“I can’t believe you brought me here to be healed by some wild-haired crazy old lady!”, Roy Lestrange complained to his mother as she pulled him impatiently along.
“I told you, she’s not just some old lady; she’s a witch and she can make you better.”
“The fact that you believe in witchcraft ma…I mean this is 1989”, Roy complained even as he followed her through the trees to the ramshackle house he could see through it. It looked like it was standing strictly by the Grace of God or maybe some magic the witch was using to hold up her residence. Roy didn’t get it; if she had access to all this magic and shit, why didn’t she just magic herself a mansion and a fortune? Why live like an animal in the middle of the bayou with her equally crazy granddaughter?
His mother reached the door and knocked tentatively. They waited nervously for someone to come to the door. It was opened by a wizened old woman with a halo of grey hair; she smiled at them in welcome as if she’d been expecting them…
“Come in”, she said and led the way into her house. Roy was expecting to see the skulls of babies decorating the mantelpiece, maybe with snakeskin covering the walls. But no, the furniture was threadbare but neat. An aubusson rug, clearly old but well kept lay on the living room floor. The couch was covered with throw pillows and a crocheted cover. There were old school pictures on the wall of men and women dressed in old fashioned clothing. A tantalizing smell of freshly baked something emanated from behind the wooden kitchen counter. Roy’s mouth watered and he wondered if the witch would offer them something to eat before the day’s business began.
She led them past the living room however, toward some narrow stairs. The led up to an attic where all the good stuff was. Animal skulls, and chicken feathers, an altar with some sort of statue on it surrounded by offerings of rice and tobacco, black coffee and yams, a straw hat and a cane, pennies, palm oil and roses. This was more like Roy was expecting.
“What can I do for you?” the witch asked her voice surprisingly soft and compassionate.
“My Roy is sick Nannane. Could you heal him?” Roy’s mother asked diffidently.
The witch held out her hand to Roy and he understood that she wanted him to put his hand in hers. He was scared though; he didn’t want to do it. But his mother narrowed her eyes at him and he stretched out his hand and tentatively touched the witch’s with it. She closed her eyes, humming softly under her breath. A warmth suffused his hand where she touched it and then spread outwards towards the rest of him. He felt himself become languid, relaxed and at peace. His eyes closed of their own volition. It was like receiving the gentlest massage in human history.
“You have the wasting disease”, the witch intoned, “What are they calling it…AIDS?”
Roy jumped in shock. Nobody knew that; nobody said that. His mama didn’t know, she couldn’t have told. How had this witch guessed? He opened his eyes and pulled his hand out of hers, standing quickly to leave. His mother was watching him; a sad look in her eyes. The witch’s eyes were serene. She sat watching him, waiting for him to do what he would.
“How do you know that?” he whispered.
The witch just smiled slightly and held out her hands, “I don’t know if I can heal you; that is not in my hands. But I can make you feel better”, she said.
Roy just stared at her, “You can’t…tell anyone. You can’t…”, he stammered.
The witch shook her head, “My work is just as confidential as any priest…or doctor. You need not worry that anyone will know of your illness from me.”
“What can you do for me that the doctors can’t?” Roy demanded.
The witch shrugged, “The doctor gives you medicine for your body. You should continue to take those. I deal with a more holistic approach – your soul, your mind and your body – I call on the healing spirits to help you to feel better, and give you herbs to help your body and soul open up to that healing spirit.”
“I don’t believe in that mumbo jumbo”, Roy said belligerently.
“Indeed”, the witch said, seemingly unperturbed.
“Roy, will you just sit and let the lady do what she can for you?” his mother cut in irritably.
Roy stared back at her with a frown but the habit of obedience was long ingrained and he sat back down, “Okay”, he said.