Going  Down  on  Emily  McMorrow   By Shana Mahaffey It was the craziest threesome Mary had ever been

a part of. She’d been fantasizing about taking part in one ever she turned down an offer from her roommates in college. OK, threesomes weren’t on her One Hundred Things to Do Before You Die list, but Mary figured if the opportunity presented itself again, she could definitely swap running a marathon for it. The event itself happened on a Friday morning, after many martinis and a few errant olives. Like most threesomes, this one was spontaneous and not at all what Mary expected. The seeds, though, had been planted at a family dinner about six months earlier. They’d just cleared the dinner plates and were waiting for dessert when Mary’s father, Mr. McMorrow, said “I’ll be going down on Mrs. McMorrow soon.”

When he heard this, Joseph, Mary’s elder brother and only sibling, spit his mouthful of thirty-two dollar South African shiraz across the Belvedere Ivory table linen. At the same moment Mrs. McMorrow walked in carrying the cherry pie they’d been smelling all afternoon. She paused in the doorway and gushed, “Oh honey,” as her face flushed pink. Mr. McMorrow narrowed his eyes and set his mouth into a mean line. “I’ll only be going down on the first Mrs. McMorrow. There will be no room for the second one.” The pink hue on June McMorrow’s cheeks turned purple. She slipped the cherry pie into the palm of her left hand and said, “We’ll see about that,” punctuating her words by hurling the pie, shot-put like, straight at Mr. McMorrow.

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An hour later, as Mary wiped cherry backspatter off the dining room wall, she asked June, “Why did you marry him?” Mary knew why her father chose June because she’d had a hand in it. Although, it took two marriages, some lesbian experimentation, and five years of therapy to discover this. Fresh off a recent breakthrough, Mary had hoped to start making amends over a bucket of soap and water. “It was 1972,” said June. “I’ve never been a modern woman.” Modern enough to go to key parties, thought Mary. “And I was a widow without the means to support myself.” A widow? After ten years she’s still telling that lie? June had told everyone her husband had died while they were on a trip to Ohio where they both grew up. June said she had decided to go ahead and bury him next to his parents before returning home to San Francisco. Everyone believed her until six months later, the divorce papers arrived, certified mail, at the doctor’s office where June worked as a receptionist. By the following day, the word had spread that June’s husband was alive and living with a bisexual Jewish acupuncturist in New York. June greeted her divorce papers like a liberator. She immediately started wearing perfume to mass and had taken to sitting in the pew at church directly behind Mr. McMorrow. Several hours, a bottle of stain remover, and four Bombay and tonics later, June asked a now cringing with regret over her desire to make reparations Mary, “Do you know what your father said to me on our first date?” Mary didn’t want to know, but before she could say so, June continued, “He told me everyone deserved a good spanking.”

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Having been on the receiving end of countless “well deserved” spankings, Mary knew exactly what her father meant. But she only nodded, hoping no reply would end the current conversation thread because before they married, it was common knowledge to everyone, but Mary’s father who didn’t listen to parish gossip, that all it took was a diner dinner and a bottle of twist top to get June on all fours, arms outstretched, her ass high in the air ready for a good spanking. When it came to Mary’s father, June, on a matrimony mission had managed to keep her ass out of the air. And Mr. McMorrow, a novice to this sort of thing was genuflecting before her with a ring in six short weeks. When Joseph heard his father was planning to marry “loose baggage” who’d been around every available block in the Bay Area, he immediately jumped in his green Ford Galaxy and drove over from Berkeley. Twenty minutes later, Joseph pulled into his parent’s driveway and vaulted out of his car without switching off the ignition or shutting the door. Mr. McMorrow opened the kitchen window to greet him. The soon-to-be-second Mrs. McMorrow stood next to him smiling and waving as Joseph collapsed down on the front lawn. His new girlfriend, Marta, a hula hoop instructor who swore by L.S.D. and Earth shoes, stood behind him, positioning a neon orange hoop on her waist. As Joseph arched over and pounded his fists on the lawn, her hoop began to whirl in a tangy blur of accompaniment to the words, “Dad, for God sake, sleep with her but don’t marry her.” Mr. McMorrow’s face registered confusion over this piece of performance art. The soon-to-be-second Mrs. McMorrow’s smile just split wider while her hand wagged in the

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air like the tail of a dog trying to please an unpleasable master. In her mind, she was one week away from renewing the paddle parties. She didn’t know that Mr. McMorrow, a devout Catholic, believed the proper measures of faith were acceptance of church authority and adherence to the church's sexual and reproductive ethic. She found out on her wedding night. And the words he uttered the morning after: “Now that we’ve consummated the marriage, I won’t be touching you again as we don’t need children” initiated the decade of bitterness that had reinforced June’s cherry pastry launch.

The first Mrs. McMorrow had dropped dead over beef stew in the kitchen when Mary was eighteen and Joseph was twenty-two. Mary had just started college at Stanford and her brother had just left his first wife for a Deadhead and a road trip across the country to the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. The only dead he had time for at that moment was the Grateful one. The extended family helped with the funeral and then disappeared leaving Mary to manage college and her father. Mr. McMorrow managed his grief with vodka benders after work and on weekends. In six months, the only casualties were the front and back bumper of his Buick. Mary knew everyone’s luck eventually ran out and she didn’t want his running out on her watch. So when her father asked her if he should marry June, Mary replied “ Dad, I think you have to follow your heart.” As a devout Catholic, she knew her father would think with the heart below his belt and not the one above it.

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Mr. McMorrow died on a Monday. His funeral was held on a Thursday, and in honor of his dying wish for a private, immediate family only burial at dawn, the sunup internment was scheduled for the following morning. Mary and Joseph convinced themselves that this request was their father’s final punishment for two night owls who’d only seen dawn from the other side of a martini glass. Then June suggested they bring the portable mini bar and cooler full of ice and champagne along. Mary, Joseph, and June gathered graveside in the twilight on a Friday morning. And by her third martini, Mary found herself wrapped in forgiveness, rooting for the morning sun’s victory over the fog. When it looked like the sun had risen, the undertaker approached the McMorrows. Laying a solemn hand on Joseph’s shoulder, he said, “We’re in position. Your father will be going down on your mother now.” June paused mid quaff and the three olives she’d asked for tumbled into her open mouth. Joseph nodded. The attendant began turning the crank. Behind her, Mary heard hacking noises that sounded similar to what a cat makes when he tries to expel a hairball. “Uh,” the undertaker pointed over Mary’s shoulder. Mary turned to find June doubled over, hands on her knees, her midsection expanding and contracting. “She’s fine, just an olive.” Mary waved her off turned to Joseph. “Did you know that’s what going down on someone meant?” “I didn’t want to think about it. He was talking about Mom.” “Uh your step mother—” said the undertaker.

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June lurched near the lowering casket, her hand clutching at her throat. Her pallor had changed from peachy to reddish blue. “Anyone know the Heimlich maneuver?” asked Joseph as he watched June topple over. She hit the ground at the same moment Mr. McMorrow finished going down on his first wife, Emily. Mary popped the cork of the champagne she had fished out of the red Coleman a few minutes earlier. It shot straight at her supine stepmother, plugging her right between her eyes, which were starting to match the cocktail onions they’d found in the mini bar earlier. The undertaker kneeled and touched June’s neck with his fore and middle finger. Then he sat back on his heels, shaking his head. “How about a two for one?” Joseph asked the as he pulled his checkbook from his coat pocket. Without waiting for a response, Mary nudged June’s body with her foot to get a sense of her weight. June was petite, maybe 100 pounds. One turn, she thought. Mary repositioned the toe of her black pump under June’s lifeless body. Then she lifted and pushed. June rolled into the open grave, and landed on Mr. McMorrow with the same thud fruit makes when it hits pavement. Mary considered the eternal threesome before her and thought, “Maybe I’ll do the marathon after all.”

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