Rumor has it, the story
went like this...
back in the '60s, baby Isaac
had just turned three,
waving the classified section
of a discarded newspaper
like a flag, but giggling
way too close to the heater.
That's all it takes
to turn ordinary days into tragedy.
Heater met paper;
paper, overheated, touched his shirt;
shirt mindlessly took in the flames
that liked his flesh, and everything
happened faster than his mother
Mamma was a teen
and can still remember
the novenas, the nurses exiting his room
with more wrinkles around the eyes.
It seemed to last forever until
doctors finally called him, the tiny body
covered in third degree burns, a miracle.
He even learned
to laugh again as family allowed
him to forget the trauma
until curiosity asked about
the wrinkled scars years later.
Little rumors and snapshots
from that phase still creep into
family stories. Like the way
my grandmother answered
the door as soon she spotted,
from the window,
a frantic mother carrying a smoldering
bundle down the road towards her.
Like the way everyone seemed
to grab rosaries at once
to quietly wait with a priest
who looked for the signal to perform
the final ritual (Sigh of relief
as he left for good).
Or--remember, rumors spread like fire--
how everyone whispered whenever
Mamma's aunt left the room, wondering if it was
true: if a cousin really did find black candles
in the aunt’s dresser drawer that same morning,
if Isaac was still an accident, and no excuse
for why he got in the way of an intended target.
(But who was supposed to get the Devil's luck?
Decades never found the truth).