Stories

Forever

As soon as I get home I run to Mom’s room. She’s been ill lately; in the last week she’s shed almost twenty-five pounds. Regardless of that she refuses to let me take her to the doctor; she has a lot more stubborn than her 45 years would imply.

“How are you feeling, Mom?”

“Pretty good for my age.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Can you help me into my chair, dear? I have a story to tell you.”

I help her up and into the chair that looks out over the city. We’ve lived here since I was a baby and the view of New York has never lost its beauty.

Once she’s settled, she looks at me with a deeply serious expression.

“You know how it’s always been just the two of us, Winnie? Well, it’s time to tell you about our family.”

“I thought you said you’d left them.”

“I did, when you were just a little baby. Unwed mothers weren’t exactly popular then.”

“In 1992? Come on, Mom, I know it was work…”

“No! It wasn’t 1992. It was 1808.”

“What!? Are you crazy?”

“No, and if you stop interrupting I’ll tell you. Your daddy was a medicine man. Not like that, he travelled around the country selling patent medicines. He was a smooth talker in all the right ways, and as a 22-year old spinster I was an easy target.”

“I think you’ve been watching too much History Channel, Mom.”

“Sorry dear, every word’s the truth. You’ll understand better tomorrow. Now, what I didn’t know is that he was a magician. When it became obvious I was with child, he disappeared, leaving me to live with the shame.”

“I knew Momma would be mortified, and I resolved to do something stupid. I drank three bottles of medicine that he left behind, hoping the combination would kill me. Needless to say, it didn’t.”

“What did happen?”

“I got sick; so bad that Momma and Daddy had me put away in a sanatorium. When they found out the rest of the story Daddy disowned me.”

“You were born about the time the money ran out, and I ended up in the streets. I found work as a wash-woman and raised you as best I could.”

“This is a lovely fairy tale, Mom, but how come I don’t remember any of it?”

“Shush. Leading up to my forty-sixth birthday, coincidentally your twenty-third, I got sick again. You were married then, though God hadn’t blessed you with any children, and you took care of me. On my birthday it happened.”

“What happened?”

“I died, sort of, but woke up a few minutes later as a baby.”

“That’s impossible!”

“You said that then, too. But it happened. You and William made the most of it, pretended I was yours. It worked, too. But twenty-three years later, to the day, it happened again, only this time you turned into the baby. And that’s how it’s gone these past two centuries.”

“Am I supposed to believe this?”

“Doesn’t really matter. By this time tomorrow you’ll <i>remember</i> it. You get the memories when I turn into a baby and vice versa. I guess it’s a kind of immortality, but like any good gift you have to share it.”

“So, tomorrow sometime…”

“At 9:22 a.m. I’m going to turn into a baby. You’d best skip work. And in the bedside table there’s a diary with a list of things to do so we can keep the secret…”