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Curse of the Virgin
by Richard Sensenbrenner

She falls onto my lap from a secondhand book.  She has a look a bit putout about the whole thing, but wouldn’t complain.  She is a vision in red, white, and blue, standing palms out, her halo unwilling to be upstaged.  That hooded cape is a light blue and the perfectly pleated tunic a plain, unblemished white.  What really sticks out, perhaps literally, is the goose-blood-red-heart.  There is no room for lungs, I think, while looking at that huge heart with its own halo.  She is anatomically incorrect.  I turn her over and the back reads, In memory of Doris- and then some Polish name requiring time for dissection, followed by an invocation to God.

These holy cards are a flat commemorative.  My mind instantly draws the correlation with baseball cards, old women gathering together to trade a Gladys for an Ethel.  Sandwiched in Plexiglas is the rare Francine, whose wake took place during a blizzard.

I turn her back over.  She looks like Donna Reed, not a bad thing at all, not very authentic.  I move to throw her in the wastepaper basket but I can’t for some reason.  The card sticks in my opposing digits.  I can’t discard the Blessed Virgin and Doris What’s-her-name-ski.  I am a Catholic, for Christ’s sake.

It’s only paper.  What if I wrote both their names on a piece of paper, crumpled it up and tossed it?  I get out a piece of paper, fumble around for a pen, write their names, and now I have two of them.

Reading my book for pages, I ignore them both and wonder why this stuff always happens to me.  It’s not like they take up a whole lot of space.  I can put her with my own collection of dead relatives, maybe.  Can I take a total stranger, like Doris and include her with my relations?

My wandering eyes conveniently notice a library book on the other side of the room.  I’ll institutionalize her, put her between the pages, deposit her in the drop box, and run like hell.  It’s a government problem.

But now Donna Reed, in her prelude to a habit, looks me in the eye.  What if the next person crumples Doris into a ball and tosses her with the eggshells, or coffee grounds?

I introduce Doris to my dead relatives and she now resides with them in the very top drawer of my dresser, along with a tangle of rosaries and chainless medals.