While my partner is looking through his folder of clippings on religion, which he uses sometimes as material for his poems, a list of the Ninety-nine Names (or Attributes) of Allah slips out and lands on the floor.
We are sitting on the sofa, he with his back to the sun. I am staring through the window at a silvery disk on its way to vanishing, surrounded by streaky, cream-colored clouds. I pick up the list of Allah’s names and try to read it, but the sun’s after-image makes a spot in the center of each of them, a black circle with a silver halo around it that obscures the words.
My partner has by now shifted to a book. As I return the list to the file, I glimpse the headline of the yellowed newspaper article lying on top: MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF CARLOS CASTENEDA, it says. Curious, wondering how I could have forgotten Casteneda’s death, I take it out. I am no longer seeing sunspots, but when I start to read, I suddenly feel something crawling around in the area of my left earlobe. I reach a puzzled hand to my ear, where it encounters a small, hard-shelled bug.
A tick, I think in panic, though how or where I have come in contact with a tick in sub-zero January I can’t imagine. Horrified, I pull it off, and without looking at it squeeze it to death, crushing it against the Casteneda article, on which it landed. I grab a tissue from my pocket to mangle it still further and realize in the same instant that it isn’t a tick but a ladybug. A ladybug in my living room, in January! And I have killed it.
Now Casteneda’s death, or at least our personal record of it, will be even more mysterious, with an orange-red stain of crushed ladybug in the center of its headline, embellishing the word Death.
I remember with remorse three of the Names: The Compassionate One, The Merciful One, The One Who Forgives.
Claudia Morrison retired a few years ago from John Abbott College. She has authored two daughters, a novel, a short story collection, and a memoir. Her Collected Poems was recently published by Broken Rules Press.