Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes(2)

By: Denise Grover Swank


But in my twenty-four years, I’d never had a vision about me, so seeing myself dead was quite the shock. I scrunched my eyes, trying to remember what I’d seen. I was leaning back on Momma’s sofa. Blood spread out behind my head, blending with the pink cabbage roses and seeping into the ivory background. My open eyes had a dull, glazed stare. All I could think was how angry Momma was going to be about all that blood on her favorite sofa. I didn’t think there was enough hydrogen peroxide in the entire state of Arkansas to get out that stain.

“Rose!”

My eyes flew open. A crowd of people had gathered around, watching to see if I’d pass out again. After I considered Momma’s impending outrage, it was a definite possibility.

“I’m…I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened.” I said between gasps of air. My eyes glanced to Mr. Crocker, who crept backward with a look of annoyance.

“I’ll tell you what happened,” said Suzanne, who worked at the counter next to mine. “She was processing that license renewal and the next thing I know she mumbled ‘You’re’ and then her head fell forward and whacked the counter.” Suzanne’s favorite obsession was herself so it amazed me that she had caught that much. But then again, she didn’t much like me so my guess was that she welcomed the opportunity to gather more ammunition. She leaned back in her chair, arms crossed in front of the cleavage bursting out of her low-cut blouse. She tilted her head and her mouth lifted into a mocking half-smile.

“I just felt a little dizzy, that’s all. I’ll be fine.” I tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear with a shaky hand.

“Oh, no. No way. You might think you’ll be fine, but you just fainted. You sit there for a minute and then you’re goin’ home.” Betty’s voice was as large as her oversized body. Every person in the room heard her proclamation.

“Seriously?” Suzanne asked, sounding like a toddler on the verge of a fit. “I asked you four times already if I could leave early to get a head start on my weekend and you said no. All Freaky Rose has to do is beat her head on her desk and she gets to go? That hardly seems fair.”

Betty put her hand on her hip and narrowed her eyes. “Suzanne,” she drew her name out slowly as if she were talking to a small child. “Rose never calls in sick and hardly ever takes a day off. You, on the other hand, call in all the time and have used all your vacation days. But next time you wanna leave early, I’ll let you go. As long as you beat your head on your desk first.”

“Yeah, well, the only reason she never takes time off is because she doesn’t have a life.” Suzanne eyed me as if I were a cockroach about to scurry across the floor.

Betty scowled then surveyed the room, taking in the gawkers lined up against the counter. “All right, show’s over, folks. Y’all get back in your seat unless your number’s been called.”

The crowd broke up, people grumbling and whispering. No sane person balked at Betty’s orders, not even the fuming Suzanne. Her eyes shot flaming arrows of hate toward me as she fluffed her bleached blonde hair.

Suzanne leaned toward me and hissed. “Don’t think I’m not on to you, Miss Goody-Two-Shoes.”

I turned toward her in surprise. I had no idea what she meant. But then again, I suspected she didn’t either. My clammy palm rested on Mr. Crocker’s paperwork, reminding me I hadn’t finished processing it. But as my head swiveled around and searched the room, I saw he was gone.

I couldn’t understand that. Why would he just abandon his personal papers?

I sat at my desk trying to slow my galloping heart and glanced down at the paperwork. His first name was Daniel and he lived on Highway 82. I tried to memorize the address, knowing that if I wrote it down, Suzanne would catch me and make a big deal about it. I told myself I was crazy, or paranoid. Or both. My demon possession had branched out into new areas.

I grabbed my purse and headed out. I pushed open the heavy metal door, searching for Mr. Crocker before I entered the humid parking lot. Nothing. I shook my head at my over-active imagination. Seriously, Rose. My visions didn’t always come true and this one seemed too preposterous to consider. The logical explanation to his leaving was that I freaked him out. Just like I freaked out everyone else in Henryetta.

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