Karen Twist

by Paul McDonald

How is it possible for a twelve year-old girl to beat three fifteen year-old boys at arm wrestling? That’s the question Kev, Andy and I asked ourselves the night it happened to us in 1975. It occurred the evening we spent smoking St Moritz Menthols at Kev’s girlfriend’s parent’s house. There were seven of us – we lads plus our girlfriends, and Kev’s girlfriend’s twelve year old sister, Karen Twist.

Andy, Kev and I had been arm-wrestling and we offered to give the girls a go. We each beat our girlfriends hands down, and we assumed that twelve year-old Karen Twist was joking when she wagered us our box of St Moritz that she could match any one of us. We rose to the challenge, and she didn’t just match us: one by one she slammed our white knuckles into Kev’s girlfriend’s parents’ shag pile.

It was on our humiliated walk home that Kev mentioned The Exorcist. None of us had seen it but we’d heard about demonic possession, and we swiftly concluded that this could be the case with Karen. The thought made my stomach clench excitedly, and it was hard to keep the thrill of it from my voice. I wanted it to be true.

We felt we had a duty to act on our suspicions, and Kev vowed to place his crucifix beneath Karen’s bed next time he was round visiting her sister. He wasn’t bothered about losing it, he said, because like the rest of us he wasn’t a Christian; so we all agreed it was a great idea. Ultimately this turned out to be the case because Karen Twist grew up to live a normal, healthy life: untainted, as far as one could tell, by evil.

Paul McDonald is an academic, novelist, and poet who lives in Walsall

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