Let me be clear, I am a little witch. I’m told so every day, and I’ve begun to own it. I might even like the idea. I read once that witches were born in darkness. That we have to learn to wield that darkness in order to uncover our magic because magic will free us.
Witches – Dangerously smart, beautiful, and bad. Their words speak to me, as if witches from across all different times and places gave their words just for me. As if my very own coven hides in the pages of books, their words comforting and advising.
“We are all born a witch. We are all born into magic. It is taken from us as we grow up.” -Madeleine L’Engle
But what if I grow up bad?
Sweat drips through my flower print scarf headband. The lug wrench slips in my sweaty hand while I try to work the lug nut free. “Come on,” I whisper curse. No doubt Daddy put those lug nuts on with an impact gun. I can’t use the impact gun because I have to be quiet.
I place my black lace up boots carefully on the lug wrench and step up on it to give a little bounce. Nothing. Adjust the lug wrench, stand on it again. My reflection catches on the truck, and I smirk at my newly dyed black hair and gleaming nose ring. The wart on the nose is so old school – witches wear nose rings now.
Another bounce. The wrench and I slip off the lug nut and fall to the blanket that I cleverly placed under the jack and the tire, so the tools and I fall quietly.
This isn’t my first rodeo with Daddy. Last time, Daddy almost killed me and someone in a blue car. Daddy’s getting worse. I have to do something or he’s going to kill someone.
“We’ve all got both dark and light inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act upon.” - J.K. Rowling from Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix,
Daddy likes his dark, he finds it in a glass of vodka and hold on to it all night. I find my dark in trying to outsmart daddy.
But still, I put a shaky hand on my head for a minute and breath, wincing as I accidently touch the bruise under my scarf headband.
“One down, thirty-one to go.” I whisper to motivate myself, as I unscrew the nut and begin on the next one. The sun is thinking of setting and apparently it wants to go out with flare, so it’s giving its all. I look around, nervously. The TV inside is blaring – covering for me like a true friend. My fingers aren’t working right, unscrewing a lug nut shouldn’t be this hard. I know it’s the stress of Daddy catching me that’s making all my muscles slow and clumsy. Otherwise I could rival any NASCAR pit crew for the fastest tire change – I lead a boring life and daddy approves of this kind of practice when he needs his truck tires rotated.
I’m onto my third lug nut when Daddy yells from the house. I freeze, hold my breath, certain my heart is going to pound a hole in my chest.
I slowly bend and lower the wrench to the blanket. I self-talk a bunch of you got this, never taking my eyes off the screen door. If he comes out here, I’m done for. My hair hurts just thinking about it.
“Com…” I try but my mouth is so dry it comes out as a croak. I conjure spit into my mouth and try again.
“COMING!” I yell, willing my legs to move up onto the porch.
Inside Daddy sits in his avocado velour chair and holds out his glass. “Fix me another, and don’t make it weak.” He pauses like it’s the first time he has seen my new look. When really, he just never remembers seeing it before.
“Little witch,” he slurs.
“You say witch like it’s a bad thing.” – Writer Unknown
I grab the glass and notice his glazed angry eyes. Today must have been a bad day at work. He’s already angry and it’s not even 6 o’clock. If I don’t get those tires off soon and make myself scarce, we’ll be on Sherman’s Flats by 7:30 running a telephone pole slalom course. My hands begin to shake just thinking about the last time. I stop and breath again for a minute.
We were feet from that pole and then a blue car passed us within inches, it’s horn blaring. When we got home, Daddy ran into the neighbor’s mailbox. They called social services for the seventh time, but Daddy wasn’t in his truck when the police got there, so there wasn’t a thing they could do. It’s always the same story. Nobody can do anything about Daddy.
It wouldn’t matter anyway. The courts don’t mind that he’s a drunk, raisin’ a daughter. Momma’s probably been rolling’ in her grave, but there isn’t anything she can do either. Momma died of cancer when I was five. So, Daddy’s got rights to me until he hurts me and since he hasn’t killed or maimed me yet, everything is okay the way it is, at least that’s what the courts say. I won’t have rights until I’m eighteen. But I made it this far. I just gotten make it four more years.
“What’s taking you so long!” Daddy yells.
I grab the ice and fill half the glass and then pour in the Vodka all the way to the top - the way Daddy likes it. I pass the sink on the way to the living room, and the little witch inside stops me.
I should add water to this.
But I don’t dare.
I keep moving.
I hold the glass out to Daddy, and he squints and puts his big rough hands over mine. Squishing mine into the glass. “Did you put water in it?” he growls.
I look him in the eye like I learned. Otherwise, no matter what I say he’ll think I’m lying. “No Daddy,” I whisper while silently sending magic vibes for him to believe me.
“You have witchcraft in your lips,” William Shakespeare, “Henry V”
He glares at me. I can smell the Vodka coming off his sweaty body – vodka and rot. “You think you’re smart, don’t you?” He slurs.
“No Daddy, I know you’re smarter than me,” I say. More words I learned the hard way. Keep him calm, I think. Don’t engage. I once read to give the energy you wish to receive. So, I focus on low energy when I’m around Daddy.
“That’s right,” Daddy says and waves me off.
I go back in the kitchen and circle back, leaving through the back door and making my way around the house and back to the truck. I have twenty minutes before he’s done that drink. I work faster at the lug nuts this time. It took some muscle, and a lot of whisper cursing but I get the two far side tires off while Daddy drank himself angrier and then calls me in for another drink.
Get called names.
Circle around back to the truck.
I’m working on the third tire with my back to the house when I hear the screen door slam.
I freeze. Nothing I do will make my muscles move this time. Daddy stumbles down the porch and grabs my hair turning me around inches from his beat red face.
He’s menacingly calm – Probably that energy I sent him.
“Dumb little witch,” he slurs and shoves me into the truck. The three-pump jack handle is between me and the truck, and it slams into my ribs as I bounce of it.
I’m a shaking frozen mess.
“A witch ought never be frightened in the darkest forest because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.” – Terry Pratchett, “Wintersmith”
Even though I hear the words in my head. I am still scared. They say if you kick a dog enough it will bite. I guess I haven’t been kicked enough because I still just freeze up. What the heck is wrong with me?
Daddy grabs my shirt and drags me back to him. Don’t put out angry energy, I think. He sways before me. Spit flies into my face even though his voice is low. “You’re going to go in the house and get me another drink and then you’re going to put these tires back on.”
I nod fiercely.
I try to hurry and put the tires back on as Daddy watches and gives me a lecture about how stupid I am. Once I’m done, Daddy has me make him a To Go drink.
With his To Go cup in hand, he zigs zags to the truck and carefully sets his drink in the cup holder. “Get in!” He slur-snarls at me.
“’Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world.” – William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’
When we got out of town Daddy must have felt like the devil was chasing him, because he stomped on the gas pedal and never let up. Honestly, for a few minutes with the wind blowing in my hair and the world flying by, even my adrenaline was soaring, maybe not for the same reason.
“Everybody deserves a chance to fly,” Elphaba, Wicked.
Daddy whoops and hollers, as we flew down the open road bouncing between the two white lines like a pinball.
When we turn onto Sherman’s flats, I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. The road is flat. No steep shoulders on the edges. Just telephone poles as far as you can see. And Daddy likes to make a game of zig zagging around them, off the road and back on, as fast as that truck can.
Today, we only make it around the first two telephone poles before the truck gets into a fishtail. Telephone pole number three comes in slow motion.
“Daddy!” I scream. But he’s crouched over the steering wheel like he didn’t even hear me. Manic joy is plastered across his face.
Pole three comes at us fast and then slow, real slow, like time slowing slow. We’re going to hit dead center.
I don’t know what comes over me. I just know that I’m not ready to die. I hear the words as if Glinda is sitting right next to me,
“You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.” – Glinda, The Wizard of OZ.
Somewhere deep in my soul, I feel it. I’m ready to bite back. “No!” I yell, grabbing the wheel, and yanking.
Daddy hits the brakes, “Let go you Little Witch!” he roars. The truck swerves, gravel sprays everywhere, then the truck slid sideways and rolls in the air. At first, I see Daddy, head back laughing as we tumble. Then he’s gone. Glass is flying everywhere, and the truck is still rolling. Out of nowhere a light streaks into the truck as we tumble, it’s the bright, beautiful green of Elphaba, and it feels like an ethereal magic as it swirls around me and then disappears. When the truck finally comes to a stop, resting on the passenger side (my side), I notice Daddy’s not in the driver’s seat. I feel blood drip down my head and my right arm hurts a lot.
Daddy’s about a hundred feet from the truck laying on the ground. His leg is bent the wrong way and his eyes are open, staring vacantly at the sky. I’m still strapped in my seat – the seatbelt on. And the first thought I have is,
Who’s smart now? – Me
I rest my head back and exhale. I don’t know if there is a heaven or hell, and I don’t know where Daddy ended up. But here’s the thing, I have a chance now, where I didn’t before. And while it feels wrong when I don’t even cry over Daddy dying. I also feel powerful. This is a Roald Dahl moment,
“Those who do not believe in magic will never find it.” - The Minpins.
I know I’m going to be okay now because I found my magic in the darkness and it set me ablaze.
I smile my best witch smile because this little witch is free.
Michelle Houghton lives with her two children on a small horse farm in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. She is a 2018 graduate of Vermont College of Fine Art with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, where she won the Norma Fox Mazer award for stories that, like Norma Fox Mazer, asks young readers and even adults to confront tough issues.When she is not teaching children to read, you can find her conjuring stories in the woods of Northern New England. If you would like to learn more about Michelle please visit her website www.michellerhoughton.com
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