Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Witch

So there is this woman who lives here, mid-way down The Run. I've written about her before, and have spent nearly every walk since those initial encounters biting my tongue and playing nice. But last summer, after several unpleasant words, I've taken to calling her The Witch. Her patio is decorated with all manner of unpleasant hangings, bizarre wind chimes that, for all I know, could be made from the bones of little fingers of children she has lured into her abode with promises of sweets and goodies; baskets made of wicker that look like aboriginal snares and ghastly, clotted paintings that depict what I can only imagine is her mood at any given moment. Late in the fall, just before the first snows came, a number of tall, grizzly-looking bird feeders appeared, brassy, copper-ish things turned green with age, with strange shapes and undulating figures running up their sides, their wide basins open mouths waiting to swallow the finches and nuthatches which frequent Jeffrey's patio only a hundred yards away. She fills them regularly with seeds and grains and while the birds have largely ignored them the squirrels have been unable to turn their backs on the treats she puts out as offerings.

She is a short thing with wild, white hair, who crouches and lurks in her window watching for Duncan each morning as we pass by and then again in the afternoons and evenings. She has chastised me for not cleaning up after him––a crime I have never committed––and has lectured me about keeping him away from the flowers she has planted in the common area that does not belong to her. She is mightily unpleasant and a dark cloud seems to hang over that area of The Run no matter the season or the time of day. I have worked tirelessly at training Roo to stay away from her patio and the bulbs which erupt there in the spring, but he is a lover of all things bright and wonderful, those things that sway in a summer breeze, and the wondrous things which make music by the invisible hands of the wind. It hasn't been easy but I try. And last summer, when I spied her lurking behind her curtains waiting to reprimand me for his appearance once again on her patio, I started warning Dunc, loudly so she could hear, "Be careful, Roo. Get too close and she'll turn you into gingerbread. Or worse, a toad! And I don't have any water on me to melt her down should she get too close." She's stopped accosting us but she hasn't ceased her glowering or the loud sighs and grunts which emanate from behind her screen door and windows.

She was on her patio this morning, clad in a bright orange bathrobe, so short as to leave her mottled and purple-veined knees exposed, her skinny legs white and twiggish, impossibly pale even in the glare of the thick, new snow and the bitter cold. I did not see her so when she screamed, a guttural low roar, I jumped and Duncan tripped over himself as his body tensed and recoiled all at once.

"You scared me," I laughed uneasily as she hissed loudly and waved her hands in the air, the limp band of a slingshot wagging above her head.

"These damn squirrels," she cursed as one darted past Duncan and up a nearby birch. Duncan, terrified of the crone, didn't dare follow after it. He sat solidly beside me, his weight pushing against my leg. "They won't leave the bird feeders alone."

"I know they have special feeders you can get that make it difficult for squirrels to get the seed. My mother has several," I offered.

"I don't want other feeders. I want these," she spat and hissed again at another squirrel. "So I got this slingshot. Just about took the leg off one yesterday. And now he's limping around. Can't even climb very fast. I hope the coyotes get him."

I blinked, astonished at her malice. I patted Duncan's head and softly urged him forward. "Let's go, Roo."

"You should get your dog back here to scare them off," she said. "He can finally be useful."

I just stared at her, my back straightening and my gloved hands clenching in my pockets. There were a myriad of things I wanted to say, none of them nice, several of them downright awful, but instead I took a deep breath and said, very calmly, "You have made it clear you want my dog nowhere near your patio and I've trained him to stay away. He is very useful but he will never be of any use to you. I wouldn't allow it." I turned away but then stopped and looked back at her. "And if I ever see that slingshot again I'll report you to the leasing office." And with that, we walked away. Duncan strutted beside me, head high, tail even higher, perhaps proud of his papa, perhaps simply happy to be done with that old witch.

I was just happy to finally give her (a tiny sample of) The Full Curt.


Lori said...

Good for you! I never think of the right thing to say till later. But I bet she's a very sad, very lonely old woman, and it's made her bitter and hateful.

Anonymous said...

Ding dong. What a grump. I too can't seem to say at that instant and then mull it over until I have come up with the most clever retort, but it is too late. Poor little squirrel.

Max Mom said...

Hi there Curt,
sorry I've not been around to your blog much sometimes gets the better of me.
As I've said many times before, I love your writing - you paint pictures in words that are so vivid and engaging.
My only comment about the subject matter of this post is this:
"It's amazing what a lack of love can do to people..."
Sending lots of love to you and Duncan too,