Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 9

Julia Carey | 9

surrounding the property on the outskirts of town. They rake the leaves, scooping the jewel-toned discards into trash cans, and carry them to the compost piles to be resurrected into fertile soil. Hours will pass while they walk the grounds, jabbing into the grass a metal pole with what looks like a sturdy slinky on the bottom to collect the nuts. She loves that the residents forget about her heart, and instead of reminding them so they don’t hurt her when inevitably the searches for nuts turn into horseplay and games, she wears a protective stainless steel cup over her heart. Then, when they skip or play tag or hide and go seek, she can forget about her heart too, and just use it.

Eventually the autumn turns to winter, and their fingers and toes become numb in the cold, and since Mac can’t subject her heart to such extremes anyway, they work at shelling the pecans. Patiently she shows the residents how to tap the brown, veiny shells open with a cracker, and use a small knife to pull the meat from the chambers. They pile the hearts in the middle of the table, and periodically someone comes and seals them into Ziploc bags. Many are wasted in the process. Some are crushed from the residents’ overzealous tapping, and the meat is ruined. Many are eaten. The residents aren’t capable of blaming their mothers for their struggles, or their genetic flaws. And Mac envies them.

The facility was built to surround a natural mineral spring in the 1900’s, as it was once thought that perhaps the medicinal water would help with intelligence and motor skills. The water is slightly sulphuric, and fills a swimming pool and hot tub. Some residents are responsible for scrubbing every day the line left on the tile from the nutrients and minerals in the water. In the summer, they can open the sliding doors to the desert air and use it like a recreational pool. It is also possible for the public to buy memberships to swim there, as long as they understand and respect the hydrotherapy purposes.

Mac waits for the last class to finish, watches the residents bounce on their toes during water aerobics and sing along to the Michael Jackson songs the instructor plays while they exercise. They splash each other and giggle, and always have to be reminded not to run once they get out and towel off. With the natatorium quiet, Mac threads a string bikini through the veins and arteries of her arm, ties a bow under her other armpit to hold the top in place, tracing the same place around her torso as the rope her mother once tied around her in grade school. She eases into the waist-deep water one step at a time, her tiptoes on the tile, becoming accustomed to the temperature, and then inches in her heart carefully until it is