Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Good Witch

The first time I saw her I got the impression of a good witch. Her fuzzy white ringlets of hair came just below my nose, almost hiding the rest of her, and I might have ignored her if someone hadn't made the introductions. Then I tried not to stare.

Kirk Smith Naja at Sunwest Silver  by Gem Stories
Kirk Smith Naja at Sunwest Silver , a photo by Gem Stories on Flickr.

A wrinkled woman with a strangely cone-shaped head that tilted up in the back (or perhaps her curls were just piled that high, it was hard to tell), her face was pleasantly wrinkled and very pale, with bright blue eyes and a thin pink mouth. Maybe it was her nose that made me think of a witch. It was a perfect hook, unlike any I'd ever seen on a real person. But she had to be a good witch. There was no menace in her, just kindliness. She dressed in rather flamboyant colors, and lots of turquoise. There was a squash blossom necklace hanging on her bosom, great chunks of blue-green stone and bold silver in designs that I was sure she could explain to me in detail.

I got the impression that this was a woman who knew herself. She was thoroughly capable, "on top of things," friendly, even interested in my dull history. But I couldn't help sneaking glances at her throughout the entire luncheon. The impression of the good witch was so strange that I thought I might look at her a third or fourth time and she would just be an average old lady with shellacked nails and quavering voice. No one else seemed to notice how different she was. Maybe I was imagining things. But the impression stuck.

How was I to know that she was going to die of a heart attack the next day? Should I have guessed? Perhaps her white hand fluttering over that squash blossom was a sign. Perhaps there was a quaver in her voice, a stiffness of movement--but I forgot about her almost as soon as I read the email. There was a memorial service at the next meeting with a candle and everything, and that was the end of the good witch.

Until I walked into the Wassapequa community library and looked straight ahead into the children's book section. There a little old woman sat reading aloud to an entranced half-moon of faces, and the first thing I noticed was the squash blossom necklace on her bright pink shirt. Next I noticed the nose.

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