A Symphony of Horror


By Merle Drown

My daughter is nuts. Keeping her kids away from toy guns or drugs or even sugar, I can see that, but no church, no Bible, no prayer, not a word of religion? When it comes to God, she’s nutty.

Angie went to Mass nearly every Sunday when she was a girl.  Is she afraid it’ll ruin their minds?  Did she wind up a homicidal maniac?  She didn’t become a nun, for God’s sakes.  Far from it, if you want to know the truth.  She’s got a good job at the bank, her own office and everything. She’s never all day on her feet behind a counter where you have to dress better than they pay you for. And her husband? I tell her, Angie, you should play Lotto, you’ve got such luck. Or maybe you should look up. Then she rolls her eyes and says, “Mom, are you praying for me? Because I’m certainly not asking the empty sky for anything.”

It still gets me that I got to flash this card at the gate to drive into her crazy neighborhood, all semicircles instead of a regular grid where you can find your way.  Like living in a finger painting.  No wonder she’s nuts.

She’s smiling at the door. She’s a knockout, long, black hair, green eyes, and red lips to make the sun blush.

“I got just what Adam asked me for,” I say.  I hold it behind my back, wrapped over my knuckles.

Angie keeps smiling. “Thirteen years old and already such a con artist,” she says.  “He didn’t tell me he wanted anything.”

“He wouldn’t, would he. Not this.” I dangle it before her eyes and let Him fall the full length of the beads. “Adam said, ‘Grandma, I’d really like a cross.’ He didn’t have to tell me you didn’t have one.” My smile can’t match Angie’s, but I see hers shift. “It won’t cause him to break out in hives.”

She takes the rosary and starts to laugh.  Amazing, just amazing.

She pulls me into her house, up the curved staircase, down the kids’ hall, to Adam’s room.  She opens the door and without a word hands the rosary to Adam.  Bless his heart he hangs it over this movie poster on his wall.  Nosferatu, it says, with a picture of a pointy-toothed, baldheaded old devil, who could use a hedge clipper manicure.

“Thank you, Grandma,” Adam says.  “I was thinking a plain cross, but I like yours with the dead guy on it.”

Angie’s doubled over hooting so, she has to grab my shoulder to keep from falling to the floor.

At least He’s in the house and dangling over that vampire. Angie’s nutty all right, but she doesn’t know all she thinks she knows, so I give a little chuckle myself.

A hunter-gatherer, Merle Drown is the author of stories, essays, plays, reviews, and two novels, and he teaches in Southern NH U’s MFA program. Pieces from a collection-in-progress, Shrunken Heads, miniature portraits of the famous among us, have appeared in Amoskeag, Meetinghouse, Night Train, The Kenyon Review, Rumble, Sub-Lit, Word Riot, Bound Off, JMWW, Eclectica, Toasted Cheese, Foliate Oak, SN Review, Bartleby Snopes, (Short) Fiction Collective, and 971 Menu.
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