The Witch of Little Italy

Suzanne Palmieri

St. Martin's Griffin

All the Amore siblings had The Sight in varying degrees, and its fickleness got us into trouble sometimes. Like the time when I was young (and still talking) and I called my friend’s husband to give my condolences about her death in a trolley crash, only my friend was still alive and the trolley wouldn’t crash until the next day.
It was hard to explain that one, and harder still to keep my friend off the trolley the following day even though I knew her life was at stake. Regular people have such a hard time listening to the low hum of instinct. Don’t get me wrong, I tire of the magic now that I’m old. But still, if I’d had it all to do over, I’d choose magic ways. Especially now, when another, more precious life is at stake.
She’s coming back now, the girl. She’s coming back and bringing my memories with her. Maybe she won’t remember anything. Dear God, don’t let her remember. If she remembers, she’ll land straight back in harm’s way. If she remembers, my promise will be broken. And that’d be too bad because it’s one of my best skills, promise keeping. And secret keeping. And cartwheels, too.
I used to be able to do cartwheels. When we were little, my sisters couldn’t but I could. I can still feel how the air shifted as I kicked over my head and moved my hands. I liked to do things upside down. It bothered Mama. “All the blood will rush to your head!” she would yell. Not to mention Papa and my skirts. “Cover yourself, child! If I can see your bloomers so can the whole block!”
I cartwheeled through my childhood. We weren’t poor, but we lived close together. We all lived here on 170th Street in the Bronx for the better portion of our lives. Mama and Papa bought the building when they married. Well, Papa won it. In a fight. They used to fight for money in the streets back then, and one day the wager was a building, and practical Papa, who’d never fought a day in his life, took off his shirt and threw it into the ring.
When we were very young, in those strange, magnificent years between World War I and World War II, we all lived in apartment 1A. Ten people and two bedrooms. Those were the days. Mama was the magic one. She gave us her abilities to see the future, to grow herbs and flowers that held all sorts of possible magical preparations, but the most important thing she gave us was the gift of each other.
But we’re old now, Mimi and Fee and me. We’re all that remain of the Amore children. Three children left out of eight, each of us carrying the burden of that day in our own way. And as we grow ever older, The Sight grows stronger.
On a cold, dark December night, we woke with the same dream and sat around the kitchen table looking into a bowl full of water. Our old lady hair pinned back, my knobby fingers scribbling on my pad with the pen that’s always fastened to my chest.
She’s coming, I wrote.
“She’s coming,” said Mimi.
“On Christmas?” asked Fee.
“Maybe…” said Mimi.
She’s coming. I underlined the words on my pad twice, for emphasis.
Mimi was afraid to believe, afraid to get excited. Her girls so rarely came to see us. But our Sight is strong. It grew as we grew. She should know better than to doubt it.
The Sight helped us through our darkest days, and our magic gardens made our lives wild like rambling roses. But our roses had thorns. Thorns sharper than those who live without magic could ever fathom. Like how Mama knew, even before the fortune-teller told her, that 1945 would be a very, very bad year for the Amores.
In the end, no amount of Sight could prepare us for the trouble that arrived. And those of us who were left carried the burden of “The Day the Amores Died” in our own way. We suffered our own tragedies and kept our own secrets. Secrets that scattered pieces of us into the winds for the sparrows to collect and keep, until the day the girl returned.

Copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Palmieri