My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cackling Rose

I jerked around, startled.  The phone dropped from my hand. I was in the corner in the hall out of view but not as cleverly hidden as I thought.  I picked up the telephone raising it to my ear once again.
“No you don’t,” said my grandmother.  “You hang that phone up now!”
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” I protested as I obediently replaced the telephone in its cradle.
“Not doing anything wrong? How often have I told you that listening in on other people’s conversations is wrong?”
“Lots,” I said meekly.  “I was just curious and there’s nothing to do.”
“Well, you just find yourself something to do, young man.  And stop listening into our neighbor’s conversations.”
“Yes’m,” I answered.
She went back to the kitchen.  I turned to find something to do when I heard a cricket.  The sound was coming from the corner but I didn’t see it anywhere.
“Whatcha lookin’ for?” asked Clyde, who had been reading comics in his bedroom.
“Could be the witch come over to watch you,” he said.  He smiled as he turned back to his comic book.
“What?” My double take gave him cause to chuckle.
“You know.  The witch.  The neighbor you were listening in on.”
“You don’t know what you are talking about.  My daddy says she’s just an old busybody.  Ain’ no such thing as witches anyhow.”  My tone must have bugged him because he got off the bed and approached me.
“Read this,” he said.  “These stories are based on true events.”
“Oh foo.  They are not.  It’s just a comic book.”
“That may be but there is truth in them.  Take a look.”
He shoved the comic into my hands.  On the cover was a hooded hag with a large nose and broken teeth.  Her smile was wide with a filament of spittle attached to her upper and lower lip.  My mind filled in the cackling laugh.
“That’s not real!”
“You think witches aren’t real?  You aren’t too wise about the world we live in, are you?”  As he spoke I noticed a gleam in his eye.  You would think I would recognize that gleam after all the times I had seen it but, no, I never did.
“You’re just trying to scare me now,” I said in a quivering voice.
“Nef! Have I ever fibbed to you?”
I started to nod yes when he rattled on.
“This is something you should read just to get an idea of what you are playing around with when you listen in on the neighbor’s conversations.  It’s a serious game you are playing, you know.”
“I see you listening in all the time.”
“Yeah, well, I’m older.  I know what I’m doing.  I know just how long to stay on before her witch powers figure out how long I’ve been on line and who I am.”
“Oh stop it.  I don’t believe you.”
“Here.  Take the comic.  Read it.  And grow up.”
I took the magazine.  He smiled and returned to his room.   He jumped on the bed and grabbed another comic from the dozen spread out in front of him.  Leaning back onto the pillow propped against the headboard he flipped the pages until he found a story he liked.
I followed him into the room.  Outside the clouds were grey and freely pouring their overabundance of moisture in a steady drizzle.  That was why were inside instead of out in the open air.  It was one of those days.  I climbed up on the other side of the bed and propped up the other pillow.  I copied Clyde’s motions and settled in to read the magazine he gave me.
The picture of the old crone sent a shiver down my spine.  The opening picture was full of darkness with a shack in the background surrounded by black trees with black moss falling from the branches.  She was stirring a huge kettle hanging in the fireplace inside the shack in the next frame.  Cackling laughter was indicated by the eerie lettering escaping that square and entering the next where she was facing me with her broken tooth smile sporting  glossy spittle forming a fine line from lip to lip.   
The phone rang in the other room. It was two rings which meant it was for the neighbor.  I slipped from my spot on the bed creeping into the hall.  I reached for the phone, quietly lifting it from its cradle I put it to my ear and sat in the corner placing my feet on the grating in the floor.  Heat rose from the furnace below the grating.  The warmth was very soothing as I listened in on the conversation in my ear.
As the neighbor began to launch into her gossip the air around me went stone quiet.  Even the cricket that had been happily chirping away for an hour stopped.  The rain no longer beat against the metal roof.  The air had become still, eerily still. My heart began beat with a heavy thumping.  I looked into Clyde’s room and he was not there.  It was like dusk in there.  The white bedspread was deep gray with dark patches where the comic books were spread out.
I was growing very uneasy when words came across the phone that chilled me to the bone.
“This is little Rickey isn’t it?” A dry cackle followed the words along with a slight static.
“Uh…,” I began to stammer.
“Oh, no need to tell me.  I know you are sitting in the corner in the hall with your feet over the nice warm oven, oops, I mean furnace grating.”
I pulled my feet up under me away from the grating.
“You don’t have to pull your feet away.  You should get used to that warmth.  It’s nice on a cold rainy day.  Perhaps you would care for some cocoa and a warm gingerbread man.  Why don’t you come over and let me prepare you, I mean share two or more cookies.”
“I….I…”   Words failed me.
The light began to grow dimmer.  The solid wall behind me began to fade away.  The support it gave vanished as witch’s cackling grew louder.  The light continued to dim.  Now the cackle was directly behind me.  The phone was no longer in my hand.  Slowly I turned my head.  As I did the light began to grow and I was no longer in the corner, safe at my grandmother’s.  I was in a dimly lit kitchen.  The light flickered red and orange from an open brick hearth.  The heat from that fire was overpowering. There was a cup of cocoa on the table in front of the chair my bottom was in.  A plate of gingerbread men sat in the middle of the table.  A half-eaten one was in my hand. I dropped it immediately.
“Where am I?” I screamed.
“Why, you are right here,” said the old crone who was slipping the hood from her head.  One of her eyes was gray like a marble sunk behind thin lids.  The other was a piercing dark orb staring directly into mine.  Her head was practically bald but for the sparsely embedded hairs sticking wildly in all directions.  Her skin was pocked and mottled with a huge eruption on the end of the boulder separating those conflicting eyes.  Black hairs spiked out of the nose wart.  Her eyebrows were a maze of stray black and white hairs slanting in every direction.
“So you like to listen in on party lines, eh?”
I tried to get up but was frozen to the old chair.
“N..n..n..No ma’am!  I don’t!”
“If you don’t why do you listen in on the line when my friends call me?”  Her head turned slowly to the right, then the left.  It was a purposeful action. I felt like she was measuring me with her one good eye.  The kettle boiled over the fire.  Its contents bubbled with slippery wet bursts of air rising from the bottom iron up into the air swirling up the chimney.
It slowly dawned on me. She was visually eyeing me for dinner.  I was going into that hot crackling cauldron.  I began to wiggle and squirm but I was held fast.
“No use in squirming so.  You can’t get a way.”
“My mommy and daddy will get you!” I screamed.
“No they won’t.  They have no idea you are here.  They’ll miss you and cry for a while but time will pass and you’ll be forgotten, except by me of course.  I figure you will make a marvelous stew.  One I will remember for a long, long time.”
That’s when I screamed at the top of my lungs.  I thrashed and bucked and beat the air to no avail.  The charm that held me to the chair was unbreakable.  Tears burst from my eyes.  Shrieks and screams poured from my lips.  Through blurring eyes I saw her coming closer. That disgusting string of spittle inched up in her broken toothed smile.  She grabbed me. I let out a final shriek.
“Rickey!  Wake up!  Wake up!”
Through tears I recognized my grandmother who held me still as she tried to reason with me.
“You’re having a nightmare.  Wake up!” she shouted.
“Come on, nef.  Wake up!” Clyde joined in.
“Huh?  It was a dream?”
“Had to have been a scary one the way you were shouting,” said my grandmother.  “I didn’t think you were going to wake up for a minute there.”
“She was going to cook me in her cauldron!”
“What?”  My grandmother looked puzzled.  Then she saw the comic book lying across me.  “It’s these comic books again.  I thought your mother said you couldn’t read those scary things anymore.”
“Uh, Clyde said…”
“Whoa, nef.  You jumped up on the bed and picked it up while I was reading.  I never noticed what you were doing.”
“Don’t try to blame Clyde for it.  You picked it up,” she said.
Clyde could do no wrong.
“No buts young man.  You find a Bugs Bunny or something if you have to read comic books.  Leave Clyde’s alone.”
Clyde grinned in the background.
“Yes ma’am.”  I spoke in resignation once again.   When it was Clyde or me to be blamed, Clyde always came out the fragrance of roses.
That night at home after I went to bed the old crone came once again into my life whipping me away to that charmed chair.  My screams and struggles were once again alive, waking my parents.  They struggled with me to wake me up.  I fell into the safety of my mother’s arms, that night and several more.
My dad went through the house and collected all the comic books.  He walked outside with an armful which he threw into the garbage bin with all his might. 
He came back inside and insisted I leave those trashy books alone.
“Do you understand?” he said that third night I awoke screaming.
“Yes sir.  I won’t read them anymore.”
“I will spank you if I find out you have gone behind my back.  This is ridiculous that you wake up screaming over some cartoons.”
“Yes sir.”
“It does show he has imagination,” said my mother who always saw the bright side of everything.
“I can do without that imagination,” was his response.

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