The Witchy House
It was a witchy house. An imposing three story house with a high peaked roof and seven gables, it is the largest house in Mt. Hood. The Witchy House, painted a spooky gray, has squinting shuttered windows. The empty rocker inside one of the front windows just rocked and rocked day and night, creepily. No one sat in that chair. It was just plain creepy. It reminded Hank of the animated movie Monster House, and Hank did not want to be eaten by a house.
I just stood there. My feet felt as if they were in cement. I was a scared goose and I knew it. Hank thought gloomily. How can I ask the old witch if she wants a newspaper? I have never seen her. I have staked out the house for nearly four weeks waiting to catch sight of her, but never once have I seen her. It was spooky how things happened outside the house. The rose garden was always nice, the lawn always mowed, yet no one ever saw Miss Murphy. This is the old house at the end of Filbert Street, only as old as I am (twelve years old) but built to look very old! Everyone tells the story of the house, which is a replica of Judge Corwin’s Salem Massachusetts house back east. He was the judge of the Salem Witch Trials. They hanged or maybe drowned several young girls. Said they were witches. Now no one believes the girls were. Now why would someone want an exact copy of that house? Hank thought. It is just plain creepy to make a copy of the oldest house in the U.S. Once a week the red flag on Miss Murphy’s mailbox is up, waiting, full of packages. Missy Boyle drives up in her weird mail van with the steering wheel on the right side. I wave and Missy stops her truck. “What are you doing here Hank? Haven’t I seen you
almost everyday standing by that old oak tree?” Missy grins and waits for me to answer. Oh boy! Ugh, the thing is, Missy, I’ve been hoping to sell a newspaper subscription to the old witch, I mumble. I can feel the heat rising in my face, and Missy giggles until tears run down her pinkish cheeks. “Hank, old Miss Murphy is not a witch. She makes little faeries from balsa wood and bits of this and that. Then she paints them so beautifully that you expect them to fly away. Instead, she mails them out once a week.” Missy told me this with a wistful whispery voice and a far away look in her eyes, remembering having seen these marvelous creatures. I do not know what to say. Faeries are flying around inside my head. Do, do you think she would subscribe to the newspaper? I ask. “Only way to find out is to ask Miss Murphy,” replies Missy. My hair is damp now with sweat; I am scared of the “Witchy House”. Missy puts her hands on her hips, wrinkling her nose at me. With a ‘go take out the trash’ voice, Missy tells me to just walk up to the
green door and knock. With a gentle push, Missy sends me toward the Witchy House. Now you have done it Hank. You have told Missy about staking out the house in hopes of catching sight of Miss Murphy. I want my knock on the door to sound grown up. The door is so solid that the sound comes out as a quiet thud, thud. Click, clack, click, and clack I can hear on the hardwood floor inside. Miss Murphy must wear granny shoes, I think. The door opens all the way without a squeak. I guess my eyes show my surprise. The hinges must be soaked in oil. The heavy green door does not make a sound. Miss Murphy stands in the doorway wearing a large tan lab coat with big pockets. The coat hangs to her ankles; little black granny shoes peek out from beneath the lab coat. Miss Murphy’s face is all wrinkly, but she’s wearing a big smile. Her silver hair is pulled into a big bun. For an old person she has lots of hair. I realize that she is no taller than I am and I am only starting the 5th grade!
“Come in, come in” Miss Murphy says cheerily as she wraps her small arm around my shoulders. She walks me directly back to the kitchen, which is really big and smells of home baked cookies. “Would you like milk or apple juice with your cookies?” she asks. “Milk, please,” I mumble, Miss Murphy pulls out a chair at the table as she paces a big plate of oatmeal cookies in front of me. The cookies are still warm, and oh, so good I cannot stop eating them until the plate is empty. Miss Murphy stands there waiting for me to say something. She has large wire framed glasses perched on her nose; behind them are the most amazing green eyes I have ever seen. Her eyes twinkle with merriment and the corners are wrinkles etched from a permanent smile. I take a final swallow of milk and clear my throat, “My name is Hank Heaton, Miss Murphy, and I want to ask you if you have a subscription to the Mt. Hood Post?” Miss Murphy, turning and tilting her head, smiles at me. “Isn’t that interesting, Hank. I have lived in Mt. Hood for twelve years now and no one has ever asked me about delivery of the paper. I pick up
the Post at the market over on Main Street. I would be glad to get the Post here at home, if you would make me a customer of yours.”
“I live on Ash Street in the big blue house and mom is a lawyer here in town,” I tell Miss Murphy. I pull out my receipt book to get her details and money. Boy, it has been nearly two months since I have added anyone to my route. I am so excited and nervous. “Missy Boyle said you make wooden faeries and send them out once a week,” I blurt out, turning red. Miss Murphy smiles, lifting a finger into the air as if to say, “Wait a minute,” as she walks into another room. She comes back in the blink of an eye, holding a little wood sprite encased in a hard plastic see-through cylinder on a cheery wood base. This is not a Barbie doll like the one my sister Ruth has, I think. With transparent wings and a dark green dress as short as cheerleaders wear, the wood sprite as Miss Murphy calls her, is beautiful. She is prettier than a Miss America pageant queen is and so realistic I expect her to start breathe.
I can hardly believe my eyes; it is just as Missy Boyle said. I hold in my hands a faery. She looks so real. Her hair is poofy and silky, a pale blond color. Two little antennas project from her head like an ant’s antennas. Her wings look like transparent fly wings. I can see a rainbow in each one! Miss Murphy whispers, “Be gentile she is very delicate.” I can see she is very proud of the work she has done. Little did I know exactly what work she did! If I had known, I would not be where I am today. “Hank, have you read about faeries?” asks Miss Murphy. “Well, sure I’ve read all the normal faery tales; Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast. Is that what you mean?” I ask Miss Murphy. “Hank, I mean about faery world of wood sprite, elf, and brownie all the magic people of faery.” She replies.
What should tell her? I think. “My dad is fanatical about us reading Lady Gregory, W. B. Yeats, James Stevens and Joseph Jacob, all the
old faery stuff. We read all about the Tylwyth Teg of Wales and the Tuatha Dé Danann, the original faeries of Ireland.” I respond. I hold my breath waiting for her response. This is my terrible family secret. I could never tell my friends that I listen and read this stuff instead of watching Homer Simpson. Miss Murphy leans over and kisses me on the forehead. I can feel she understands as if she were in my place. The feeling flows from her. “My family is totally weird when it comes to evil faeries. Sorry.” I mumble uncomfortably. Miss Murphy smiles, “I was born Irish, Hank, so I know a bit about the bad fae. Changelings and Banshees are serious matters, but so are Foundlings. Does your father teach history or literature, Hank?” Miss Murphy asks. “He teaches Medieval literature at Mt. Hood University,” I say, wondering how she knew. “Come back for cookies and a chat on Saturday morning, Hank, or the one after, if you already have plans for this one,” she urges. Nodding my head that I will, I leave, wondering how much of my visit I should tell dad about tonight.
As I walk home, I think of my strange family history. My dad teaches college students about Hobbits, talking lions and faery tales. How strange is that? I am the seventh son of a seventh son. This is scary stuff to be sure. My ancestor Robert Heaton died at the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga. Robert’s son was born after he died and never knew the family history back in Wales. Except for the Welsh Bible, he left behind written in Cymru. Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by a strong gust of wind. All I can think of is getting home to a warm meal.