Well, my mother-in-law found out about the original MULBERRY post—despite all of my best efforts, all the precautions I took, all the secrecy of putting something on the Internet. I really didn’t expect her to know. I mean, this blog has a readership of me. And I wasn’t going to tell her. And even though Jill would like nothing less than to unleash her mom’s fury on me, Jill wasn’t going to tell her. I thought I was in the clear.
I didn’t count on my sister-in-law reading it to her (sans profanity, of course).
When I found out that she found out, I got scared. Like ice on my heart scared. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how she’d feel.
“You know who’s last name rhymes with mulberry and is a little bitch?”*
I thought her reaction could range from a simple cold shoulder to finding myself regaining consciousness, strapped to a mulberry alongside some overgrown train tracks in an abandoned town.
“Where am I? What’s that smell? Why do I smell like gas? Why am I dripping with gas??!!”
My MIL standing there, empty gas can in her hand. Cigarette between pursed lips. Twilight behind her, framing her. The ember of the cigarette bobbing enthusiastically as she responds, “Motor mouth needs gas,” almost another language to my foggy brain. “Ride your mulberry.” Cigarette drops.
Neither of these was the case. Yet. But her actual reaction was far more chilling.
My MIL watched our kids while Jill and I enjoyed a rare escape. We went to dinner with good friends we hadn’t seen in too long. So I was relaxed and full of middle-eastern food and not thinking when we came home. Which is why, upon seeing her there on my couch, the first thing I spouted was:
“Hey, I heard that Julie read you the Mulberry story.”
I couldn’t believe my mouth. I mean, I understand. You write something to be read and you want to know what people think of what they read—or have any kind of reaction to it (seriously, there’s a comments section right at the end of this post—when my words stop, yours can start, people)—but I didn’t want to put her on the spot. In hindsight, she was probably just waiting for me to mention it.
“Like I was telling Jill, those things are impossible to kill!” Boom.
She just bypassed the small-talk bullshit. She could have said something like: “Yes, it was very entertaining,” or “why would you write about me and mulberry trees of all things?” But no. There was the very serious issue to discuss. The issue of mulberry death. No time for pleasantries. Any other day you care to discuss lemon square recipes or the price of a gallon of gas or a funny blog post, she’d be happy to indulge you. But raise the specter of the mulberry and you just entered end game, my friend. Shit just got real.
“I drilled a hole in the base of one we chopped down before,” she continued. I think I tried to ask if she was bothered by the post, but she waved me off, “I drilled a big hole in the top of the stump to pour this root killer in there.”
I had never seen this woman handle a power tool. Her husband is a handy guy and he definitely knows his way around a garage and I couldn’t see him just handing over a drill to her for any reason. That was his domain. Something needed drilling? Just tell him and get out of the way! So for her to tell me that she was the one drilling the holes, sends quite the message. She was either too impatient to wait for “KILL THE GODDAMN MULLBERRY” to move up on my father-in-law’s to-do list, or this was a job she needed to do with her own two hands.
“The root killer was the best that they had, but it wasn’t enough,” you could tell her mind was far back in time, reliving the moment of reflection as she stood over the violated stump. She was wistful. And she laughed softly. “No, it wasn’t enough.”
“Those things are resilient,” I offered.
“So then I had this hot oil and I poured that down there,” she said, ignoring me completely. She laughed softly again, shaking her head side to side, in disbelief. “That didn’t work.” She laughed. “So then I poured bleach,” a pause, “still nothing.” She laughed, “they keep sprouting and sprouting with new branches here and here and here,” gesturing as if she was pointing at green sprouts only she could see. They were there for her. They were there.
I don’t remember how the conversation concluded. I never did find out how or if that mulberry met its end. But she never spoke a word about my post. She never thanked me or scolded me or commented one way or the other. She just wanted me to know that mulberry trees don’t die. But they deserve to die. You could tell, she felt that the mulberry is a worthy foe.
Worthy of a stump-full of death.
*for those who don’t know, or need the reminder, my last name is Terry. Rhymes with mulberry.