Rosie O'Dell

Rosie O'Dell by Bill Rowe Read Free Book Online

Book: Rosie O'Dell by Bill Rowe Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bill Rowe
“Thank you for coming back, Tom,” she said, giving me a brief hug.
     “Auntie Gladys said you told them you were returning all the way from
     Twillingate when you heard. That was very kind of you.”
    I meant to say something like, “I wanted to stay with you and help you get
     through your grief as a friend.” What came out was, “That’s okay.”
    Rosie took me by the hand as I’d often seen her do with one of her girlfriends,
     and spoke at the living room door: “Tom and I are going up to my room, Mom. Let
     me know if you need me.”
    The last time she had told her mother, a couple of years before, that we were
     going up to her room to play, Auntie Nina had said, “All right, but nofighting please,” and Pagan had squealed, “It’s my room too,
     Mommy, and don’t let them touch any of my stuff,” both entreaties proving
     futile when Pagan’s teddy bear, employed as a bludgeon, had a leg torn off
     during the ensuing brawl. This time, though, Nina only mewled something
     unintelligible and Pagan said nothing.
    Upstairs in the shared room, Rosie lay on one of the twin beds and I sat on a
     chair at one of the two desks. She turned over on her side to face me. “The
     police asked me what happened,” she said, “and I told them as much as I knew,
     and they were like, ‘How much by way of spirits, wine, or beer would you
     estimate the men drank during the evening preceding the alleged accident?’ or,
     ‘Did you observe any hostility among the men? You know, arguing or fighting?’ I
     told them I know what ‘hostility’ means, thank you very much. I shouldn’t have
     been like that because they had their job to do. I told them the facts but I
     couldn’t tell them the really awful part. I wouldn’t even be able to tell Mom
     that. Oh God. Is it all right if I tell you, Tom?” She looked straight at me,
     her eyes unwavering as usual, but moist and sad, and a novel sensation flowed
     down my neck and shoulders into my arms and hands that made me desire to enfold
     her and protect her against the whole world.
    “Yes, if you want to, Rosie.”
    “I really do, Tom.” She rolled over on her back and looked up at the ceiling.
     “It was our third night camping on the river. We were around the campfire for a
     while after supper. Daddy and Steve and Derek, that’s his two friends from the
     canoeing club, were drinking whisky and telling yarns— it was really
     interesting—but then at dusk the blackflies got too bad, so we went in our
     tents, Daddy and me in ours and the other two in theirs. I was in my sleeping
     bag reading and Daddy was in his, writing in his notebook—‘old foul sheets, ’ he
     called his notebook. Then he closed it up and said, ‘Just listen to that
     torrent.’ Our tents were pitched pretty close to the edge of the bank so that we
     could hear the river all night long. Then he asked me if I was ready to go to
     sleep. We were going to get up at dawn the next morning. I said yes and he
     reached for the lamp. Just before he turned it out he looked down at me and
     said, ‘All the awards I’ve received for my poetry are but piffling baubles given
     out for mediocrity, Rosie. For I know in my soul that I have only reached the
     foothills yet of my true poetic summit and in the years ahead before I die I
     will scale the crest of that glorious far-off bardic peak.’ In the lamplight,
     Tom, I could see my father’s total genius shining in his eyes. Then he kissed me
     here on the forehead andturned out the lamp. ‘Good night, my
     muse, the inspiration of my life, ’ he said. ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’”
     Rosie turned over on her side away from me with a groan, “Oh God,” and brought
     her knees up to her chest.
    She stayed silent and I was about to ask her if she had a pain somewhere when
     she rolled over on her back again and went on: “In the middle of the night,
     something woke me up in the dark. I said, ‘Dad?’ and he said, ‘Sorry

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