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The Curiosity of Viola Montego


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Ever since I was little I’ve been curious. I was the child who went to bed without supper for
uncovering my Christmas gifts in November.
Curiosity is not a good thing, though; not in my family. In my family curiosity is a blatant
disregard for the inner workings of the family business. In my family, curiosity kills.
Not to say that I should spend my days in the darkness, as a small wood mouse scavenging
through scraps, no, I should simply keep my nose where it belongs…in line with the other girls.
But, even warnings and reprimands cannot save the curious.

It was June 17, the day before my grandfather’s birthday. Our small Manhattan town house
was brimming with candles and cakes, fine wine and spirits and strung with the finest
banners in Long Island. I was eleven and convinced that I was the cleverest child on the planet.

I had set out to collect a cup of sugar from our next door neighbor. Tin cup in hand I traipsed
down the porch and tromped across the garden.

Suddenly, I heard a loud bang rack through the left side of my house. Terrified, I dropped my
tin and bolted to my grandfather’s study. Frantically, I jostled the handle on the door, but to no
avail.
Shaking with anxiety I peered through the window panes, scanning every corner of my vision.
Sadly, I could only see the dim outlines of furniture through the thick lace drapery. So, I squinted
my mousy little eyes even harder and pressed my face up against the glass.
There was no one inside.
Confused, I pried my face from the glass and tried the handle again. But, this time I shook the
metal trinket so hard that the little key hole sprang off and landed at my feet.
I threw my hand over my mouth in terror, “Grandfather would kill me! This was his favorite
room in the house and I had just poked its eyes out! (Or so it seemed to me) What was I going to
do?”
I paced over a small patch of grass and collected myself. After mere seconds my mood shifted
drastically.
“Well- maybe, I might as well…go inside…and see what happened?”
Without another moment’s hesitation, I eased the door open and slipped inside the study.
The room was lined with massive mahogany bookshelves and laden with encyclopedias and
reference books of every genre and style. The carpet was a mossy shade of green and the ceiling
was streaked with a loud splash of red. In the center of the small room sat a small rosewood desk
drenched with papers and paraphernalia.

The desk was always a mess and everything else in the room remained untouched
and neat.
But, I couldn’t have imagined a noise like that; I don’t imagine things…ever.
In the next ten minutes, I overturned every book and every paper in search of my mythical
bang. Soon, my hands were weathered with every article and entry Webster or Aristotle could
ever hope to scribble, and my palms were stained with ink and bold face letters.
Eventually, I collapsed onto my grandfather’s chair and threw my arms over the sides. Slowly
and steadily, exhaustion took over and I sunk farther into the cushion.
A sharp pain jabbed my lower thigh and I let out a small yelp.
I drew up from the chair and dug into the crevice of the cushion, searching for whatever it was
that had hurt me. Suddenly, my fingers brushed against the smooth leather spine of a
notebook.
It was small, about the size of a planner or pocketbook. The leather was a deadly shade of red,
almost malignant looking, and appeared to scream at me as I opened to the first page.
Written in thick, scrawled black ink were the words, “Montego Family,”
There was no owner’s address, or personal insignia, just those two words, stretched like a
curse over the gold embossed lines.
I flipped through the pages seeing nothing but single, nonsensical names and dates repeated
endlessly across seventy pages. I thought it curious, but nothing threatening.

Finally, the book fell open with a flop to a bookmarked page. A single caramel colored ribbon
was stuck between two severely yellowed and well loved pages.

I cocked my head and whispered it aloud to myself, “Arigassi Family noon 6/20.”

Arigassi? That name was so familiar, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. I racked my brain
for answers, but came up short of anything brilliant or clever. So, I concluded that it must be a
loan that my grandfather was going to work out that week, after all he was in the banking trade.

Disappointed at not solving the bang mystery and only finding a worn notepad, I tossed the
book atop the chair where it had once been lodged.
In midair, it seemed, the ribbon was unsheathed from its place and the book fell with a
dramatic and sonorous thud to the floor.
Terrified, I fell to my knees and gingerly raised the little book and watched as it fell apart in
my hands.
Tears began to clot my eyes as I fruitlessly tried to piece the book together again and my
thoughts began to crash into broken, tearless sobs.
“But, I didn’t mean to; it just….fell apart after I opened it…after I broke the handle…after I
broke into the…study…I didn’t do it on purpose…and…and-”
No, I told myself, I would fix this.
Without another word I collected the book in my arms, shoved it under my dress and tore out
of the room and up the stairs.
After two hours of relentless toiling, it dawned on me that I could use the school glue before
class tomorrow- it was the super adhesive brand. It was bound to work miracles over the shoddy
brand I’d used.
At seven o’clock the next day I snuck into my teacher’s supply closet and found a brown paper
bag filled to the brim with glue bottles. I seized one bottle and doused the spine in the sickly
white paste. Slowly, I then pieced each individual sheet back to its place and sighed with relief.
Content and guilt free, I took my seat beside my classmate, Mark.
“Hey,” he whispered in my ear, “What’s with the book?”
My eyes widened and I shoved the demon under my desk, “nothing, just a book.”
“Hand it over.” He muttered playfully
“No.” I spat bitterly, no way was I giving this to anyone. It was going home, where it belonged.
“Come on, Viola.”
“No!”
Mark’s eyes glinted with devilish agitation and he snatched the book from under my desk and
ran out the door.
“MARK!” I wailed, hot tears staining my cheeks.
I had to get my book back - I had to
Mark wasn’t at school the next day…or the day after
As I walked home from school on Mark’s second day of absence, I stopped by the pharmacy
and bought a bottle of Coca Cola. I snapped the cap off and began to drown my worries in a
fizzy beverage.
Once I had drained the entire bottle, I found myself at my doorstep. I inhaled sharply and set
down the bottle beside a flower pot. I flattened my skirt and closed my eyes, I would tell my
parents what happened-and I would pay grandfather back for his book. That was the Italian way.
I touched the handle, but to my astonishment, the door creaked open.
“Maybe mother left the door open because the fan broke again.” I murmured to myself
I gingerly pushed against the door and entered the threshold.
The house was like a morgue; the whole place was silent-and for Italians that only happens on
the days that taxes are due. There was no movement or bustle in the kitchen, and the radio
provided nothing but empty static.
“Mother?” I called.
I slowly proceeded into the great room, “Mother, I’m home.”
I lowered my knapsack to the floor. “Mother I’m-” my voice broke and my breath caught in
my chest.
Her curly black curls were disheveled and matted, her eyes were vacant and her skin was a
ghastly shade of white. I sunk to my knees beside her and touched her cold, lifeless hand.
“Mama?” I stammered.
I looked to my left and saw my father draped across a chair, his head lolling about. My uncle
and Grandfather lie, crumpled, on the floor before him.
“Oh God,” I choked and raised my hand to my mouth, “Oh God.”
I reached for a chair to steady myself, but mistakenly grabbed a small book off the arm.
Its familiar red cover greeted me with malice, the Arigassi’s final gift to my family…The hit
list… the devil’s sketchpad.
Mark Arigassi had betrayed me.
I peeled open the cover with dread, only to see, emblazoned before my eyes, that a single red
line had been drawn…right through the Montego family.




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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

CALIGIRL1583 said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm:
COOLIO GIRL!!! I love it!!!!!
 
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Becca S. said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm:
It has creepiness worthy of the Twilight Zone or Edgar Allen Poe. Feel talented. :)
 
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