The Fall of ’41

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…. Your kingdom hath come, uh, thy will be done, on earth / There is…is, heaven. Give us… today, some…bread?”

“Close enough. I think we can go deeper. But fast before the val wears off. Rose, try not to struggle so much. Can you count backward for me now, sweetheart? … Jeez, it’s like cutting through butter.”


The fall air. Crisp and acrid. Much different from the fog of England but still just as cold. I hope to find warmth inside the family home as I am guided up the steps. I mean sure, I will have to listen to Father go on and on about Johnny’s new political affairs and how well all of the family is doing at sports and in the academic field. It doesn’t matter that I’ve impressed kings and the Roosevelts. Or that I’m regarded as an expert on social issues, or even that the local paper called me “a picturesque young woman” after my participation in a community event. Ugh. In truth, I know the only warmth I’ll be receiving tonight is from my mother. With our similar gleaming smiles and her constant encouragement. She seems to be the only one in the family who really sees me.

“Rosie, darling, look out for the—hey, get away from–”

Two large men descend upon me from the top of the garden steps. The family home is visible but no one seems to be coming to our rescue.  My associates are brushed aside by the two burly men in their spruced white outfits. They grab both my arms as I twist and struggle to break free.

“Stop this! Let go of me! Don’t you know who I am? My father will hear about this.”

I scream and scratch but the men are unfazed. I weight nothing to them.  I’m a feather floating through the air. Being pulled away from my family.  Mother, Father—why didn’t Mother come for me? Or anyone else? I scream again. Loud and piercing. It finally makes one of the men turn and look at me.

“Ma’am. Stop making a scene. We’re just going for a visit to the doctor’s, and when it’s done, we’ll bring you back here and you’ll be all better.”

“Joseph, Rosie’s never been this late, I hope she’s alright.”

“She’s fine. It’s probably just another one of her little acts. Rosemary’s been like this since she returned from England. That girl, such a disappointment. All that money lost on schools and treatments for what? She’s never going to live up to the family name, not like John. All the outbursts and embarrassment, I can barely be seen with her. I will not have my name attached to a failure.”

“Joseph, that’s your daughter, how can you be this way?”

“I’m not doing anything that isn’t in the best interest of our family. That’s what’s important, especially with the aspirations this family is striving for. And if everything goes well, of course Rosemary will be welcomed with open arms, but I can’t have her behaviors stand in the way of this family anymore.”

“Doing? Doing what, Joseph? Answer me, please.”

I want to scream but my mouth is cottony.  I can’t move my arms or legs. Every time I try, the leather straps cut into my flesh. Another man in a white outfit steps out of the shadows. He’s holding a large metal implement, it looks almost like a gun but it keeps whirring. That terrifying sound.

“Patient’s awake. That means we can begin.  Oh sweetheart, don’t look so scared. We’re here to make you all better.”

“Who…” It hurts to talk. Like I’m doing it for the first time. “Who—gave, you can’t do this. I am an adult and a [REDACTED]! You can’t do this to me! My father will hear about this and he will bury all of you! You people need to let me go and stay away from me.” I struggle against the restraints again but no one sets me loose. “Are you listening to me? Check my ID, my papers, I’m telling the truth and you’ll be sorry!”

“Sweetheart, you need to calm down and do exactly as I say. This is some delicate work that we’re about to be getting into here and the only thing I want to hear out of that cute mouth of yours are the answers to the questions I’ll be asking, okay?”

“No! No no no. I have rights! You can’t do this to me!”

“Darling, you have to stop struggling. It’s really important that you settle down, and put on your listening ears, okay? If it makes you feel any better then once again, this very delicate procedure we’re about to do was ordered by Joseph [REDACTED] Sr. Now just breathe, relax and if you can, say the pledge for me, sweetie.”

“What do you mean, complications? I was assured that this procedure would be effective. I paid a lot of good money to you butchers to fix the girl and now you’re telling me there are ‘complications’? How bad is it? Uh huh. I see. No, no. You can’t bring her back here, ever. Of course I want you to keep it quiet. What? Extra! How dare–”

“Joseph, are you using the phone? I want to call again about Rosie.”

“I have to go. Yes, fine, you’ll get the money.” The phone clicks back into its cradle.

“Mary! I’m off the phone but you need to come in here, I have to tell you something.”

Beyond the garden wall of a well-known mansion, carried on a gentle east coast breeze, a heartbreaking echo runs through the leaves of thick birch. It is the sound of one falling to their knees, a mother’s heart crushed. It rings out, heading toward the dark quarters that now hold a girl trapped in the body of a betrayed young woman. Neither will be able to comprehend the lonely shadows on the horizon, but especially the girl, who will face almost forty years of incomparable misery all because of the name she was born with.