are not one who has confronted new life situations with startling aplomb, but try to get a grip. What are you so worried about? Old people die—it’s not like I killed her. She died. And I promised her. I told you so. And fifty buck is fifty bucks. Is this like a negotiating ploy of yours? Because I can find another vagrant to urinate on my father’s grave,” Parnell snapped his fingers, “just like that.” They bumped over the train tracks and from the back seat, Joe shook his head and watched the gates of Gate of Heaven Cemetery growing larger and larger. His mother was buried here, too. He had no idea where, hadn’t gone to the funeral, hadn’t even known she had passed for months after it happened. When he found out and went back home to confront his father, his father had said what was he supposed to do, send a message in skywriting? Joe understood getting in touch would’ve been difficult—he had been living on the street for a year—nonetheless he had answered his father’s mostly rhetorical question by plunging a tarnished shrimp fork from his mother’s silver service that he had been stealing into the old man’s forehead. Jimmy Cagney. He was buried here, too. “You didn’t tell me she was dead when I got in. I thought she was asleep.” “Listen, this is probably the worst part of your day, I admit,” Parnell said, “but it hasn’t exactly been a banana daiquiri of a day for her. She tells me this morning that she’s been reading my journal—we won’t get into her ‘what kind of man keeps a journal’ spiel. I been doing that for psychological calmness, since I got my ass reamed in the joint several dozen times. It’s supposed to help to write about it. Though most of it is just about me wanting to ream my psychologist’s ass, and, of course, his wife’s. And, anyways, she found out that every time we visit the old man’s grave and she puts her flowers down, and I ask her for a moment alone with the old man and escort her back to the car, then I go piss on his grave. I guess that was a lot for her to take in. About what I’ve been doing. She made me swear—to God—I wouldn’t piss on my father’s grave anymore. And then had a breakfast and we were ready to drive up here and she said my Dad’s name, and then she was dead. And I just kind of figured, you know, she would want to come up here one last time. Maybe that would make her happy wherever she really is.” Parnell drove through the big gates, thinking he should take the Saw Mill on the way back. He drove by the little stone bridge, past the geese gathered at the pond, and past the chapel that reminded him more of a rocket ship made of lady fingers, and into the section where the family plot was and pulled over. He turned around to Joe, who was staring at his dead mother like he knew she was about to yell “Yahtzee” or something. He had to snap him out of it. “Listen, when she was just dying, like about forty minutes before I picked you up, I promised her that I would keep on visiting, but I would not piss on 39
Manslaughter Review is a journal of crime fiction.