Two mother themed excerpts from The Town Slut’s Daughter, oddly, or not, both involving horses, gelding and foaling specifically.
No matter how many times they moved, Bill and Jeanette managed to find another shack, the latest a long, low rancher in Langley.
Jeanette was homesick, longing to return to Quebec, despite how wretched life had been. Would she ever be free of the past, the fear that at Sister Ann Marie might come along and yank her pigtails or rap her on the knuckles with a wooden ruler?
She didn’t see too many empties but worried Jeanette might hurt herself again, relieved to hear she’d had taken up crochet, though all the crappy old furniture was covered in ugly, acrylic afghans. Why can’t she use real wool? Bill had gotten her a pet, a little wiener dog she dubbed Schultz, after the character in Hogan’s Heroes.
“Why couldn’t you get a real dog?”
“He’s a Daschund. Hey, he’s a tough little bugger! Full of piss and vinegar. Just watch him.”
The little bugger dragged in a giant field rat. Jeanette cheerfully tossed the carcass into the garbage, explaining the godamned things liked to chew through her telephone cables. She mopped up the blood as Fiona watched Schultz chase down more vermin, sturdy little body parting a sea of tall grass.
“They were bred to go down badger holes.” Jeanette deftly shuffled a deck of cards, machine-rolled cigarette dangling from her lips. “You know how mean a badger is?” She dealt out a hand of Solitaire, Fiona relieved she wasn’t badgering her into Gin Rummy.“Shultz doesn’t know how little he is.” Jeanette gloated. “He’ll take on any dog that crosses his path. He wriggles under, goes right for the jugular.”
“Well, they say pets resemble their owners. Or is it the owners that resemble their pets?”
Jeanette laughed. “Yeah, so we’re tough.”
Fiona once saw her mother evict a drunk twice her size and half her age by the seat of his pants. She was earning a reduction in rent for lifting bales of hay, feeding and watering the landlord’s horses. Fiona sat on the fence as Jeanette admired the animals through the slats. Fiona could feel the thoroughbreds’ hot breath on her collarbone as they ambled up, snuffling, nudging her arm for carrots. I’m not scared when I know what they want.
Jeanette pointed at the pinto. “Indian Joe. They just gelded him.”
What was left trotted round the periphery, stallions shadowing him, nipping his neck and flanks. He snorted and kicked wildly but the stallions were ruthless, tormenting him until he ran under an old hemlock, cowering, stranded in his altered state. Fiona clambered down. Jeanette grabbed her by the arm before she could enter the paddock.
“Fiona. No! What do you think you’re doing?”
“He needs help! Why don’t they leave him alone?”
“You’re too young to understand.”
“I am not!”
“All right.” Jeanette ground her cigarette butt into the fence post. “Do you understand he’s a eunuch? A freak? Spooking the studs.”
Fiona stared at her mother’s forehead. Jeanette sighed. They headed back to the house. Fiona told her she was moving to LA.
“Aw, no!” gasped Jeanette. “Don’t tell me that!”
“Sorry. I have to go. There’s nothin’ happening here. We have to go where the music business is. We wanna get signed. All the major labels are down there.”
“But, I’ll miss you!” Looking to the ground, Jeanette began to cry. Go for the jugular.
“You can come visit,” said Fiona, both knowing it was a fiction.
“Why won’t you let me be your mother? You’re just a baby! My baby.”
Fiona vehemently shook her head No. Jeanette winced. Fiona watched Schultz, wonder wiener, yipping and dogging horses, inches from hooves the size of his head. She nudged her mother, pointed. Jeanette’s eyes rounded at the dog’s antics.
“No badgers, but happy as a pig in shit, isn’t he?”
Laughing, she whacked Fiona across the shoulder blades, nearly knocking her into the knee-high muck. Two days later, the Virgin Marries moved to Los Angeles.
They collected the Virgins and headed up to his folks’ place near Santa Barbara, Fiona excited, insisting on a visit to the Mission. The weather was glorious, world a blue sphere; sky of sapphire, ocean of turquoise. She noticed a fantastic tree hanging off the cliffs, pistachio wood peeking out from peeling cinnamon bark.
“Madrona,” said Rita, planting her big feet on the dash. “They’re called arbutus in B.C.”
Jackie and Dolores skulked and Continue reading