Written by Arliss Gammill
Voiced by Joanne Lichtenstein
Voice Direction and Sound editing by Laurie Weaver
Where she came from or how she got there doesn’t matter. All you need to concern yourself with, is the fact that Rose was a witch. That’s what they called her and the word seemed to fit, like a favorite pair of shoes.
After all, Rose could do many terrible and wonderful things. Rose could, literally, break your heart. She said she’d learned how in third grade and it was all easy, easy, easy now. Dull, even.
It was much more fun to make people forget. That had taken work. People’s minds were twisting gardens filled with memories like tenacious weeds. People remembered. So it wasn’t until her early twenties that she mastered making people forget. She practiced first with children; went to playgrounds and arcades and all the bright places that children gathered. The younger the better. Children haven’t lived so very long, she realized. They had less to remember, like a glass mostly empty.
So much easier to swallow all there was in the cup, which was not very much at all. She liked New York City. So many people, so many children to use for practice.
All she had to do was point at a tot and whisper, “Forget, little one.”
And so the children forgot. Their mothers were dismayed when they left their backpacks in odd places. Their fathers tsked that their little boys and girls had to once again be reminded that their shoelaces were untied and flapping about wildly. Teddy got left behind at the restaurant and homework got misplaced on the playground.
Rose was ecstatic. After only a few months of dedicated practice, she could make any child forget anything. From the trivial to the important, she could snap away memories like taking clippers to a hangnail, neat and tidy and quick.
Adults were harder. Rose struggled and struggled with adults. Their minds were crammed full of things and they clung to these things. Facts and opinions, reunions and birthdays; the exact shade of their mother’s eyes, and the name of the first person they kissed; lyrics to songs, even bad lyrics. The names of presidents and world leaders and snippets of poems; cartoon characters: Yogi Bear and Betty Boop and Tony the Tiger. And for the life of her, Rose could not understand why they needed all these things. She had nothing. She had no one. She had no such memories of children’s first smiles or grandpa’s 50th birthday. Must they know so many cities and celebrities and colors – magenta, chartreuse, cadmium yellow?
It was frustration that kept her from getting it right. She kept trying to understand the hows and whys of memory. It made her head ache and she couldn’t sleep for the stress of it. Why must they remember so very much?
The day she stopped trying to reason it out was the day she finally succeeded.
“Who can understand them?” she asked herself. “They have messy minds with messy memories of soppy first dates and miserable last ones.”
There was no way to understand it, so why bother?
She was in the park again, watching the men and women come and go. She was thinking. Remembering. She crossed her arms, huffed, and stared across the park at a young mother sitting on a bench with a baby carriage. The mother’s mind was stuffed with daycare bills and doctors’ appointments; visits with grandma and shopping lists. How could she hold all of it in?
Rose glared. “Forget, young mother,” she whispered. When the mother walked away, cooing sweet nonsense to the baby, she left behind a brightly colored diaper bag on the bench.
Rose’s face split into a rare and genuine smile. She had overcome the hurdle. From then on, it was easy. She could make anyone forget anything. Anything at all.
Oh, what was his name?
Didn’t we go to school together? Or not. Perhaps not.
Perhaps I merely saw him on the bus once.
And wasn’t it his birthday last month? Oh, it was today? I feel so awful. I said nothing to him.
They have two sons? Why did I think they had a little girl? And he’s five years old? Oh, he’s eight. Of course, of course.
How time flies.
And did he pass? How sad. Had you told me before? I do apologize.
It was Rose’s new favorite game. Much more interesting than breaking hearts (literally and figuratively, because hospitals and singles bars were both equally mind-numbingly boring).
Sometimes, just for practice, she would pluck away the names of wives and husbands and lovers and friends and girlfriends and fathers and sisters and…
Oh, on and on.
Pick the right moment, snatch away a name, a phrase, a treasured event. Watch the cards tumble down.
People were messy. People had messy minds. The list of things she couldn’t do was getting smaller every single day. She made a passing old man forget, just for practice. It was easy, easy, easy. The question now was what would she learn to do next?
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