“Karma’s gonna catch you,” my sister said. Her face was stained with tears, glistening in the dark room; they fell upon the remnants of the light bulb at her feet, nearly invisible. What really stood out to me, though, was her grimace; she looked angry, and she looked frustrated, and she looked so, so sad. “Karma’s gonna track you down and make sure you pay for everything you ever did.” She looked at me with such certainty that I felt a twinge of fear.
Then our mother walked in, smelling of cheap alcohol, and demanded to know why my sister had broken the light, and I laughed and laughed and never got caught.
To say I was a bad person would be wrong. I simply learned how to play karma like a fiddle, exacting it on everyone but myself. My mother spent all her time out, so I spent all her money on whatever I pleased. My sister tried to take her place, so I made sure she took the blame for anything I did. The cycle only ended when my mother stopped coming back. Some would call that karma, but for me it was simply inevitable.
My sister sat me down. She was older now. I was older too, old enough for her to justify making me leave. We both knew that wouldn’t happen; despite everything, she still held some sort of love for me, being the only family she had left.
“Did you do that?” she said, her voice tense. She pointed at the television. It screamed back at us. TERRY MILLER KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT, shouted the local news. BROTHER GRIEVES. SQUIRRELS LIVING IN ATTICS: PROBLEMS OR PETS? MORE AT SEVEN.
“I think there’s a squirrel living in our attic,” I told her. Karma, of course; I had let the squirrel in. My sister didn’t take care of the house well enough; the ceiling sagged, and the lights always flickered.
“Did you do that?” she pleaded again. My sister was white-faced, terrified. “Did you kill him?”
Terry Miller and his brother walked into the auto-shop I worked in. The owner was in the back, fixing the light he believed had broken on its own. I watched Terry as he dragged his brother throughout the shop. He had dated my sister once. Finally, he came to me, forcing his brother to explain how the scratch on his car appeared. I remember my sister bringing him home. His brother looked miserable. She had looked miserable, too, and told me never to go near him. I told Terry I’d fix his car myself.
No one could claim I had no sense of empathy, nor a lack of love for my sister. I was only making sure retribution was paid. “Karma caught him,” I told her, and the next day she was gone. Karma for loving him, I suppose, or karma for ever thinking she could take care of us all.
Karma could never catch me, I always claimed. So I can’t explain what caused me to wake up to the sound of glass breaking, of footsteps racing upstairs. I turned on the lights just in time to see Terry Miller’s brother come storming into my rotting room, drunk and angry with tears staining his face. He waved his gun around wildly before finally settling on me, standing frozen before him in fear. The only sound louder than my heartbeat was the squirrel's feet scampering above us.
“Karma’s gonna catch you,” he said. He grinned. “And I play karma like a fiddle.” I put my hands up in a gesture of peace, searching for the words to calm him down--
And then the lights went off, and he laughed and laughed until I couldn’t hear him anymore.