The “Oul Dear”

Wess Phillipson

Kelly blinked her eyes awake, but saw no difference in her vision. The room was absent of light, but she could tell this wasn’t her bed. Being a blackout drunk, she had become accustomed to waking up in strange places; but when she felt the flannel bedding, that’s when she knew she’d hit bottom. Kelly hadn’t slept on wool since she was a child. In fact, from the day she left Ireland and landed in San Francisco, she vowed that she would only ever lay on the finest feathers and softest satins for the rest of her life. Shunning her old rural lifestyle and her “culchie” farm mother who wielded Catholic guilt with all the wrath of the Old Testament. The “Oul Dear.”

This was the same mother who had told her when she was too young to understand, to “Never bed the greedy, because they so rarely stop acting the maggot.” Which in Ireland meant that they were always fooling around. Kelly had a shy disposition for questions and an overactive imagination. So she assumed her mother’s words to mean that the greedy will take when you’re the most vulnerable, even after death. She learned later that her mother might have
meant the former, but still felt the latter applied equally well. Either way, the ill-intentioned touch of an unfaithful stranger was not Kelly’s current concern, greedy or otherwise. Because the only touch Kelly had ever felt in her life, was her mother’s cold, cruel, and calloused ways of affection. A parenting style that over the years had toughened Kelly’s otherwise virgin skin.

Even though she sensed danger in the room, Kelly felt she had slept for days undisturbed. Her head was still
swimming with dreamy unclarity, the way black-out drunks usually wake up, but this time something was
different. There was none of the pain that usually came with a bad hangover, but at least the noxious body odor was familiar, plus her throat was dry. Too dry, too dry to speak. She didn’t even dare to yawn
for fear that the sudden vibration on unlubricated vocals could snap and fray the cords. Beyond that, she felt…nothing. “Stop acting a mag­got and get your glass eyes on, you manky eejit! You couldn’t see to shear a sheep if it sat on your face.” Memories of her mother’s words were always reminding her to correct her shortcomings. The “Oul Dear.”

Kelly reached for her glasses, whacking her elbow hard on the wall next to her and heard the sound of splintering wood. It might have hurt if the wall were not covered in the same flannel padding that she currently lay on. When she tried to sit up, her head smashed against a low hanging flannel ceiling just above her head and an odd sense of detached relief washed over her. Thank God, she thought, at least I’m in a coffin and not some stranger’s bed. Kelly couldn’t handle the thought of disappointing her mother like that. God forbid she find out her only daughter had
accidentally attained carnal knowledge, she’d call her a “manky eejit” again. “Manky” was a way for her mother to call her dirty, disgusting, and horrible all at once. Kelly hated to be called “manky,” almost as much as her mother hated the way Kelly called her, the “Oul Dear.”

Feeling like a bad mime impersonator, Kelly pushed against the unknown boundaries of her padded room. Finding a rip in the fabric, she absently picked at the padding where her elbow had splintered the wall until she reached a traditional willow wood. Gripping strips of shattered bark, she ripped inwards. The feeling of sandy earth flowed into her coffin and through her hands, along with a few random remains of some unidentifiable bones. Too small to be human, but large enough to be a small animal. Technically, there is no wrong way to crawl out of a grave, but Kelly might have crawled mounds of figure-eights in the dirt had she not hit her head on her own headstone. She popped up like a battered gladiolus black surprise, right between a sitting stump and a sweet-smelling citronella plant. She
couldn’t help but overhear the conversations between the roaring diesel trucks and the humble whispers of hybrids as they passed over her head. In front of her, stood a “manky” block of polished rose-colored marble with blurry letters etched into it. Squinting, she read; Kelly Rose, 1950–1986, but could not make out the epitaph. There it was, her own mortality staring back at her like a heavy door that had just been slammed in her face with a welcome sign hanging from it. Looking around, she vaguely followed the circular path of raised earth that began and ended at her final resting place. It figures, she thought, even when she came back from the dead she’d taken the path less traveled. Kelly had clawed her way through a cat called “Moocher,” a dachshund hound tagged “Boogie-Man,” then completed the
loop by working her way through an old otter named “Gypsy.” “Manky eejit,” she thought. Who gets buried in a pet cemetery under an overpass? Then she figured that in America, it was probably more common than she realized.

An air horn from a big rig sent a warning blast into the night as it was cut off by a familiar scream. A shrill eardrum puncturing pitch that was as unmistak­able to Kelly, as it was to the sheep on her mother’s farm, only the context was different. This wasn’t her mother’s typical fire and brimstone beratement spoken at the top of her piercing upturned nasally voice. This was the sound of a new and unexplored terror, and it spilled out of her mother like a dying
otter. The “Oul Dear.”

Kelly was confused, not just because she was kinda dead, but also because her mother had never expressed interest in visiting America before… Yet here they were, a zombie and a banshee in a race to see who could come to grips with each other’s altered realities first. At a venue that literally represents the final finish line between pet tortoises and hares. Kelly stood and turned to see her mother skittering around the inside of a waist-high white picket fence,
“Fecking-Off, Effin’, and blindin’!” Like an amplified Irish terrier living next door to a firecracker testing facility. Kelly’s blank stare drifted from her mother’s overreactions to take time to look around for other undead, but didn’t see any. She wasn’t sure if this was because she was buried behind a boa constrictor, or if she was just the only one of her kind to have risen. Like an undead Eve in a garden full of Adams ready to have a rib ripped from them. Then Kelly’s wandering thoughts were interrupted by a sudden and deafening silence.

Kelly didn’t hear her mother sneak behind her and pry the headstone from the ground. Kelly couldn’t comprehend how she had been knocked down, face up, lying directly over her own grave, only two feet above where she’d started. She could only feel the weight of her body sinking back into the hollowed sand again. She didn’t even have time to process her mother’s last words, “Manky eej…” before the bottom of a seven stone marble block knocked everything
Kelly knew from the neck up back down into the dirt. Coagulated crimson splashed the rose colored marble,
crossing out the name of Kelly Rose and the epitaph that read: The “Oul Dear.”