Flash: Song for Rosalynn

Image from Habitat for Humanity

I hate my life.

Waking in the middle of the night humming means someone is going to die. The worst thing is they aren’t dying right now, which means the song is stuck in my head and it is the worst. I mean the song itself isn’t bad, majestic yet homey and full of laughter and loyalty, but it has this annoying jingle theme mixed in that is just addictive. It’s not time to sing it yet, but it’s eating at me and I didn’t get a lick more sleep after it woke me at two am.

I made my way to the office coffee for the third time this morning.

“Hey Sullivan, you are a banshee, who’s dying?”

“Huh?” I grunt setting back the coffee pot onto the counter after pouring out the little skim at the bottom. Someone before me had made very sure to leave just enough in the pot they weren’t the ones needing to make the next one.


I slug back the charred liquid in the hopes it would wake me up enough to make more.

“Dying … as in about to end?” Chad Parfait from claims leans against the counter. “Who is about to go to the big party in the sky?”

“Wouldn’t know.” I mumble after dumping out the filter and spent grounds. Looking inside the holder for the filter, I see spludge clinging to the sides but don’t have the energy to walk all the way to the bathroom to rinse it out. I drop the next filter in the basket and pull the coffee canister to me.

“Oh, come on.” He pours on the charm. Really, he should be in sales instead of claims the way he can just turn it on. “It’s not like it is a big secret. It’s all over the news, banshees everywhere are humming. Something big is about to go down.”

“Not my Composer, not my song.” I lpull the canister lid off.

Fuck, just enough inside to not quite fill the scoop.

I kneel down and open the cabinet under the coffee station.

“Fine, be that way.” He huffs, waving his fingers around. “You banshees always got to be all spooky mysterious.”

When we aren’t wailing on walls at the top of our lung, sure.

Coffee! I pull the new yellow plastic jug out and hug it to me, standing.

I empty the old container, then dumped that betrayer in the trash can on top of the grounds, and then add the prescribed additional scoops from the new one and set the brew going. I ignore everyone else approaching, staring at the whining machine like a kid focused on an ice cream cone. They, unlike Chad, respect the space of an addict and her addiction. As soon as the wake-up nectar starts flowing, I pull out the pot and place my mug underneath.

Once full, I switch the two containers back judiciously so none of the go-juice splashes out.

On normal days I would add enough sugar to qualify for diabetes, but this Friday is a black-black-black Anish-Kapoor-isn’t-allowed-to-buy-it-black day. No additives needed.


The Underwriting vice president pulls me into her office after lunch, officially checking to see how I’m doing now that I just passed my three-month probationary mark. A banshee herself, she was touching base with all the wailers in the department. I had noticed her asking each of us to report to the office. I’m number three and the last one.

Don’t ask me why insurance companies like us banshees in the life insurance underwriting business. It’s not like we know a person’s death date unless they are in our Composer line. Yes, meeting a person who will die within the day usually sets off a tune, but that isn’t useful in modern insurance with computers creating a barrier between us and the person we are evaluating. Still, somehow, we have the reputation of precognitive ability outside of our very limited real abilities. (If we actually had solid precog, do you think any of us would be working with the lottery available?)

Admittedly, the actuaries have run the numbers and we are 2% more accurate than average humans, enough to be statistically significant, but not really a big thing. But when one talks about insurance companies, 2% adds up over time and they snap us up like candy.

I’m not going to turn down a guaranteed job and went the easy route in community college, picking the courses needed to land me an insurance career.

Dr. Foster is humming that dang jingle theme under her breath when I enter. I still haven’t placed it, though it seems familiar.

“I give up, what is that song?” I say after closing the door, hoping I’m not out-of-line with my guess that this is an older banshee checking in on a young one, not a VP touching base with a recent hire.

The manager waves to the chairs in front of her desk. “Oh, an old commercial. Kids back in the day would make fun of presidents, back before … sorry, no politics. Anyway, all fun and games. How are you holding up?”

“Not my first rodeo.” I shift, getting comfortable in the chair.

Her face firms, slightly sour and in control. I imagine it is how my grandmother would have looked if she had been able to keep ahold of her sanity as long as Dr. Foster has. Late fifties is an accomplishment and I really would like to learn how she did it. I should be listening to her instead of acting strong. “But waking up in the middle of the night is rough.”

“Isn’t it though?” Her black eyes soften, lines crinkling at the edges. “I’m used to it as an old woman. The bladder doesn’t hold it well anymore, but a midnight song is never easy. Did you talk to anyone about it?”

“Umm, no.” My fingers twist in my lap. “I know that the counselors recommend talking it out, but I don’t have any roommates. I just moved here for the job.”

“No boyfriends, girlfriends?”

I shake my head.

“Could you call your parents? Your mom likely would have been up with this one.”

“Dad is the line and so it skipped a generation.” I shrug. “And it was 2 am.”

She didn’t ask about the previous generation, grandma. Banshees rarely live long.

The VP taps a beautiful blue and white decorated almond shaped nail against her wooden desk. “You need to get someone. A banshee buddy or other supernatural, even a human … boyfriend?” The last word raising in a question.

I nod. “Guilty, straight as an arrow.”

“No shame in that.” Dr. Foster smiles at me. “We got enough to deal with, adding anything out of the ordinary just makes life exhausting.” She should know, being the only black VP in the company, and the only woman VP, though the female thing is fairly common in life insurance underwriting departments. Banshees getting special attention and all that.

I mean, look at me, three months in and getting a one-on-one with the Vice President of my department, skipping right over my supervisor. I know Kelly is Dr. Foster’s special choice to replace her when she retires, but if I do things right, and don’t go mad before Kelly takes the seat, I could be Kelly’s protegee.

“I’ll think about it. Do you think one of the other banshees here could buddy with me?”

“Sadly, all of them are in committed relationships and depend on that person for their support system. Besides, it’s usually better when it is someone other than another banshee, that is only a last resort.” She rotates her chair sideways and stands. I stand with her. “When it is two banshees, they end up talking over each other when they get the same song, instead of listening.” Dr. Foster places her hand on the doorknob of her office door. “Better to find someone else, but if you can’t link up with the Banshee Wall. A great community, you can get some really helpful hints there.”

She opens the door. “Keep up the good work and welcome to the team.”

“Thank you, I really am enjoying working for Jackson and Prior.”


Mr. Lincoln, my direct supervisor, gave me a delivery to take up to the fifth floor soon after my meeting with the VP. Nothing really out of the ordinary. The owners of the company are vampires and prefer to do things the paper way. Usually Mr. Lincoln delivers the end-of-week report for our group upstairs after emailing Dr. Foster her copy, but he wanted to serendipitously find out what happened behind closed doors.

I lied, saying she was just welcoming me to the team, and he lied saying how he loved how our department is a family and Dr. Foster inspires him with her teambuilding. He really is a good manager, but the glass ceiling in underwriting clearly makes him bitter. Mr. Lincoln should transfer to a different department if he couldn’t handle banshees jumping past him in the hierarchy.

Women have to deal with it everywhere else. Suffer.

The Chorus hit while I was upstairs.

Normally I already be in the bathroom hoping no one needed a big shit until the song completed, but company policy allowed us to take over any conference room, as they all had soundproofing, even shutting down a meeting if needed and kicking everyone out when a wail takes over. I manage to shove open the door to the executive meeting room, Crone-blessed empty at fifteen of five on a Friday, before the opening notes hit.

The room is amazing. As an insurance company we have pretty nice things, but top floor rooms take it to the next level. Brown carpet soft under the feet, unmarred wood table with an audio call-station in the center and room for eight large ergonomic chairs around it. Wood paneling instead of obvious acoustic tiles. No beat-up chairs line the wall, like they do in underwriting for when we had to get everyone in the room. I cross to the window overlooking the city as the evening lights start to flicker on under the setting November sun. Lugh was showing off with a display of red, orange, and yellow.

Tapping the glass, I confirmed the sound of shatterproof, bulletproof material. I can blow out my lungs, and the glass wouldn’t end up on the street five stories below.

Music flows, filling the large space. I can hear my sisters sing of hope and love. Determination. The woman we sing of isn’t dead yet, but her final coda has started. Two days and our predictions will become reality and the rest of America will mourn with us.

May your melody be heard and your memory bless those that know you Rosalynn Carter. You did amazing things.

Sometimes I love my life.

(words 1,818; first published 11/26/2023)

Ymir’s Songs series

  1. Fifteen Minutes (10/09/2022)
  2. Song for Rosalyn (11/26/2023)

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