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Mini Sledgehammer February 2016

Congratulations to Turner for winning this month’s contest!

***

The prompts were:
Character: A Butcher
Action: Putting on a necklace
Prop: A Ladder
Phrase: “Hours of the day”

***

Untitled

by J. Turner MaslandMasland02132014

If there was any day to visit a witch in southern Louisiana, it was Fat Tuesday. If I were in Salem, Massachusetts, the day would be Halloween. But today, history was flowing. The european, catholic, creole, black, first nation, cajun spirits were dancing. I was never sure if it was for jesus christ lord and savior or papa legba, put this day was full of a little bit of both gentleman’s energies.

You see, I needed some healing to be done. And this healing wasn’t going to be done by no medical doctor, not that I could afford one as a part time butcher with no health insurance. But this matter was a bit deeper. A bit darker. I needed to be cleansed and I needed justice.

I turned off the rural highway, about 5 miles outside of Lafayette, and drove my old pickup down the back swamp road. The spanish moss and humidity was oppressive. You’d think after 53 years in the south you would get used to it. But the further outside the big city you got, the more your balls seemed to sweat.

As I rounded the corner, the small trailer came into view. It appeared on the outside to be abandoned, stained green in some parts and others were buried under the swamp’s detritus. If it wasn’t for the crone sitting on the stoop waiting for me, I might have thought I was in the wrong place. Although under all her shawls and skirts, she seemed to blend into the surroundings.

“Well, you found me alright, boy,” the crone said to me as I killed the engine and slammed my door shut.

“Yes’em. Your directions were just fine.”

“You bring what I ask you to?”

I handed her the package of brown butcher paper, along with the requisite cash. The package was filled with the innards of all sorts of animals. Thankful for my job as a butcher: it wasn’t that hard to gather gator guzzards, but I was worried they would start to turn in the heat

“Climb up that there ladder and get me down some of those mushrooms growing on the roof. And be quick. We ain’t got all the hours in the day to kill. My next customer is due at sun down.” She turned on her heel, faster than I would have imagined and seemed to vanish into the trailer.

After finishing my task, I opened the door, and jesus christ it was hotter inside the trailer than out. Not only was every window closed, but a giant gumbo pot was on the ancient stove, bubbling away. It filled the cramped space with a putrid smell. Between the heat and the stench, I thought I would be sick.

The crone was still wrapped in her shawls, her back up to me and she chopped up the sweet meats to add to the mysterious stew. As she turned to take the mushrooms, she looked into my eyes, and despite the heat I felt a chill run up my spine.

“You are hear to be cleansed, ain’t ya?”

“Yes ‘em” I gulped.

“The guilt has taken root, and it’s rotting your insides? Turning your soul back as dirt, ain’t it?”

I didn’t need to answer. She knew.

“Don’t worry, boy. What I am cooking up will take care of ya. Have a seat right there.” She gestured her knife to a chair opposite her at the kitchen table. She started singing under her breath, in some other language. It sounded part french, part indian, part alien. I don’t think I was meant to know what she was saying. As she got lost in her tasks, my eyes began to adjust to the dim light and the heavy fumes.  I looked over the table. Covered in old mason jars and wooden bowls, full of flowers and spices and mysterious botanicals gathered from the swamp. Some were full of dead things, bugs and spiders and snakes, and some, under closer look were full of live critters, squirming and flapping, desperate for freedom.

The old woman plopped down a bowl of her stew in front of me, and the steam made me sweat more. My eyes started to blur, but I did my best to stay focused. Sitting across from me, she removed her shawls and lifted a brass necklace to her chest, with large natural stones and gems strung across her ample bosom.

“Your deed has been done, you came to me for redemption and sanctuary,” she said, her voice sounding a thousand miles away. As she lowered her arms from putting on the necklace her face seemed to transform. Wrinkles melt away. Hair deepen and glisten. I wasn’t sure if the heat was making me hallucinate or if it was the fumes I was breathing

“The authorities are after you. and you know Jesus isn’t going to save your ass, no matter how much you repent. so you came to me. To work my craft. To set you free. Drink boy. And all will be made right.” Her face continued to transform, it now appeared ageless. I was afraid, but there was no turning back.

I lifted the bowl of slop to my lips and retched.  But I had no choice. I choked it down. Kept it down. The room began to spin. The last thing I remember was her voice, laughing. While my stomach felt like it was on fire, the witches voice was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.

Her spell worked, but not in the way that I thought it would. Rather than getting busted for the murder of Roy, the son of a bitch who beat my daughter, I was arrested for possession of narcotics. Intent to distribute. In louisiana, that was a long time behind bars.

You see, I went to the witch out of fear. The rage that had overcome me when I saw what happened to my sweet Jane was unlike anything I had expected. I thought I was possessed by demons. I thought I would get away with the murder, but I could have something like that happen again.

I called the witch, looking for protection. She promised she would put me in a safe place, spiritually, physically, guaranteeing that I would never harm another persona as long as I lived. And she delivered. When I was passed out from her stew, she stashed the drugs in my truck and called the cops, who pulled me over on my way back to lafayette. I have to give it to her. She delivered.

© 2016 by J. Turner Masland

***

J. Turner Masland is a librarian, currently working at Portland State University as the Access Services Assistant Manager. Originally from new Hampshire, he has lived in Portland since 2006. When not in the library, he enjoys hiking, swimming, trips to the coast, and working on his writing. You can learn more about him at masland.weebly.com or follow him on twitter @deweysnotdead.

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