Yellow Mama Archives II

Ted R. Larsen

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Zumpe, Lee Clark

The Curse

 

by Ted R. Larsen

 

 

She sat knitting booties. Happily humming. Glowing. Radiant.

He felt sick to his stomach.

He stammered. “But . . . but I thought you were taking precautions.”

She laughed. “I was, but nothing’s foolproof, you know. I guess God just wants us to have a child.”

The room spun, and he sank into a chair.

She walked over and patted his hand. “Don’t take it like that, darlin’. We’re ready, and I think it’s time for us to have a baby. Don’t you?”

Her innocent smile made him want to puke. He couldn’t bring himself to answer.

“I thought I was being careful,” she went on. “I don’t know how it happened.”

He knew how it happened. The curse. He knew it was the curse.

“But anyway,” she blissfully blathered, “I’m glad. A little person to take care of will be wonderful!”

He should have been sterilized. He should have stayed single. He definitely should have told her about the curse.

On the other hand, she’d never have believed it. He wasn’t all that sure he believed it, himself. Old wives’ tales are just that, and this was an enlightened age.

He sighed. Who was he kidding? He believed it. Every third generation, passed down from grandfather to grandson.

Other families handed down photo albums, antiques, memory boxes. His handed down the curse.

Well, maybe it would be a girl. Then there would be nothing to worry about.

Sure, that’s it. A girl.

Somehow, he doubted it.

#

He spent every night dreaming of terrors and horrors and beasties that howl at the moon.

And, of course, the curse.

He would never get a good night’s sleep until he knew if it would be a boy.

A palm reader predicted boy, but who believed in that kind of thing, anyway?

The woman with the tarot cards refused to tell him what she saw. She made the sign of the cross over herself several times before he left.

And the crystal ball lady? Charlatan.

This mumbo-jumbo was stupid. He needed to see someone more scientific. Someone he could trust.

#

The ring dangled from a string over the mother’s belly. The old woman, smelling slightly of incense and sauerbraten, mumbled under her breath as she waved the ring.

He tried to remember how it went. If the ring swings up and down, it’s a boy; side to side for a girl? Or was it the other way around? What if it went in a circle? Maybe it was . . .

The woman stood and cleared her throat. “No question. ‘Twill be a boy.”

He shook his head and paid her fee. Another twenty dollars down the drain.

He should have known better. When would he learn? They needed to see an OBG. He’d heard that doctors can tell you for sure what it will be.

He didn’t exactly trust doctors; but then who trusted mumbling old crones, either?

#

Well, damn.

He really had known all along but hadn’t wanted to believe. The doctor was positive. It would be a son.

Of course. Curses have a way of beating the odds.

He realized for the millionth time he should have mentioned his little family legacy to her. Now, he couldn’t. There would be no way of talking her out of having this baby.

He would just have to hope for the best.

#

The nurse in the waiting room commented on how tired he looked. He explained that he basically hadn’t slept for nine months.

He didn’t explain about the curse.

She told him to relax, the delivery would be over in no time, his wife and child would be fine. Just fine.

He tried to tell himself he was just being silly. Maybe they were all wrong and it would be a girl after all. Maybe the curse was simply a silly old family fable.

And anyway, who believed in werewolves nowadays?

As he fretted, the full moon shone in through the window over his shoulder.

#

It was a difficult delivery for the assisting nurse.

It was a difficult delivery for the mother.

But for the doctor, who suddenly delivered a clawing, biting wolf cub, it was the most difficult of all.

 

 

Ted R. Larsen’s story “Only the Stones” (SF, 8800 words) placed third in the International Aeon Award short story contest, and his other work has been accepted for publication in numerous venues, including The Avalon Literary Review, Broadkill Review, and many others. He proudly calls Northeast Ohio home.

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