The Death of Mary
Kevin Kocis

M ary came to us that October night without her veil and slicked back hair, without her tealeaves and sword-branded cards. She had captured us many times with dreamy predictions, and being wishful adolescents, we stood eager, defenseless.

That night, she told us she was going to die. The market depression had hit all our families hard. In the afternoons, our parents hustled in gin and bourbon to sell in the evening. Later, arguments bristled from upstairs bedrooms from leaning into the stash.

Mary predicted Tommy would discover an awful truth about his mother. She told me I would find true love, and kissed me hard on the lips.

She was eighteen, I was twelve.

Tommy discovered the awful truth later that evening when his father and mother, both heavy with bourbon and cigarettes, argued and wrestled about children, the responsibilities, the financial burden. Somewhere, the awful truth crawled out of her. Nineteen years ago, she fell one night for a stockbroker from Chicago, and ran off to have the baby in Michigan on a deep, starry night.

"That gypsy! The wicked little tramp," his father said, embarrassed for not remembering that summer when his wife left to stay with her sister.

"She is not so wicked. She's gifted and capable of love, unlike you." She shielded his fists with her forearms.

The following night when Tommy's father hunted down Mary, he took the breath from her with his hands and called everything even.

First published: November 2001