Title: Curse of the Ninth
Author: Ruthie Marlenée
Genre: Literary Fiction/Paranormal
A haunting read. Now sharing the consciousness of his dead father Doc, young Charley has no choice except to carry out his father’s plans, including taking revenge on his father’s killer. Despite the consequences.
Kiddos Need Nurturing, Too
1949: U.S. Naval Hospital – Charley
The ceiling in Dr. Savage’s office has a brown water stain shaped like the continent of Africa. As uncomfortable as the olive green Naugahyde sofa is, it’s better than some of the places where I’ve crashed over the years — definitely better than Verdugo Park where I spent many nights propped up against the trunk of a sycamore tree or curled up on newspapers on top of the hard-packed dirt creek side — and certainly better than the shitty floor of the city jail.
“That was a nice little trip down memory lane,” I say. But, it really wasn’t. I’d merely laid back, closed my eyes and let my father take stage as he spoke through me, like a caged bird squawking from a branch on my larynx. I’m intrigued not only by what I’d heard coming out of my mouth, but by what I’d experienced. It’s all been quite a trip, but it’s left me feeling uncomfortable and yet I’m exhilarated to finally begin putting together some of the puzzle pieces of my life. For years I’ve been struggling with the part of my brain that’s been beating itself to pieces trying to make sense of the mess. Savage is staring at me, his face awash in gravity — his shock of hair full of static.
“Interesting, you remember when you were born, Charley? You described your birth.”
My head sounds like a bucket of seashells as I nod. “My birth and Doc’s death, a sort of musical changing of the guards, you might say.”
Savage brings a hand up to cover his mouth, cradling one elbow with the other hand and then takes a deep breath. It’s obvious, he’s having a hard time believing any of this, but at least I have an unbiased person finally listening to me. I’ll need to take it slow.
“Of course I remember being born.” I gurgle, wiping the drool from the side of my mouth as I swing my long legs off the couch onto the floor. “I was born an old soul … practically had to help the doctor remove the placenta.” I chuckle, noticing Savage’s fingers trembling like an old geezer as he reaches over to turn the volume up on the recorder. “My mother took one look at me and cried, but she couldn’t hold me right away,” I say, dangling my arms by my sides. “Her arms were numb and limp, like wet noodles. Later, though, when she could, she was too afraid to touch me.”
“Why?” Dr. Savage asks adjusting himself in his chair, rolling onto one hip and then the other, trying to get comfortable.
I stare Savage square in the eyes. “Because, I reminded her of my father. I was actually a cute kid with all of those curly blonde corkscrew curls,” I say, running my fingers through phantom curls, “blue eyes and a little button nose. How could anyone resist?”
Savage smiles, nodding. “But you said she loved your father passionately.”
“And therein lay the problem,” I say, rubbing my thumb across my index finger. “My mother was psychic so it should have been obvious what was going on.”
“Excuse me, Charley, but what do you mean psychic?”
“She was able to speak to the dead, or rather, they spoke to her.”
Savage inclines toward me.
“It was a curse and the reason she focused so hard on her music.”
“So that she couldn’t speak to the dead?”
I nod. “Again, only the dead were able to contact her and since Doc wasn’t dead — well, not exactly — ”
Dr. Savage eases back in his chair. “Go on.”
“It’s obvious I stirred something in her. Something unnatural,” I say peering at him, “Don’t you see, Doctor?”
Savage’s face is blank. Oh, do I really have to draw this head doctor a picture? I feel a hangnail, look at it, and then bring my finger to my lips. “And I’m not talking your classic Oedipus complex here,” I say, chewing off the dangling piece of dead skin, spitting it off to the side of me.
“Classic,” Savage says, “would be you wanting to replace your father so you could be with your mother.”
“Oh, no. That’s just sick. Besides George was the one who wanted Phoebe.”
“So you never wanted George around.”
“Not me. Doc was the one who didn’t want him around.”
I stand, but before I can answer, Doc has latched himself onto my throat like a boat barnacle. He’s just getting ready to speak in that arrogant, smug way of his, as if he’s part of French royalty. I wrap my arms behind my back and walk toward the window and then in his stentorian voice, he speaks through me. I turn around.
“I couldn’t bear to witness George hanging around Phoebe and Charley,” Doc says. “He lived the life I should have had. I wanted him to keep his bloody hands off her.”
Pointing a finger, I turn to face Dr. Savage who has opened his mouth to speak, but then his eyes narrow as he cocks his head. “Is he talking now?”
“Well, I wanted George,” I say defensively, hands on hips, interrupting both Savage and Doc. “He was the only father I ever knew. He took me fishing and showed me how to ride a bike.”
“I see,” Dr. Savage says. But I’m not sure he did.
“I should have been the one to do those things with you,” Doc booms.
“Cut the sentimental crap, Doc,” I say.
Savage’s eyes widened.
“Oh, no. Not you, Doctor Savage.” I hold up a hand, chuckling as I point to my temple.
Savage merely shakes his head. I realize Doc won’t let me have the stage anymore.
“Say, this has all been swell,” I sink into the sofa, “but really I’m beat. You know, it takes a lot out of you to be born. It’s not just tough on the mother, but birth is hard work for the kiddo too, after all.”
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Ruthie Marlenée is a California native living in Los Angeles with her husband. She is blessed to have her children and grandchildren nearby.
A James Kirkwood Literary Award nominee, she also earned her Writer's Certificate “With Distinction” from UCLA. She is the author of several novels: “Isabela's Island,” “Agave Blues,” and is currently working on the sequel to “Curse of the Ninth.” Marlenée is a ghostwriter, screenwriter, novelist and a poet whose work can be found in several literary publications.
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