I made Sister Agatha go blind this morning. She had it coming for her obstinacy. Trying to get me to eat when I’m not hungry. It’ll be temporary, of course. Just long enough for her to write down what I dictate from here on in. They’ll say it’s a miracle, and they’ll probably canonize her for it. But really it’s just cheap theatrics. I’ve got to amuse myself somehow. Life here at the cottage is bland as a biscuit.
Which reminds me: Teddy’s coming by in a few minutes. I hope there’s at least a bit of uncertainty in him about me. I’ve always wanted my death to come as a surprise. But this is just as good. The family name is now a punch line. And the last remaining comedian to deliver it is coming here to bid farewell and beg yours truly to undo it all somehow. Like I said, just as good.
Sister Catherine is sobbing in the garden. Y’oughta consider the lilies of the field, Sister.
She’s terrified of me, poor thing. I gave her boils on both hands for making that noise in her throat when she looked at me. I’m getting sloppy in my old age. There was a time I could send a brown recluse down the dress of a debutante and then just sit back and watch the frolics. It certainly made those disgusting parties bearable. They never looked once in the direction of little Rosie the spastic. I think it was around the time of John’s second bout of jaundice that the basis of their revulsion of me shifted from the corporeal to something beyond. And that’s when they had me fixed by that quack surgeon who thought he could rid the world of witchery one scoop of grey matter at a time. For the record here, meticulously documented by our crusty-eyed Sister Agatha, I had nothing to do with jaundice. It is classic, though, isn’t it? Like old, rabid Salem: An act of God brought about by the sins of the father and suddenly the superstitious lot singles out the little odd girl in the village.
Which is more miraculous: That all of nature should be arranged for misfortune to taint every member of the clan at every step, and strike them when they’re at their highest? Or that alcohol coupled with a fermented morality was responsible?
Here’s the answer: Whenever the pattern could have been set right, it wasn’t. Now does that sound like the price you pay for cutting out a chunk of a girl’s brain, all because you couldn’t bear a female with real power in the family? Hate to disappoint, dearies, but I ain’t that petty. Life’s been dandy apples for yours truly. I really mean that. You show me another member of the family with this much freedom. Sure I’ve had to put up with their monthly visits; twelve times a year they’ve cancelled plans in order to come out to the cottage and see their sweet, drooling Rosie. If Catholicism’s taught us anything, it’s how to supplicate.
Sister Agatha is scribbling like crazy in her cell. They’ll question the miracle. So as proof, let her write that Teddy is here now and he’s wearing a sweater the color of raw pork. How could Sister know that if she can’t see him? I guess one of the others could have tipped her off. Alright, more proof. Sister Catherine’s menstrual cycle is heavy this morning. Let them discuss that at Sister Aggie’s beatification hearing.
A little about the gift. It’s like moving pieces on a chessboard. Only zoom out until you can see that there’s not one chessboard, but zillions of them, all with pieces you can move. You can feel them as well. You know what every piece desires. You feel the holes in them. Understand? But you can’t be everywhere at once. No one with the gift is capable of orchestrating a true miracle, or a curse for that matter, for to move one piece is to move a thousand and then a thousand more. No, I’m afraid it’s been nothing but chintzy witchery from yours truly all these years.
Teddy leans over and whispers close to my face. Good boy, he hasn’t had a drop. Just coffee.
“Rosie, darling,” he says in his pink, padded voice, “we’ve worked hard. All of us. Eunice started the Special Olympics in your honor. Remember? Jeannie does so much for the cause. All of us who… who live still…we do everything we can.”
I giggle and point to his sweater. I’m not playing. It really does amuse me.
Teddy says my name so softly, it’s almost as if he doesn’t believe I’m real. And that’s when I hear an echo I’ve been hearing in the dark for almost forty years now.
Ted’s been trying to hide her from me. All the mental energy focused on that very task is what’s been holding him back his whole life, only he doesn’t realize it, poor old sot. Every now and then he lets his guard down, and her gaze burns through me like salt. That’s when I close my eyes and sit very still and hear a tender voice calling him back to the depths.
I felt them die over the years. All of them. (I know what it’s like to lose a chunk of your brain.) But I haven’t known a living thought like this in quite some time.
“We’ve tried,” Ted whispers. “All of us. We’ve tried to make up for our shortcomings.”
I close my eyes. I sit very still.
The metal twists.
“You’ve set us on the path of right. Bobby had some good in him. I had good in me. We tried.”
Suddenly I’m snorting up gobs of burning water into my nose. Her hair does a scarf dance in the weightless night, caressing my arm. Exquisite.
“Jeannie is a good woman who shouldn’t be made to suffer.”
And I walk away from the wreckage, from the clawing desperation of that sweet, soft hand, thinking that here is the sacrifice needed to end the curse once and for all.
“Surely our sentence has been served.”
And the memory play ends in a cat’s twitch.
I look at his gorgeous face. The best and kindest of the lot. And this is when I finally pronounce the curse, the only real curse ever to befall Camelot. I hit him with my sugar smile. “Teddy will die in four years,” I say, and hold up my fingers. “In August, the year of Our Lord, two thousand and nine. Sweet Jeannie will be at his funeral. Make sure she has Kleenex. That’s the end of the curse.” End of my little curse, I mean. Not the Kennedy curse. There is no Kennedy curse.
I don’t know where I heard that knowing the date of your death can be a curse. It doesn’t have to be. But to a guy like Ted who only has four years left, it’s a kick in the ass after living so long and never quite getting it right. I don’t tell him that Eunice will die that same month. Let Jeannie miss Eunice’s funeral so she can sit on the deathwatch with Ted and see the curse to its fitful end.
The family won’t have to worry about this last will of mine going public. Someone on our end will work with the Vatican to keep it quiet, for sure. The boys in Rome will enjoy all my worldly possessions. Daddy always knew how to handle the money.
I’m dying now. Sister Agatha can clean her eyes and have breakfast.
The Last Will of Little Rosie
originally published in The Kennedy Curse
Paul Lorello is a freelance writer from Ronkonkoma, New York. He recently finished his first novel and will one day write a second. His vitamin D is low. He likes science fiction and cats. He knows very little about everything.