I Need the Courage of a Cremated Woman by Natalya Anderson

Marguerite called me last night from her rotary dial.
It’s been several moons since I heard her rosary beads
dancing with the cord of that phone. Marguerite has
been dead for six years, so I was relieved to hear her
voice. Whatever she said disappeared like smoke,
but she reminded me of my urges. In the pit of my
childhood guts, rumbling worries often fanned into
rage – a slap to both cheeks I would normally relieve
with hours of night swimming. Marguerite would not
tolerate this; when I was in her care she picked apart
my retardant polymers with passive aggression. Cooling,
she told me, was not something we needed in our loveless
suburban fields so much as the reassurance of measurements.
This was the purpose of her summon. How many cups of
water would it take to put out this blown fuse inside my
walls? Was it a danger to others? Were there children
in the house? If I had to think about it, I hadn’t reached
prime anger-mode, which was only one iota before explosion.
Perhaps it was time to accept the nature of my circuits – receive
these currents as they shot through the coils of Marguerite’s device.
We were, after all, made of the same blood, our shortcomings
rising from the same unanswered prayers. ‘Oh, hi Angel. Don’t
get upset, or you’ll make me cry.’ Translation – burn.
It was always a game of opposites with Marguerite. No woman
could bring a house down like she could. It was why her son grew
up to be a firefighter, why a bloody ulcer allowed her to cut every
logical discussion short. Merciful Marguerite with the fire ball
in the centre of her earth – she was calling out to me in the black
to give me the incentive I needed, to complete the task women had started
with their flaming bras. To get to the body of my nightmarish work, I had
to play along, asking, ‘Why are you calling me, old woman?’ Marguerite
answered, her ashen mouth crumbling, ‘Don’t be dramatic. You called me.’