The Rosary (a short story)

The Rosary

Nan woke up startled again. She had had the same dream all over; in it, a dead woman asked her to please pray a rosary to help her rest in peace. Nan had not been resting for almost a month now and she felt like stabbing herself in the eyes. She could only imagine how much more dreadful it must feel not to be able to rest for eternity.


She consulted with Juliana, a rezandera; asked her if she could pray for the rest of that poor soul. Juliana told Nan that maybe this dead woman had seen her praying and liked her way; that it had to be her. She suggested that she should ask the dead woman her name, go to the cross of forgiveness in the local cemetery, and pray there.

The next time the dead woman appeared in Nan’s dream she asked what her name was. The dead woman gave Nan her name and the dream was vivid enough for her to remember every detail in the morning.

It took Nan a whole day to gather courage. She asked her neighbor Luisa to accompany her to the cemetery (she decided to omit any details). She picked up some flowers from her garden, took a container with water, a piece of cloth, and off they went.

At the Cruz del Perdón, Nan pulled out her rosary and started to pray; Luisa stood next to her looking around nervously. Luisa had been to the cemetery with Nan before, but they usually visited the same muertos. The Cross of Forgiveness was rarely visited by anyone, except by those praying for penitent souls, whose graves had been lost, their bodies never buried, or their deaths had been too unholy to deserve resting on holy ground.

In the distance a strange old woman with gray disheveled haired looked at them. When they were done, the strange woman crouched, picked up a dried calla lily and waived.

Nan wondered if Luisa had seen what she had seen. She blamed her old tired eyes for her impossibility to discern whether this strange woman’s feet were touching the ground.

“Can we go home now?” Luisa asked.
“Did you see her?” Nan asked.
“Of course, I saw her,” Luisa said.
“I have to do something first,” Nan said.
“I’ll wait outside,” Luisa replied.
“Ok. I’ll be ok.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I will.”

Nan zig-zagged her way across the irregularly distributed graves up to the place where the strange woman was. She had vanished. The grave was unmarked. She grabbed a rock and wrote on it the name she got in her dream and left the flowers she had brought, thus replacing the indigent callas that lay spread around, probably thrown there from another grave or dragged down by the wind.

“We can go now,” Nan said to her friend.
“Don’t you ever do this to me. This is the last time I come here,” Luisa managed to say grinding her teeth.
“Don’t be mad. We did a good thing today. A very good thing. Someone will rest today for a change.”
“I know it won’t be me,” Luisa said, visibly upset. “You can bet I won’t sleep today.”
“You will. Don’t worry; you will,” Nan answered matter-of-factly.


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