I Think You Should Bury That Cadaver
Daphne Buter


I received a phone call from a man named William who asked me if I was the daughter of a woman called GB. I said I was.

He said he was looking for my mother and that he had known her at least forty years ago, when he was about eighteen years old. He said he was happy he’d found me, because my mother was the love of his life. He said she had loved him, too, and he had called her “his pigeon.”

The man explained his wife had hated my mother for twenty-five years during the course of their marriage because whatever he and his wife did, he always kept talking about my mother. “Even in my sleep,” he explained, “your mother was in my dreams all the time.”

Her picture hung in the corridor of their house, and his wife didn’t like my mother hanging there. William said he finally divorced his wife to find my mother.

“OK. This is all very nice to hear. But can I say something, too?” I asked. Then I informed him: “My mother died suddenly just a few weeks ago.”

I received another telephone call one month later from William. He said he couldn’t believe my mother was dead. He said my mother was the first woman he ever made love to.

“I don’t believe you,” I said. “My mother told me she was a virgin when she married my father.”

“Nope,” William laughed, “she wasn’t. She was the first one for me, but I wasn’t the first one for her.”

“Is it my fault my mother was a fraud?” I asked. “I think you should bury that cadaver.”

I didn’t like William. He hung up the phone with a blast.

Maybe one week later my telephone rang. It was William. He said he’d send me some money by mail to buy flowers for my mother’s grave. He explained he’d suffered from agoraphobia since I’d informed him of my mother’s death. He said it was because he realized in the world outside he wouldn’t find her back, ever. Thus it was impossible for him to buy flowers himself, and it was impossible to bring them to Amsterdam as well, where my mother was buried. He asked me what her favourite flowers had been.

“Chrysanthemums,” I lied to him. My mother hated the chrysanthemums my dad kept buying her to upset her.

A few days later I had a good meal in a restaurant. I ate smoked pigeon with cranberry sauce.

* * *

When I was a child I had a pigeon. The feathers of the bird were white and gray. I remember the pink little beak and her gray naïve eyes.

We also had a cat.

After my pigeon was killed by the cat, I kept it in a shoe box. I made a circle of white pebbles in the garden and put the box in the middle. The pigeon became stiff for maybe one day or so, but after that she became flexible again. I thought about the goodness of death.

Above me was a balcony. On the balcony lived three little blonde sisters. For some reason, their mother kept them inside the house, and during the summers they stayed on that balcony. None of the girls were allowed to leave the apartment, ever.

I’d lift my head and look at the girls behind wooden bars. They looked at my pigeon, and I shouted in the direction of the turquoise firmament that the pigeon was tame. I took it out of the shoebox to prove it to the girls. I’d hold the tip of the wings between my index fingers and thumbs and spread them out and moved the cadaver up and down in the air. I’d run in circles through the garden to feel the gentle summer air waft through my translucent summer dress.

A little later the pigeon sat on my arm and I’d shake my arm a bit and then her head would angle a little. The girls behind wooden bars didn’t move and didn’t speak no matter what I did to please them.

They just gazed into nothingness like scarecrows. The sun captured their hair. The girls looked like tinsel.

One day my mother walked into the garden to water the chrysanthemums. I was giving a performance with my dead pigeon for the tinsel girls.

“I think you should bury that cadaver,” my mother said. “How long ago did she die?”

I didn’t answer. My mother walked over to me and inhaled the smell of the pigeon.

“You must bury it right now,” she said.

I had to bury my pigeon. The girls with tinsel hair watched me all day. I do not remember if we ever spoke a word. I still wonder if they existed only in my memory.

When I excavated a hole in the garden, I looked over my shoulder to the balcony. The girls had disappeared.

I never saw them again.

I buried my pigeon in the hole together with all the larvae that kept crawling through her feathers.



“I Think You Should Bury That Cadaver” is in fact a mix-up of several things that need to be buried. A mother, memories, a pigeon, and the story itself. It is a love story about a love that needs to be buried. There are a lot of autobiographical elements in this story, but also secret messages no one can crack but the one I wrote it for.

 

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