Son of Rosemary

By: Ira Levin

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


I’m grateful to Alan Ladd Jr and Andrew Wald for getting me off the couch and over to the computer, and to the following people for advice, patience, and friendship, at least two out of three in each instance: Adam and Tara Levin-Delson, Jed and Suzanne Levin, Nicholas Levin, Phyllis Westberg, Michaela Hamilton, Howard Rosenstone, Wendy Schmalz, Patricia Powell, Herbert E. Kaplan, Peter L. Felcher, Julius Medwin, and Ellie and Joe Busman.

Roast Mules was laid upon me at a wedding seven years ago by a man I know only as the father of the actress Bebe Neuwirth. I cursed him for a long time – mildly, because of that daughter – but now I’m grateful to him too. The solution to the puzzle is honest and pleasing. Save your postage.

I.L.





‘The Bible makes it abundantly clear that Satan is real, and that he is very powerful. He is not a myth, nor is he just a projection of our minds as we attempt to explain the mysteries of evil. He is a malevolent spiritual power whose sole goal is to oppose the work of God.’

BILLY GRAHAM

Newsweek, 13 November, 1995

There may be trouble ahead,

But while there’s moonlight and music

And love and romance

Let’s face the music and dance.

Before the fiddlers have fled,

Before they ask us to pay the bill

And while we still have the chance –

Let’s face the music and dance.

IRVING BERLIN

‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’

Follow the Fleet, 1936





PART ONE





ONE


In Manhattan, on the crisp, clear morning of Tuesday, 9 November 1999, Dr Stanley Shand, a retired dentist, twice divorced, leaves his apartment on Amsterdam Avenue for his daily constitutional. Though eighty-nine he walks vigorously, his plaid-capped head erect, his eyes bright. He is buoyed both by good health and a secret, a glorious secret that warms his every waking moment. He has been a participant – indeed, has recently become the last living participant – in a cosmic event thirty-three years in the making that is now within two months of its ultimate fruition.

At Broadway and 74th Street an out-of-control taxi shoots across the sidewalk and squashes Dr Shand against the wall of the Beacon Theater. He dies instantly.

In that same instant – a few seconds after 11.03 a.m. – in the Halsey-Bodein Nursing Home in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, the eyes of the patient in Room 215 open. They have been closed all the years the woman has been at H-B – since nineteen-seventy-something, as long as anyone there can remember.

A wizened black nurse massaging the woman’s right arm shows extraordinary presence of mind. She gulps, draws breath, and goes on massaging. ‘Hi, baby,’ she says softly. ‘Nice to have you with us.’ The nameplate on her uniform reads CLARISE; above it hangs an I ♥ ANDY button. Freeing a hand, she gropes for the night-stand, jabs a push button.

The patient’s eyes, staring upward, blink. Her lips purse, shiny with salve. She’s in her fifties, pale and fine-boned. Her head, its greying auburn hair neatly brushed, rolls toward the side, her blue eyes pleading.

‘You’re going to be fine,’ Clarise tells her, jabbing the push button, jabbing again. ‘Don’t you worry, you’re getting better now.’ She lowers the woman’s arm to the bed. ‘I’m going to get the doctor,’ she says. ‘Don’t you worry. Be right back.’

The woman watches her leave.

‘TIFFANY! Take off them fuckin’ earphones! Get Atkinson! Two-fifteen opened her eyes! She’s awake! Two-fifteen’s awake!’

What in God’s name had happened?

She’d been sitting at the desk by the bedroom window, around seven in the evening, while Andy lay on the floor a few feet away watching TV. She was typing a letter home about moving to San Francisco, trying not to hear Kukla and Ollie and the damn coven chanting up a storm next door at Minnie and Roman’s – and here she was in a sunny hospital room with an IV in one arm and a nurse massaging the other. Was Andy hurt too? Oh God, please not! Had there been some kind of disaster? Why didn’t she remember anything?

She got the tip of her tongue out, licked her lips; minty ointment of some kind coated them. How long had she been asleep? A day? Two? Nothing hurt, yet she couldn’t quite move. She worked at getting her throat cleared.

The nurse hurried in. ‘Doctor’s coming,’ she said. ‘Stay cool.’

Rosemary whispered, ‘Is . . . my son here?’

‘No, just you. Talking! Praise the Lord!’ The nurse drew a sleeve down Rosemary’s arm, squeezed her hand, and moved to the foot of the bed. ‘Praise Jesus!’

Rosemary said, ‘What . . . happened?’

‘Don’t nobody know, baby. You been out like a light.’

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