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“The Witch in the Woods”

p.  2 of 6

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          We had a cup of tea, and chatted and caught up. They told me to make myself comfortable and just ask for whatever I needed. I told them I was going to the garage to see if I could find some of my old baseball cards I’d been thinking about.

          The garage is gray, but when I flipped on the fluorescent lights, I knew that any things I had loved in the nineties would be in the crawlspace under the stairs; that was where dad would be storing them.

So I went down two steps and turned,  and walked to the far end and turned again,  and faced the crawl space.

          There’s no door there, it just goes back. There’s an exposed lightbulb with a metal-link pull chain. So I pulled it, but the light didn’t go far.

          I went back, hunching down more the further I got, and remembering the dank, back-there smell. I scraped my

head on a nail and hunched


down further.

          When my foot kicked a shoebox, I got to the stack. I kneeled and started to take off the tops, to find my old card collection.

          There they were. The cards in clear sleeves and plastic cases. The ones that were loose. I brought the box up to my face and smelled it.

          That was when I remembered the old house and wondered where it was now, and immediately I knew I was in it, that this was it, but it reminded me of the other time I hadn’t known which house I was in, except that time had been the opposite, because that time I had thought I was in the house before realizing I wasn’t.

          I don’t know exactly when, but I guess it was in the nineties, because I was running down the sidewalk, past the other ranch houses set back on their lawns, with the sunset staining the sky of my suburbs orange and purple. 

          My memory is I was running from something, but I honestly can’t remember; maybe it was a dog. But I was running to get away, so I was sprinting for my house but I wasn’t looking.

          When I slammed the door behind me and put my hands on my haunches and kneeled forward, panting, I saw those big white spots behind my eyelids, from needing air.  The front door I was leaning against had the oval window with the opaque glass, so that was the light that was on me.

          I stood straight and walked in deeper.  I went down the step to the family room, and that was when I knew, because the carpet was the same type and shade as at home, but the rug was too springy, and it resisted my foot’s imprint in a way the carpet at home would never.

          Which was how I knew.

          My spine straightened.  Jaw dropped.  It wasn’t my house, it was my house’s double.  No one there.  Unlived-in.  The furniture an imitation of a family’s set-up.  Layout identical, but space emptied; light and spirit distinct.

          Still, something about how the light streamed through the window and across the carpet made me turn,  and as I did I thought I saw a hunchback picking her way across the gray-beige rug on tiptoes,  and I remembered a dream from before.


The Witch in the Woods
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exposed lightbulb
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