Rosemary’s Demise

Al Billings

“She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
-From a short story by Flannery O’Connor, titled “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.”

In 2008, my wife and I had moved into an apartment in a complex in South Austin. It was a funky scene there, with lots of drinking and drugs, until the owners sprung for a rehabilitation of the entire property. The upgrade and higher rents had chased away a lot of the undesirable tenants and improved life there in many ways.

Albert and Rose lived a swimming pool’s length from us, in a small, over-stuffed apartment. They claimed to be siblings, but their was a lot of debate about the true nature of their relationship. Albert was a Chicano alcoholic Vietnam vet living on disability benefits, and Rosemary, claiming blindness, tapped around the complex with a white cane. I never believed she was blind; she could spot a penny lying in the middle of South Congress Avenue. She cooed and clucked with little children, swam in the pool with them, and dispensed biblical quotations, but my bullshit detector went into overdrive whenever she came near me, and I’d heard the both of them many times raging drunk, spewing profanity and slamming doors.

Albert was a sweet man when he was sober, and a mean drunk once he’d got a snootful of liquor in him, and when some younger guys gave him grief one night, he pulled out a Colt .45 automatic pistol and began waving it at the hapless kids who’d somehow irritated him. Once the word got out to the management, it was only a matter of letting time take its course until they received an eviction notice pinned to their door.

They attended a party one night, at a house a half-mile away from our complex. Somehow, they got separated and Rose left with a young Chicano ex-con who turned out to be a homicidal maniac freshly released from prison. He hauled Rose out into the woods, raped her and beat her so thoroughly that the coroner couldn’t decide if she was white, black or brown. I remember walking up to the corner convenience store and spotting the corpse lying on the sidewalk, wrapped in a black plastic tarp and strapped to a gurney.

I wondered then if Rosemary had run her mouth in front of that insane man, two vicious humans cut from the same cloth, meeting each other’s match in the cedar-clotted overgrowth where the killer must have taken her life, her cane lying on the ground next to her, and Albert wandering the streets in search of her, no doubt wishing he’d kept a closer eye on her, but the horror was real, and so was Albert’s pain and confusion when I ran into him a few days later, carrying a six-pack of cheap beer, marching slowly down the street to the new apartment they’d shared, alone now, missing Rose.

October 9, 2013 8:01 pm

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