by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
Her mother raised her Catholic, but somewhere along the way, between inspecting U.S. Navy aircraft (her softness inside their hardness) and teaching Montessori students (her hardness inside their softness), Latilda joined a cult, lived in a fallout shelter forty feet underground, scrubbed black mold from the walls at the leader’s command, with no protective gear. She began believing in archangels who shared their karma with those who worshiped them.
When her father died, age 90, her mother intended to plant him in St. Anthony’s graveyard, but Latilda’s religion specified that he be cremated, that the smoke should rise up to heaven where the archangels could fan it to the four quadrants.
Conflict between mother and daughter, conflict unbroken by death, their lifelong pattern, but now more at stake, her husband’s/ her father’s soul. Finally the funeral director forced their hand. He owned an ulcer and didn’t have the stomach for their argumentative impasse.
They compromised: his body would be buried, but only after his blood was cremated. The funeral director placed the blood in an urn, as if it were a sacrifice to the goddess Isis or the Minotaur. He wondered: “When this blood boils, will the dead man’s spirit boil with anger? Will he lash out in an inarticulate, occult manner that might harm me?”
The blood quickly came to a rolling boil, like a pot on the stove waiting for eggs, then burst into flame. Latilda, watching through the crematorium’s small window, saw the smoke get inhaled by an archangel who had suddenly appeared. To her sharp and penetrating chagrin, the archangel had the appearance of her high school boyfriend. He’d been stoned all the time, always ready to inhale something, cigarettes, gasoline, glue, pot if he could afford it.
But then the archangel blew the smoke through the walls, to the four corners of the Earth. Latilda ran outside to see the smoke (her father’s iron poor blood transformed) get swept away by the wild wind, which blew in all directions at once. She knew that now it didn’t matter, what happened to her father’s earthly body.