Purple Door

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


What does this door have in store?

Submitted: July 14, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 14, 2018

A A A

A A A


Purple Door

 

 

On the edge of the city lives a woman who can turn wishes into reality. You ever hear of such a thing? I haven’t seen the old hag in damn near twenty years, they say she lives in the cottage up north, with a purple door and a grey house—how ridiculous that sound? A purple door and a grey house. How could any one painter condone that blasphemy? How could the architect come back, look at what his work has birthed and say “well, that’s a mighty fine house”? George swears up and down that old woman is a magic maker though, a seer, the second resurrection of Jesus Christ himself.

Lady Lisa says he brought her cat back to life. Lisa, I say, what you mean he brought your cat back to life? Lisa, she just look at me with that kind of twinkle in her eye that only comes once a year when her son come visit her, and she say “Leroy, she come back to life, she sittin’ on my couch right now, come see him.” And so I went to see this old flea bag. There she sat, curled in a ball with her little paws resting underneath her face. No signs of being dug up from the ground, no signs of decay or deterioration, just a cat, a silly old cat with black and grey fur and deep, heavy breathing.

“How I know she been brought back to life?” I say.

Lady Lisa look me dead in my eye and she say, “Boy, when I ever lie to you?”

Lady Lisa ain’t never lie to me, I’ll tell you that much. But what kind of woman brings back the dead? What kind of books do she worship? Who is her Lord? Do she even have one? I list these questions one night before I sleep because all this talk of this woman just gives me the creeps. I can’t sleep at night knowing she lives ten miles north of me in a little grey cottage with a purple door.

Jim and I used to play around her house back in the day before her door was purple, when we was both children and innocent as can be. They say children are innocent at least, but I remember throwing rocks at her house and spraying water on her windows, making her think it done rained. Jim and I, we’d run and hide in the high grasses and stifle our laughter as she opened her door wide and peeked her head around the frame, lookin’. She ain’t never find us. Her hair was golden back then, and her eyes small and beady like my English teacher in high school, the one who always assigned us essay’s over the breaks. The old woman couldn’t have been any taller than five feet, and her legs looked so frail beneath her blue skirt I thought maybe we should offer her something, some ribs, maybe some ham hock. And she wasn’t dark, she wasn’t light, she was a mix, a mulatto, and that should have tipped us off right then. But we didn’t know she was a witch; we wouldn’t have been playing with her like that.

Do she remember me? What if she caught a glimpse of my face and I ain’t know it? Those kinds of questions keep me up at night. George say I shouldn’t be worrying about foolish things, she ain’t never put no curse on no one and she shouldn’t ever do so, it would only fall back on her, according to the rules of the witches. The rules of the witches? George always be talkin’ out the side of his neck.

One morning Sarah Miller come running up to my door with a smile on her face like I ain’t never seen, one she never have walkin’ through our neighborhood, and she presents me a pie, a berry pie, and I hesitate but take the damned thing.

“What you so jolly for miss Sarah?” I ask.

“Joanne cured my son!” She cries. “Remember, he broke his back last summer?”

“I ‘member.”

“He couldn’t use his legs. Joanne rubbed a special soothing cream on them and my boy got up and walked!” She fall to her knees, gripping onto the back of mine, and I become mighty uncomfortable, this small little white lady latching onto me like I’m her husband lost at sea. I know people lookin’ at us as they drivin’ by, and so I pry the broken—or saved—woman from me and create a healthy distance between us.

“Joanne, the old hag?” I ask.

“Watch your tongue, boy!” She snaps. “She’s a Godsend, a true reminder that Jesus Christ lives in all of us!”

I throw my hands up. “Alright, Miss Sarah. I reckon I should go see the old—miss Joanne about my knee problem, hm?”

“I should think so. And be kind to her. She’s got to be a hundred and fifty-six by now.”

Miss Sarah leave my porch with no explanation of the pie, so I throw it out. I decide I need to see this Joanne about my knee problem, maybe get a clear explanation of her purple door. And so, the next day I slip on my hiking boots and I get myself up in all the trees and follow the Black Warrior River with my hunting rifle in case something see me lookin’ like a fine breakfast. My right knee start aching something fierce and so I stop at a stump, count the rings, sit down on it and massage the area right above the patella. That’s where all the swelling is, I can see when I lift the hem of my shorts. This knee been causing trouble ever since I started on the basketball team back in high school. I lead us to state, but state blew out my best knee cap.

George told me Joanne live up on the highest hill, and in the distance there be three hills, a little one, a medium one, where the snakes congregate, and a large one, and on the large one there’s a small building, a cottage, with grey walls. A path leads up to her purple door, lit by small little glowing gnomes. Well, they eyes glowed, like a candle lit inside of them, and they lead me through her garden of snap peas and tomatoes and even some pumpkins. All look ripe and ready to be plucked and I wonder how many curses she put on them things.

On her purple door sat a lion knocker. I use the rusty thing and wait. I hear no footsteps, no movement, and the lights are off in her house. I knock again because I know she in there, she don’t ever come into town, she don’t ever leave her house! She got to be in there. I knock a third time and the door swing open like she got a bone to pick. She could pick it all she want as long as she fix my knee.

We stare at each other and I think she steal my voice because I can’t speak. Did she recognize me? George, that ass, I knew she would recognize me, and I prepare myself for a curse, or a stab, or something—a wave of a wand. But Miss Joanne, with her pink, knitted shawl, white undershirt, and blue-jean skirt, she just stand there and stare at me, stare into my eyes, through my lens, through my cornea, and into the back of my occipital lobe, that’s how far she stare, and then she glance at my feet. She move her head and body around mine, looking behind me.

“You ain’t bring me no gift.” She say.

“I didn’t know I was ‘spose to.”

“Why should I help your knee?”

My blood go cold, like the time Jim and I got caught stealing some candy from the corner store by a policeman. Miss Sarah must’ve told her something. Miss Joanne shake her head and yank through her purple door into a damp darkness reekin’ of some kind of incense, something stronger than sage, but lighter than tobacco smoke. It take a moment for my eyes to adjust before I see the dark purple tapestries hanging above her windows, and the big, cylindrical candles lighted in the far corner. On the floor a few red pillows, I think they was red, formed in another circle and beside those pillows lay some more of those godforsaken incense sticks. I cough once, then twice, and she stand there staring at me like I don’t need no water. There wasn’t no couch, no love seat, not even a desk to lean against, and I stand there choking on her tainted air.

“Some water would be nice,” I manage. She stomps toward a door, her kitchen, where there were some lights. Before I could follow, she come back with a glass of water and I sniff it, dip my finger in it, and down the stuff.

“How you know I come for my knee?” I ask. “That Sarah Miller and her big mouth.”

“Your knee is swollen,” she say. “Haven’t you noticed?”

My cheeks burn a little—here I go thinking the woman saw my thoughts, all she done seen is a swollen knee. She smiles at my embarrassment and sits on the biggest of the red—or whatever—pillows on the floor. She invites me to sit on the pillow across from her, and I navigate my long, gangly legs over her carefully placed incense sticks, pillows, and candles.

“You a witch?” I ask.

“Are you?”

“That don’t answer my question.”

“But it answers mine. Sit down, boy.”

I sit down. She leaves for the kitchen once more, then returns with four purple glasses, each filled with some kind of liquid, something thick it seem, and pungent, because smells fill the air that I ain’t never smelled before. Three were sweet but the fourth, that was something foul, something noxious like sulfur, and she just carry the thing around like there ain’t nothing strange about it. I’m still a gentleman though, I cover my nose as discretely as possible, try to suck back the water from my eyes, but nothing seem to help, and she take notice of this real quick. She sit down on her big pillow with a smile tugging at her mouth.

“You city folk,” she say.

Behind her she fetch a large glass bowl and sit it between us and that’s where she dumps the liquids. Some splash on the carpet and evaporate vapor like some acid and I scoot back a tad, just enough to get a clearer view of that big bowl and some better distance between us. Joanne don’t care though, she start hummin’ a tune only she ever heard and it felt like that song went into the liquid, caressed it, stirred it, became part of it. Transfixin’, as they say. She nudges some of her pillows aside and ask me to lay on my back next to that bubbling song potion and I hesitate first, I think that’s the smart thing to do. Then I lay down, because her eyes start tearing into me like a predator into prey.

She lifts the leg of my shorts gently and continues hummin’. I’m startin’ to like her old song now, and I find myself hummin’ along with her even though I ain’t know a note of it—at least, I thought I didn’t. But I felt myself catching up and repeatin’ her tune just as well as she, and that’s when things went black and fuzzy and I woke up somewhere that wasn’t Miss Joanne’s room. This somewhere felt further, lost, and I could blink but everything stayed black. Somewhere back where my body lay, I feel the cool liquid trace around my knee cap, and dabbed gently in the middle of my knee. Then some dripped on my forehead and into my mouth and I just knew this old hag done killed me, pouring that foul liquid down my throat.

But the liquid ain’t taste foul, it taste like jasmine smell, and my body goes rigid like in that one stage of death—I told ya’ll the old hag done killed me!—and my breathing goes shallow and deep and my eyelids get too heavy to hold, so heavy they pull my forehead skin further down my face, that’s what it feel like, that I’m meltin’ into some abyss, this witchcraft abyss, and I try screaming for my life as if someone could hear me on the outside but ain’t no use. My eyes shut.

When I gasp for breath I sit up straight and narrow, a ninety-degree angle, and clutch at my chest because I just been dead and I ain’t see no Jesus Christ, I ain’t seen no Satan, and I’m confused. Miss Joanne there as still as can be mixing another liquid.

“Drink,” she say.

“You almost killed me!”

“Drink!” She shoves the bowl to my lips and forces liquid between my teeth. Sour and sweet, tangy, warm like that sauce them Chinese put on they chicken, or the kind you dip them egg rolls in, and I almost want more because my mouth so dry from being dead.

“Go for a run tomorrow,” she say, as I get my breath back. “See how the knee feels.”

“The knee? The knee? You a witch, and you know it,” I say, scramblin’ up and crushin’ one of her incense sticks. “Damnit, what curse you put on me?”

She laugh. “Ain’t no curse boy, it a cure.”

I leave her home walking on legs of Jello praying to the Jesus I ain’t see. In my house I sit in my chair and I recall the blackness I saw, blacker than any skin I ever seen, blacker than any tire, or hair, or even the blackness you see when you close your eyes at night. This blacker than that, colder than that, and ain’t nothin’ blacker or colder than sleep. I musta been dreamin, I say to myself. Sometimes I dream so well I think it’s reality and it take me some time to really orientate myself. I didn’t notice the stain on my knee from the liquid until the next mornin’.

I go for that run she suggested. I lace up my new Nike’s, grab a hand towel, toss it on my neck, and start off in the mornin’ chill just like I used to. It’s nice to get out the driveway before Sarah Miller tears through the street in her continental like she runnin’ from the four horseman of the apocalypse; that woman crazy, I swear.

The first step feel okay, the second, the third, as well, and the fourth, I feel like I float on the air, like these new shoes were guidin’ me back to that further place Miss Joanne put me in; I done told George Nike will be big one day, so big even folk like old Nixon be wearin’ ‘em during they presidential addresses.

No aches in my feet, no pains in my knee; I ran five miles before I knew I ran five miles.

Miss Joanne kept to her word, that’s what I conclude. Somethin’ in that old serum of hers, her song soup, seeped in my pours and done fixed my ligaments, much more than some tiger balm coulda done. I think of givin’ her that gift I ain’t get her, but then another thought pop in my mind, one a little devious and rotten, but intriguing: I want her secret.

I know she keep her things a secret, ain’t no one with her power going to go around spreading it like wildfire. No, she keep something hidden in that dark house of hers and I going to find out what it be.

With a healed knee, I trek the route to her house, camp out for the next week with a little tent, a barbeque pit, and my huntin’ rifle for catch some rabbit. With a pair of binoculars I watch her house. Every day she do somethin’ different though, like she knew someone out there be watching her. Sometime she sit on her front porch, other times she garden, and one day she come out with a bag and look like she headin’ into town, but turn around and went right back in through her purple door. I curse her under my breath, but I ain’t have no power like her and the curse falls limp and useless on the ground.

Finally, I see a break: with her bag she disappear behind some trees and I wait a good ten minutes to see if she goin’ change her mind again. She don’t. I hightail it up her hill so fast I knock over one of her damn gnomes. I reset it carefully, hopin’ it’s curse don’t touch me in any sort of way. Surely she locks her door, I think. I reach for her knob anyway and twist. She leave it open. Through the purple door I enter. Without much knowledge of how long I’ll have, I start sifting through boxes.

Squirrels, rabbits, rat tails, and some other little animal I couldn’t name all huddled in separate boxes in the corner of the room where she put her magic sauce on my knee. I ain’t never seen so many little dried critters in my life. I think I drank they entrails that one day. Miss Joanne sure did take good care of ‘em, dryin’ ‘em like that, they look like a taxidermist done got his hand on some animal gold. I put the box back in the corner and stand in the room for a moment, breathing in the incense, starin’ at the pillows, recalling the further place. For a moment, there some peace.

Tons of books line her shelfs in her backroom, a whole library full of them, and I look at each title, snooping for something in the world of necromancy or cult reading, anything to prove to George this woman aint the second coming of Jesus Christ, nor a prophet, but she a witch, and the places she take us to with her potions ain’t even a place Jesus done seen yet. He’ll be mighty upset to hear it, but he’ll thank me for giving him truth. “Sincerity in action, character, and utterance”, I always promise George, and sometimes he trust my word so heavily he scare me. So it almost feel wrong being up in this woman’s house the way I am, but it’s only in search of the truth, and I know Jesus will understand that, being he is truth and all.

Her books be all about diet, nutrition, and the proper way to raise vegetables at home. Miss Joanne a little chunky, but I never thought she fall for that diet shit considerin’ she a witch and all. Disappointed, I slip into the kitchen and sort through her pots, pans, and dishes, looking for the glasses she poured that jasmine liquid into. Nothing look the same in the light though, and I’m wasting time now, so I slip down the hallway where I see an unmarked door cracked open enough to witness a large bed with a purple comforter.

In her room all she have is a nightstand, a lamp, and a bed—two mattresses on the floor, no box spring. I scratch my head. In her closet no clothes, which don’t make no sense because I seen her in three different patterned skirts while I camped.

The world goes black again. And when I wake she standin’ over me with an authentic Alabama cast iron skillet hitched over her shoulder. The back of my head feel like it done went through a wash cycle alongside a pound of rocks, and my vision bounces. Bony hands grip my ankles and my whole self gets dragged across her tiled hallway into the dark room. She’s mumbling like a rabid dog growl, blathering on, and I can’t seem to lift my head off the ground. All she doin’ is gathering some pans, she ain’t paying attention to my pain, my confusion, she just picking up objects out a little door hidden behind the box of rabbits. She tosses rocks into one of her pans—they spark. I squint More rocks, more sparks, and I keep seeing the room spin. Then silence.

“Why you here in my house?” she demand. I still can’t talk. She repeat herself and I mumble something even I don’t understand. She lifts my head with her left hand, and with the right part my lips and pour another, sour liquid down my throat. Suddenly I’m awake and upright and talkative:

“I been camping outside your house now for a few days and I see your patterns and where you go and I want to know your secret, so I come up in here looking for the secret, but you ain’t got nothin’ on necromancy or devil worshipping or nothin’, and I need to prove to George, and that miss Sarah Miller that you ain’t the second coming of Christ.”

I breathe deeply and swallow hard because Miss Joanne has narrowed eyes at me.

“You want to learn my secret that badly?” she say. “Then I let you in on my secret.”

What I thought was rocks were smooth, stone pebbles, small as rat shit, but smelling of Lavender, and she present them in front of my eyes, holding them like God sent them down from heaven. She lifts my hand, places them in my palm, squeezes my hand shut and I scream. I scream like little miss Lilly do at the Ice Cream shop when her mam won’t buy her the flavor she want—no chocolate for miss Lilly, it’ll turn your skin dark! I screamed until there weren’t no voice left and that’s how I end up with the ruffled scars on my left hand today, from Miss Joanne rubbing those things good into my skin. And when she done she collapse on her back, writhing in pain or relief, I can’t tell because my vision go black again. But I hear. I hear her thoughts, and George’s thoughts, and Miss Sarah Miller’s nasty thoughts of that husband of hers who drinks whiskey all day. Then there are others I can’t discern, they all hoard in my head and I can’t take it; I clasp my hands over my ears and scream over Miss Joanne’s laughter.

I open my eyes to a different world. I see all colors now, even the ones that shouldn’t exist, and I peer through Miss Joanne’s walls and windows, everything except her purple door that ain’t purple no more. It the absence of color, it the blackest black and it don’t exist no more, it’s just a hole. My hands, I wave them in front of my face and see all their layers through the universe, all their infinite realities, and Miss Joanne, she ain’t doing too well. Her skin aging, wrinklin’, faster than I can speak, her nails falling off and her eyes going dark. She die in front of me and I see her leave her body, a cloud set to join all the others. I wish to speak with her because now I understand, but can’t, and she gone from my sight, through the purple door that ain’t purple no more.

Miss Joanne gone. I live in her house now, and I heal whatever people step through her purple door. They always ask where Miss Joanne be, if she be with Jesus now, but I can’t say ‘cause I don’t ruin no one’s faith—that’s a terrible way to live life, with no faith. So, I say she pass on and they accept that. I done tried giving this secret away to tens of thousands of people these last hundred years, but aint no one ever able to accept it like I did—they have to ask for it, I learnt. People don’t always want to know how somethin’ work, they just want it to work for them. So, I just wait here and wait here until some new curious folk wander into town and sneak into Miss Joanne house for a secret they’ll never forget.


© Copyright 2018 A.D. Ware. All rights reserved.

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