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About the Banshee

Siobhan didn't much like the idea of her family's curse. She was a cosmopolitan girl at heart, after all, which is what she told her mam. She was going to uni in Dublin in the fall. It was true. And it didn't behove cosmopolitan girls to be believing in such things as family curses. Especially one as trite and overused as that of the banshee. I mean, come on now. Every family that could claim at least three generations of Irish blood had a banshee.

"Now, you oughtn't be saying such things," her mam said. She was bustling around the house in her usual fashion, trying to find the shoes for Lauren's dancing lessons or the mallets for Shawn's hurling game. There was always something lost. Her mother turned in a complete circle before she picked a direction to walk. "You never do know, do you?" she said.

"No, mom. I do know," Siobhan said. "There's no such thing as the banshee. It's just a scary story."

Her mother stopped mid-stride and put her hands on her hips. "Now why do you have to be going and saying such things? There's no point at all in tempting fate."

Siobhan picked up her emptied bowl of porridge and strode to the sink. "There's no tempting of fate, Mammy. There's nothing to be temping because there's no such thing as a banshee. And I won't be taking those nasty old shoes with me to uni."

Her mother breathed in and exhaled once. "Siobhan Elanor Quinn, you will do as you're told and you'll be grateful we're sending you across the country for your schooling at all." And that was the end of it. Her mother had used her middle name and there'd be no arguing with her now.

"But I don't want to take the family shoes with me," Siobhan complained to Maggie while they walked to school. "They're old and they smell foul."

"I honestly don't see why it's such a problem," Maggie said. "All you have to do is never unpack them from your luggage in the first place. No one will ever know."

"But I will know," Siobhan said. She waved at Mr. Duffy who was out in his field, trying to train the new border collie puppies. The older dog swiveled and turned at his whistles and heys while the puppies followed their mother caddywampus.

"I will know, Maggie. This is supposed to be my fresh start. Away from Kenmare. In the big city."

"Yeah, it's only Dublin," Maggie said. "Don't go losing your head there."

Siobhan kicked a rock down the path. "Yeah, but I'm thinking people in Dublin aren't believing in banshees. I mean, it's the 21st Century, you know."

"It's not a bad thing to keep the stories, isn't it?"

"Keep the stories, sure," Siobhan said. "But to take the seriously. To be hanging on to your great-great-grandfather's old pair of boots because the family thinks parting with them will bring the banshee straight on to us. Really?"

Maggie moved her shoulders up and down. "There's no harm in it from what I can tell."

But Siobhan was still cross about it all day and she was cross about it that evening as they were studying in the library and she was cross about it even after she dropped Maggie off at her home and continued down the road to her own home. And she was cross about it as the early winter darkness fell while she was walking and the wet wind seemed to blow through her coat and into her bones.

And that's when she saw it. A ghostly white figure hovered just above the hedges. Siobhan stopped in her tracks. "No," she said. "You're not real. I've not gotten enough sleep. That's it."

Siobhan strode forward, tried to pass the hedge. But the figure hovered forward and glowed brighter. Siobhan gasped. And then came the most horrible, mournful sound from the figure's mouth that Siobhan had ever heard or would ever here since then. She staggered backwards. She cried out. And Siobhan ran all the rest of the way home.

Word came the next day that her grandmother had taken a fall. Nothing too serious, but she'd be in bed for a few weeks, for certain.

Siobhan never said anything else about the shoes. When she finally packed for uni and her mother laid the shoes out next to the luggage, Siobhan quietly packed them without argument. She never told a soul what she saw that night, but neither did she naysay about the banshee ever again.


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