Margo Billis and her son, Matthew, barely endure a strained and rather twisted relationship. She is a 73 year old woman dying from cancer. Despite her illness, she continues to provide for her lazy, 40 year old son who still lives at home.

Matthew's condition might also be described as terminal in an emotional and psychological sense. He claims to suffer from endogenous depression and wastes most of his life sleeping for long periods of time in his garish green bedroom. His mother implores him to get a job but all he seems capable of is wallowing in self-pity.

Matthew has neither empathy nor sympathy for his mother's misery. One day he finds his mother dead in her bed. Her safe is open and contains $14,000, some undeposited but endorsed checks, a bottle of 200 morphine tablets along with a prescription for morphine, half a carton of cigarettes, and Hummel figurines. Matthew transports her corpse to the freezer in the garage where she will remain until he is ready to announce her death. Realizing he can co-sign her checks and forge her signature, he has finally found a job to his liking.


In this offbeat story, loneliness equally afflicts both the living and the dying. The burden of psychological pain appears greater than physical suffering. While her son seeks refuge in drugs and sleep, death is the only way Mrs. Billis can escape from her personal hell. Is she a saint, a fool, or simply a mother unable to ignore the needs and failure of her son? The author of this story offers a distorted view of the limits of parental responsibility and tolerance, provides a unique spin on the concept of a caregiver, and takes a wicked jab at entitlement.

Primary Source

Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine


Little, Brown

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