The Witch, the Cats and the Lizards – Pt3
Contiued from here
Bertha learns to live and let live, but at what price?
That Sunday evening Chad got home. Beryl had the pleasure of informing her dad about the dead lizards. How excited she was – it was as though she had waiting for this moment all her life and she gave out the graphic narrative as best a four year old could manage.
Bertha had her own tale to tell but after she was done, it felt like she’d just told an old wives’ tale to her husband. His reaction at best was some Mmhh’s, and an occasional arching of his right brow.
“The dead lizards are out back for you to see Sweetie.” She said finally, after the reaction she anticipated proved hopelessly elusive.
“Are they now… really?” he fumbled.
“Yes really!” She said, in an affirmative tone as if it was some exotic sumptuous lizard dinner surprise for him!
“Okay let me go check”
Bertha and Beryl followed close behind.
“Okay! Two lizards…, sure enough, now I will just bury them and get this over with,” he said, all the time reading the expression on his wife and daughter’s faces.
“Bury them! Where?” Bertha screamed.
“It’s okay, under the rocks, on that side,” Chad said pointing with his outstretched hand.
No one was there for the solemn ceremony, except Chad. He removed some of the rocks piled up against the fence and with a good sized hole for a grave, he lowered in the lizards and used the same rocks to cover them. Hopefully the story of the dead lizards was buried. Bertha and Beryl stood watching from the kitchen window.
Bertha couldn’t wait for Monday, but the day came and passed with no word from Ms. Primrose. It was the ringing of her doorbell at 5.00pm the next day, Tuesday that announced Mrs. Primrose’s return.
Surprisingly, the witch was in tow and was Bertha glad to see them both! But Bertha wasn’t looking into the witch’s face, for the fear of finding herself staring into a mimicry of Mother Theresa’s apparition!
After a short while, Bertha finally looked up after a stint of listening to a classic cock and bull story.
The witch’s story was that she had placed cat poison on top of the wall- fence they shared.
“What for? As cat bait?” She spat.
“It is what I do whenever my chickens hatch new chicks, as a precautionary measure to guard against scaling predators,” the witch explained, contorting her body in apparent assertiveness. Bertha couldn’t believe the nerve of the woman when she went on to ask,
“Were those two your cats? You ought to have called me to pick the dead cats up?”
Oh yes, she knew exactly what happened, when James and Bertha knocked at her gate!
Then she ranted on… “I also found two dead cats under our family car…”
“…You know, my other neighbors know about it”
“What?” She thought to herself, “that you are a witch and a murderous cat killer? Or probably that you all come from the same school of wizardry?”
“…I have lived here for ten good years you know, and never have I heard such a complaint before …” said the witch.
Bertha didn’t bother asking what the lizards had to die for!
Well, it could well have been “Street Court” without Judge Michael Mazzariello presiding. Bertha wondered what Judge Mazz could have ruled, had he judged the case; and all Bertha would have asked for as plaintiff was for the Witch to pay fees for professional fumigation services and damages for causing her mental distress!
Bertha didn’t find any one of the “other neighbors” who knew anything about all that and some reliable sources did confirm that for the many years they’d lived there, they had not known of the cyclic phenomenon: “Cats in Neighborhood slain for stalking witch’s Chicks.”
A Couple of weeks later, Bertha was beside herself and it was a beautiful early morning. She couldn’t make out what she saw lying out in the shadows as she peered through the kitchen window. It looked black and she figured it must be a parcel wrapped in black polythene.
It nestled among the rocks where Chad had buried the lizards a few weeks back. The most probable explanation she could come up with later was that the shadows made her hallucinate – thanks to the Witch, she had taken on a pesky jumpiness she hadn’t had before.
At times, she found herself imagining and deluding herself with only what she alone could see or smell. Bertha couldn’t get enough of Chad’s chiding when daylight finally came and the black polythene parcel turned out to be a stone!
On another occasion Bertha would swear the chicken trespassing into her compound was on a mission, surveillance maybe. The Witch stood knocking at Bertha’s front gate and announced:
“My chicken has jumped over the fence to your side.”
When Chad finally managed to corner it after a frantic chase, the little rooster surprised them. In a quick almost rehearsed stunt, as if simultaneously challenging her knowledge on flightless birds, the hen could soar into the air and glide over to where it had come from. In her mind, the unlikely spy had overstayed in its mission prompting its master to initiate a disguised extraction?
There was also another time when they were at the dining table enjoying breakfast when suddenly a gust of horrid smoke filled the room. The trail of grayish smoke could visibly be traced back from across the right- hand side of the fence. Bertha and the children quickly abandoned the meal to shut the back windows and open the front windows and door for ventilation. The pungent smoke then disappeared mysteriously as fast as its wake after causing the damage.
What about the time when Bertha found some weird round pellet in her dog’s vomit, or when she found a cock’s head lying on the ground as if planted as bait for one of her hounds to chew to its premeditated death or when she found the yellow oval berries strewn on her front yard!
Well, what trouble for some witch and her malevolence since Bertha had unfalteringly sworn to take it all in stride.
And so it turned out that witches simply don’t have shame because this one, probably with her bag of antics almost empty, turned to feigned diplomacy! She started being friendly to Bertha, but not without the unmistakable uneasiness she tried to conceal behind the facade of the smile she wore every time they met.
She uttered her greetings with some lyrical sweet voice, something which fuelled Bertha’s curt and cold replies to the fake pleasantries, and if before they rarely met – now they seemed to bump into each other all the time!
On the flip side, Bertha turned into a P.W.I. (Private Witch Investigator). She picked and analyzed every detail of the witch’s life. When Bertha eventually began putting everything into perspective, all the follies the witch had meted out made her contempt assume the form of empathy.
If the witch got her kicks from trying to mess up her life, then Bertha would give her the whole hog from then on.
Bertha remembered a proverb she’d read:
“Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins.” (Native American proverb, Cheyenne).
Well, Bertha had just started her moon walk and she hadn’t even covered half a moon. She was nonetheless ready to walk the whole two moons, but in her own Jimmy Choo pumps!
After compiling her espionage logs, it looked something like this:
Monday – Friday: Early morning – Witch sweeps compound, feeds chicken and chicks, stays indoors until midday, Gardner pops in (routinely, almost every day),
Afternoons – Girlfriend(s) visit, witch in, witch sees girlfriend(s) off, witch out, witch in.
Saturdays: Witch out (stocking on paraphernalia and charms).
Sunday: Witch out, Witch in.
Bertha still lives with her family in the same house, with her witch next door. The only thing that is different is the fact that she’s had to learn that times have changed from when she grew up, a few blocks down the road at No. 0728. She told me those were the good old days when her neighbors were truly consciously genuine folks.
“Well, those were different times,” Bertha told me over a steaming cup of tea.
She seemed to have had a profound effect from what she’d experienced in her new neighborhood and I jokingly teased that she must have acquired a new fear of dead cats and lizards!
“No Carol, it is stalking neighbors I fear the most!” Bertha corrected.
A couple of months later Gayle was around to see Bertha, and she was heavy laden with a tale to tell… the story of Block C Apartment, 5th floor, Wing II, 2nd Bedroom Window … but that’s a tale for another day …