I can’t help thinking how nurses look so young these days, but that’s because I’m old. These girls are pretty but not as pretty as Moira. One of them reminds me of my daughter, the other belle of my life. She has the same baby blue eyes.
The nurses like this time of year when the garden turns to red and gold. They gather the falling fruit and put me by the window to watch the dancing leaves and the jack o lanterns.
Kids come to visit the other residents and remind me of my grandchildren, so full of life when they were alive. Everywhere I look there are memories, some of them happy, most of them painful beyond comprehension. I’m reminded, all the time, of everything that has happened. I have lost so much, so many loved ones, and all of them so young. And it’s all my fault. I don’t do much crying these days. They say you can be too sad to cry, but today, to my surprise, the tears are rolling.
These youngsters are all dressed up for Halloween and they tear round the garden playing tag and pretending to put curses on each other. I can’t wipe the tears that fall, the accident put a stop to that. Luckily, if a nurse comes by, she’ll think it’s just my rheumy eyes. I couldn’t bear for her to wipe them away. I still have some dignity left. I want to tell these kids that it’s not harmless fun, to put spells on people. I want to tell them to stop, it’s no fun at all, it’s anything but.
Witchcraft has run through my family right back to 1692, a number of my ancestors were burned as witches. My great grandmother taught me how to dowse and read palms and tarot. She had a whole shelf full of spell books. It kind of missed a generation with my grandmother but my mother was into it big time. She never owned a spell book in her life, never needed one, she’s always been a natural. If anyone upset her in some way, she would curse them in a blink of an eye. She was like Jesus cursing the fig tree. I saw her do it many times, people would become ill or suddenly have awful money or relationship troubles. Sometimes they would die unexpectedly. Sometimes it would be objects she would target, like buildings, and they would burn to the ground, become flooded, uninhabitable and eventually demolished. Sometimes it would take months, or even years to break a person or an object down, but when it happened, she would look at me proudly and say, ‘Do you see that son? I did that.’
There was one time when I was very young, she met a woman in authority, of a certain status. a doctor, lawyer, bank manager, something of that ilk. I don’t remember much of what went on but what impressed upon me, even at that young age, was how attractive, wealthy, sharply dressed and extremely competent the woman was. As we were walking out of the building, my mother was furious, her pride hurt over something or other. I couldn’t remember what had transpired back there but she said to me. ‘The next time you see that woman, she’ll be begging on the street, scrabbling in dustbins and having sex with strangers.’
Being so young, I didn’t comprehend the levity of what she said, but to my utter shock, five years later when I was walking down the street, there she was, that powerful confident woman, but now she was dazed, in dirty old clothes, her good looks and strong presence faded with the ravages of her ill fortune. She turned to my mother and begged for money. Mother turned to me, smiled and said, ‘Told you so. I cursed the bitch. I cursed her to hell.’ And with that, she gleefully tossed a coin to the woman, who scrambled for it hopelessly, before it rolled down a drain.
I had no doubt as to mother’s power. I never thought it was bad or good, it just was. I envied her, her weapon of revenge, a deadly weapon that need never be detected, a weapon for which there was no consequence, no reprimand. I experimented but I never seemed to have my mothers touch. I used to call it the Midas touch in reverse, everything she touched turned to shit.
I got into Hollywood easily with my mixture of rough charm and physical prowess. Moira was just the prettiest girl and she wasn’t even in the acting business. Well, she was in a sense, she was a make up artist. I wanted to get up at 4.30a.m so badly, if I knew it meant being in her chair, with her hands gently stroking my face.
It was ironic really, as a stuntman, I didn’t need much make up, but she would practice on me. Sometimes she dispensed with brushes, didn’t use them, and I would be in ecstasy as her fingers blended the foundation into my skin. When it came to Moira, I was as tongue tied as hell, and for some reason, I couldn’t even flirt half decently when it came to her, never mind asking for a date.
So many mornings she practised on me, when she was just starting out. And in return, I would let her onto the set to see the actors I was doing the stunts for. I was never going to be front of camera, I don’t have the face for it. But she should have been in front of it, with her face and her delicate touch, so feathery light and yet so purposeful, like she wanted to reach into my soul.
This is why I had to mess with him. If he’d have just left her alone, at that moment when I was about to ask her out, then everything would have been okay, because believe me, I was about to, at some point along the way. I had had enough make overs to last a lifetime. She thought she was practising her art but it was my heart she was practising on.
“So, how’s the stuntman business?” she asked as I slid into the make up chair one lunchtime to practice on me. She was like that. Half a sandwich would be sitting on the dressing table in front of me. I could see the bite taken out of it. I would see the imprint of her teeth, her mouth, and imagine those lips on mine.
“You’re very talkative today.” she said, pulling me out of my daydream. She wouldn’t have pulled me out of my night time ones quite so easily. “Sorry, I was just thinking.”
I felt her warm breath on my neck as she let out a little laugh. I shuddered slightly. The soft, sensual scent about her that day, hung like an elusive mist around us both.
“I like it when my actors keep still. They usually move around too much. It’s like they’ve got ants in their pants.”
Her emphasize on the word ‘actors’ was our little joke. I was her actor while I was in her chair and she was my actress when she came on set.
And I suppose that’s when it all started, on set. I would sneak her on sometimes, usually just within the boundaries, out of sight of the directors, who were strict about things like that, especially for wet-behind-the-ears make up apprentices. So I would sneak her on, way behind the cameras and the wooden partitions, and one time, I sneaked her on during one of his takes.
“Wow,” she said in awe. “He’s beautiful.”
I turned to her and she must have seen the anger in my eyes, for she said, quick as a flash, “Of course, he’s too much of a pretty boy for me.”
I grimaced. Oh, how sad, to be so pretty that she wouldn’t even consider him. How very unlucky for him. Just like the car crash that came after really. Unlucky. Isn’t bad luck sometimes called a curse? Am I, was I, the curse, and does the curse ever get to die?
Two weeks later, I went to sit in the chair and she was nowhere to be seen. Her make up, which was usually spread out on the counter, was gone. No brushes, no perfume, no her. It was much later that day, I finally saw her in the canteen. She was excited, different. She always had a twinkle in her eyes and a warm smile for me, but yeah, I couldn’t deny it, she was more sparkly than usual, bouncier.
“You’ll never guess what just happened?”
“Well, the powers that be have seen how I always give up my lunchtime for my art.”
“The Chief make up artist. She’s seen my work, been watching me, and apparently I’m ready.”
“Ready for what?”
She smiled and it lit up her whole face. “I’m going to do him!”
I stared at her. “Do him?”
“You know, pretty boy.”
“Oh.” Deflated wasn’t the word.
“Of course, he’s more than just that.” she said composing herself quickly. “He’s intelligent and such a good actor, deeply sensitive, plus, I’m not star struck. I’m professional now. It’s all about the make up, the make up comes first.”
She flounced off and I didn’t see her for several weeks, she had moved to a new dressing room.
After that, she was with him most of the time. I didn’t have to sneak her on set any more, she could come and go as she pleased, but she would always look at me, almost wistfully. Perhaps in some small way, she was missing our little get-togethers at the dressing room mirror. I certainly was but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Then a week or so later, she approached me. “He’s asked me out,” she said.
“You know who.”
She smiled a little but not much. “That’s right. What do you think I should do?”
“I thought you were already going out with him. You’re practically inseparable and drooling over him all the time.”
“We’re not going out…yet.”
She began to blush and twist her fingers nervously between her hands. “We’re not…an item.”
“Really?” I said, unable to keep the bitterness from my voice. “I thought he’d have well got his end away by now.”
I saw the hurt and shock reach her eyes, then just as quickly, I saw the anger flash in them. She turned on her heel and stormed off.
I first saw the car a couple of weeks after that and it took me over the edge. It was a Porsche 550 Spider. I wondered how many times he’d parked with her.
I began to realise that it simply wasn’t enough to flaunt it in my face, to take my girl, he had to dress up that Porsche a little bit more. He gave it tartan covered seats, got two red stripes daubed over the rear wheels. On the doors, hood and engine cover was the number 130. People used to come over and admire it. They would be in awe of it but to me, that car was a little bastard, just like its owner.
I started drinking in a local bar, nursing my hurts and chewing the cud. One night I went home and consulted the tarot, my mother had never needed stuff like that, but maybe I did. I discovered I was good at reading the cards. They told me unequivocally what I should do. If I didn’t do it, he would run away with the only girl I had ever loved. I had never followed in my mother’s footsteps, I wasn’t a serial curser like she was. The opportunity, or rather the drive had never come up before. I wasn’t like her, The Queen Of Curses, doing it to everything and everyone on a whim, but like her, my pride was hurt and my heart ached. Suddenly I had motivation.
When they were at the canteen one lunchtime, I went outside to take a look at it. I put my hand gently on the hood, just above a headlamp. I prayed to Lucifer that he would die in that car. I prayed for an accident. Then I went back to work.
The next day, I saw them together on set. She was touching up his make up. He had his arm around her waist. It was like I’d been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I made some excuse about feeling sick and ran outside into the parking lot. And that’s when I saw it. ‘Little Bastard’ had been painted onto the car. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes, thinking it was some sort of wish fulfilment on my part, a crazy hallucination, so I ran my finger through the ‘B’.
It was still wet. What had possessed him? Was it me?
I stepped back from the car, shocked at the strength of my own curse.
I was to become a lot more surprised a few weeks later when I watching a ball game in my local bar and it was interrupted by a news bulletin. I nearly choked on my beer and one of the other bar flies had to thump me on the back to stop the coughing.
The first thing I did, after nearly choking to death was to find out if she was in the car too. I was so relieved to find out she wasn’t, that I cried like a baby. People thought I was crying for him, maybe I was.
She was upset for a time but I was a good shoulder to cry on. Months later, she told me that she’d always wanted me to ask her out. So I did, finally. We married quickly. We had a son, a daughter and three grandchildren. And she never suspected. How could she?
“How are you today?” A nurse has come over to give me a drink with a straw in it. Then she feeds me. I never answered her question. And when she asks again, I only need to nod or shake my head and she’ll understand me, on a basic level. I see pity in her face as I nod. She wrinkles her nose slightly at the smell and says, as casually as she can. “Oh, I think you might need a new diaper.”
Then she pulls the screen over and brings it around me.
Later, when I’m all changed and smelling fresh, my one and only living relative comes to visit, my only surviving child from the crash. She’s not been the same since the accident, obviously. It’s been five years now. She still has nightmares, still sees her siblings bloodied faces, lying crushed beneath her maimed children.
There were seven people in the car, me, my son, my wife, my daughter and her children, my three grandchildren on laps, no-one belted in. My daughter was the only survivor, besides me. I can’t stand the pain in her eyes. It goes so deep. She is still going to counselling, still cries herself to sleep at night. She was so vibrant, now she’s a shell of a woman, and there’s nothing I can do…except confess.
But what would I tell her exactly? That I was jealous of her mothers boyfriend and decided to put a curse on his car. That he died in that car, but she lived and we went on to have a happy life together. Would she believe the second part of it, that five years ago, I had bought a Porsche 550 Spider steering wheel from an antique car fare and installed it in the family car, unaware that it came from ‘Little Bastard’. Unaware, until it was too late. I guess I thought I was being clever, a reminder of my powers and what I’d got away with. I never thought it could be the same one, until now.
The car had been a right off. After they got me out, the whole thing went up in flames, leaving just a husk, and yet, not a mark on that old steering wheel.
As I look into the sad deadened eyes of my daughter who was once so happy, I truly do feel like confessing, I can’t bear living with the pain I’ve caused, but instantly, I feel a pain in my chest and a shortness of breath. My daughter calls for the nurse, then gets a doctor and the screen goes round me once more.
There’s a bit of poking and prodding and I don’t feel very much of it, then they put me to bed. Looks like I won’t be seeing the Halloween celebrations after all. The doctor came round again a bit later. “You’re doing just fine.” His grin was like a terrible grimace, stretching from ear to ear. “You’ve a heart like an ox and you’re a very healthy man despite your years. So, don’t you worry,” he promised, as he pulled the covers back over my paralysed body. “You’re going to live for a long time yet, a good long time.”