ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife
Book One, Part One, Chapter 31: Black Easter
Easter is upon us. At the round oak table in the dining niche of our living room, Joshua dyes eggs, but he’s wavering in his belief in the Easter Bunny. At Christmas, a schoolmate told him Santa Claus didn’t exist, and Joshua wanted to beat him up. He still wants to believe, but he doesn’t want to be made a fool of. Ernie sits alongside Joshua, coloring eggs, too.
“The Easter Bunny must be a real dumb bunny,” Ernie says to him, “hopping about all night hiding baskets full of eggs and candy. Can’t he think of anything better to do?”
“I like eggs and candy,” Joshua says.
Easter Eve, Ernie and I fill Joshua’s basket with pastel hummingbird eggs, hollow chocolate bunnies, and spice drops, then place the basket outside Mary Lee’s first-floor door. In a second basket, Ernie puts one black jelly bean atop green grass and sets this basket outside our second-floor door.
“I’ll tell Joshua the Easter Bunny heard me making fun of him and only left me this one black jelly bean,” he says. “That’ll make Joshua really believe in the Easter Bunny.”
Easter Sunday, Mary Lee falls getting out of bed. She gets herself back into bed, but she can’t keep down the frozen dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes I heat for her, and her stomach swells. Days later, when she’s still unable to eat and her stomach is still swollen, Ernie and I find a doctor who makes house calls.
“You’re constipated,” the doctor tells her. He writes down the name of a laxative. Then he notices her stockinged feet. “And you have nail fungus. That’s tough to get rid of.” He writes a prescription for a fungicide.
I go to the drugstore for the laxative, but it does her no good.
“I don’t want to go to the hospital,” she tells Ernie.
Ernie calls an ambulance.
Before she leaves in it, she reaches into the rear of a shelf in her china cabinet and draws out a small change purse. It’s all the money she has. She gives it to Ernie.