A Prophecy

Contributor: Jon Wesick

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“Your death is the only thing you own,” the old woman began.

She was fat, so fat she took up the whole couch. Layers of flab coated her arms so they were as thick as a normal person’s legs. The blue skirt she wore was big enough to shelter a whole troop of Boy Scouts from the rain and her white blouse was stained from greasy fingers. The house stank of rotten food no doubt from the bones of several chicken roasts on the table. She would have eaten the whole world if only she could have found a way to make it hold still.

Neither I nor the others sitting on the dirty carpet in front of her wanted to be there, not Joe nor Dave nor Ray nor Lisa. We had only one thing in common. We were fifteen years old, the age our elders told us we had to complete this rite of passage.

Technically no one has to undertake the Runge Kutta initiation. I could have been like Randy Sullivan who endured whispers of “Randy the Pansy” and having his locker stuffed with dog crap all through high school. Indeed my harassment already started by none other than Principal Walters all big belly and skinny legs of him. The other week he walked right past Missy Oliver and Frank Dolan, who were practically giving each other hand jobs, to yank my arm off Wendy Rogers’ shoulder. It was clear that to have anything like a normal life I’d need to submit to the stupid ritual – the week-long fast, white robes, and gift of food to the witch sitting on the couch.

The old woman placed a pinch of powdered incense on a burning charcoal and waved her hands while reciting some gibberish in a language none of us understood. This went on for some time. How long I’m not sure since I was pretty light headed from fasting. At some point Ray giggled until Dave elbowed him in the ribs and told him to shut up. While the old woman sang, I pictured the meal I’d have as soon as this was done. A cheeseburger would be nice as would a big plate of spaghetti. Hell, even a grilled cheese sandwich would do just fine.

Finally the old woman’s eyes rolled back in her head and she slumped forward. When she straightened up, she seemed to be in some kind of trance.

“Who will be the first to accept your gift, your gift and your duty?” Her voice sounded different like a Russian in a bad movie.

Mouth in a smirk Ray moved forward and knelt before the woman.

“At fifty-four years old you will die of a sudden heart attack. You will feel no pain.”

Ray shook his head and returned to his place. Dave was next.

“In less than a year a robber will shoot you in the head and you will choke on your own vomit in the hospital.”

The old woman was on a roll. She told Joe he’d come down with dementia and die confused and alone while Lisa would have her throat slit after being gang raped by a bunch of meth-crazed bikers.

My turn. I moved close enough to count the black hairs on the old witch’s upper lip.

“An artistic death. Your body will be racked with cancer and you will not be sure if the disease or treatments is worse. You will die lying in your own filth.”

While the old woman chanted her final mumbo jumbo, I pictured myself bald and puking with a full colostomy bag swinging from my belly. After the ceremony was done, Lisa, Joe, Dave, Ray, and I gathered on the front porch. Everyone but Ray looked like they’d swallowed live sea urchins.

“Awe, you don’t believe that old witch. Do you?” Ray lifted his robe, dropped his pants, and pressed his butt cheeks to the old woman’s picture window. “Now, who wants to go to Artie’s and get a burger?”

Lisa, Joe, and Dave made lame excuses and left. I should have gone home like the rest of them. After all, my parents had plans for me now that I knew my fate. There was supposed to be a party with my mom’s friends and dad’s business partners. I could almost imagine the parents bragging about their kids and the long-winded lectures about hard work, responsibility, and the good grades needed to get into some MBA program. The thought of making small talk with all those hypocrites who wanted to know what I thought of the ceremony (but really didn’t) made me want to puke. Yeah, I should have gone home but didn’t. My parents’ plans could wait.

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Host of the Gelato Poetry Series, instigator of the San Diego Poetry Un-Slam, and an editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual, Jon Wesick has published more than fifty short stories in journals such as Space and Time, Zahir, Tales of the Talisman, Blazing Adventures, and Metal Scratches. He has also published over two hundred fifty poems.
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