by Suzy Stueben
I suppose I should begin by telling you my name is Mrs. Mariah Walters before I tell you how I came to spell weave a reflection shield to protect me from the bullies in my life. It began yesterday afternoon when I reached a watershed moment in my life. I turned a corner from being a doormat to being a person to be respected and, maybe, feared. OK I’ve really been a wishy-washy push-over for most of my life but now no more Mrs. Nice Person.
After yet another terrible day at work, I made it back to my small post World War Two house to find more trouble waiting for me. First, I pulled up to my mailbox to retrieve the day’s collection of junk. It included an official-looking envelope. My heart sank. Official envelopes are never good and I knew the contents meant trouble. Hokay -the bank was charging my account hundreds of dollars in overdraft charges. It made no sense to me. I dialed the bank on my cell. The problem was a check for seventy dollars posted against my account, customer service informed me. I remembered a check for seven dollars written a few days ago but not seventy. I would have to go in on my lunch break tomorrow and clear up the problem. I sighed. How would I get around the ogre of a boss to take care of this?
Next, when I inserted my key in the front door I noticed a note taped to the door. Oh crap! The nag across the street had been snooping around again. Last week she’d griped about the state of the laundry room and took exception to the curtains in the master bedroom. She’d come onto my property and walked all the way around to the back to look in my windows! The woman obviously felt entitled to go where she wanted. Apparently, it must be her “check up and see what terribly, socially unacceptable thing I was doing now” day. Ah, I see. I failed to put my garbage out this week as per her expectations. Does this woman have nothing better to do than keep track of when I put my trash out?
Then, I stepped through into the entry and immediately knew something was wrong. It felt empty. Tootsey Roll, my elderly dachshund, usually greeted me when I came home. I called for him “Tootsey? Tootsey?” He didn’t respond. Maybe he was outside. He could go in and out through the dog door. The light on the answering machine was blinking. The male voice of the nasty neighbor to the west growled, “I shot your stinking dog. It was barking. Don’t get another one or I’ll shoot it, too.”
“Tootsey! Oh no, oh no!” I ran out into the fenced backyard and found Tootsey lying still on the patio. I sobbed as I gently picked up his little body. “I’m so, so sorry,” I whispered. “How could this horrible person do this? Oh Tootsey, you never hurt anyone.” I was heartbroken. When he had killed pets belonging to other neighbors, they had called the sheriff on him. Nothing had happened. The creep lied to the officers and I knew he would do the same now. “Who me? I’d never do anything like that! How dare …”
On a really bad day like this one, Al, my dear, sweet husband, would give me a huge hug and tell me it would all be OK. Al passed away a year ago and I really miss him. I would tell him the day’s litany of stupid things. He would listen. Somehow the telling and his reactions would validate my sense of just how terrible a day it had been. I felt so alone and unprotected. Human Resources never responded when I complained to them about my work environment. I felt worthless like I had no value. I moved past despair to anger.
That was the moment I knew I was going to have to do something to stop people from treating me like trash! I was going to get respect somehow, some way. I was tired of all this crap. It was going to end and end now.
Retrieving a shovel from the garage, I walked back to the garden where I dug up some dead plant that didn’t make it from the spring planting season. Tears slid slowly down my face and dripped onto his little body as I placed Toots at the bottom of the hole. I pushed the earth back over him and placed a rock on top. Standing up I took a kazoo from my pocket and played taps as mournfully as I could. I whispered, “Tootsey, your death will be avenged. I promise you.”
It’s comforting to me – a shy, reserved person – to think magically. People like me don’t strike out. We live by the credos “Do unto others…” and “do no harm.” To cause someone else pain is unthinkable. It never occurs to us to poke our nose into other people’s business much less yell at them for a choice of curtains. To shoot someone’s adored pet is inconceivable. There was going to be a major change. I want people to treat me with respect, the way I try to treat them.
The neighbors would pay for all the grief they gave me. The ogre would pay. The forger would pay. They would all pay!
These words are something I have come to regret considering what I did next. I was just so angry. I didn’t think of the possible consequences. I really didn’t think anything would happen. I thought what I did next would just make me feel better thinking it might be possible. It really wouldn’t work I believed. People like me don’t really ever “do” anything. We’re wimps! Face it. Own it.
Remembering our aunts and the rumors of their “powers”, I wished I had some kind of magical talent. Maybe I could create some kind of shield that would reflect all the evil back on those who sent it my way to protect me from the insanity. Yes! That would be wonderful! No confrontation and I get pay back! Memories flooded back of when I was a young child in Salem living with the aunts. No one messed with them! By the light of the full moon, they did crazy things in the cemetery behind my grandmother’s house. The oldest, Aunt Violet, cooked stuff that smelled like flowers, herbs and frogs. The youngest, Baby Aunt, wove things from grass and string. The middle one, Aunt Mariah, would sing and hum. It was never good to upset the middle sister Mariah (aka my mom). She would make a humming noise and then something bad would happen. If someone said something rude to her, she would hum and the person would slip on ice and break something painful. Even in July.
Rocking back and forth, I began to hum. I closed my eyes and pictured the moon full in the sky. I imagined the moonlight being pulled into place around my home, forming a shield. I hummed faster as I lost myself in my mind making from moonlight the wonderful woven patterns Baby Aunt made. Picturing them as strengthening the shield trapping and repelling evil. Moonlight versions of Aunt Violet’s flowers, herbs and frogs were added to the woven pattern. Then I thought of Mariah and her singing to imbue the whole thing with the power to protect me and return harm to the sender. Instead of the hateful things intended, good would come to me. As I worked in my head, my fingers involuntarily began to weave imaginary bracelets around my wrists. Long into the night I worked. Moonlight streamed in the windows.
This morning I prepared for yet another day of hell at work. As I left the house I stopped. Perhaps triggered by the memories of our aunts, I thought of an evil eye bracelet my younger sister Babe had made me years ago. It was supposed to protect the wearer from evil. Back inside I went to retrieve it. I slipped it on my wrist and left. It couldn’t hurt could it?
Remarkably the day at work was quiet and almost pleasant. People were in and out of the boss’s office all morning keeping him busy so he couldn’t bug me. It was nice and I actually got some work done. Jane in the cubicle next to mine buzzed in about noon. “Have you heard? The boss is being fired! You must join us for lunch to celebrate!” I fingered Babe’s bracelet. I wondered but did not dare to think that the shield was working.
After work, I went to the bank. The seven-dollar check had been altered to read seventy dollars. The name for the receiver had been changed to “cash”. The teller told me the check was good and I had to pay. I asked to see a manager. The manager told me I had signed it and it was legal. I pointed out the signature on the back had my name incorrectly spelled. Not something I would do. I was there for an hour arguing with the man. It felt good to stand up for myself. I pretended I was protected by it. I gained the strength and courage to do battle. It was like the shield empowered me.
“How did this check get this far in the system? Why was it accepted and why do you think I would just let it pass?” I demanded in a strong voice.
The manager explained patiently, like I was a ten year old, “The check was cashed at the drive up window and we had no reason to believe…” Just then we heard loud noises coming from the drive up teller area. He walked over to see what was happening. The tellers were fussing over something. I glanced down at the check in my hand and saw it in the natural light streaming in from the window.
“Look,” I yelled at the manager waving the check in the hand with the bracelet to get his attention, “The ink is the wrong color and there are erasures. Someone’s altered this check and forged my signature. I, generally speaking, try to spell my name correctly when signing things.”
He paused, staring at my bracelet, and then took the check back, “It’s OK. I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry. I’ll fix your account.” He seemed a bit alarmed.
I thanked him and as I left I noticed a teller had her hand stuck in the cash drawer at her station. The other tellers were trying to get it free with little success. I wondered. Shield? Bracelet?
When I finally got home there was a foreclosed sign in front of the annoying neighbor’s house. I felt joy but then thought, I’m happy about another person’s misfortune. This is not good. This is not me. What’s happening to me? Is it the shield working or just coincidence?
While I was sipping some tea made from my older sister Violet’s recipe and reflecting over the troubling events of the day, there came a scratching noise at my door. The spitting image of my Tootsey shivered on the step. I brought the puppy in and fed him some food and set out a bowl of water. How could I keep this pup safe considering the nasty neighbor with the itchy trigger finger? Then I remembered the mirror shield.
BOOM! I looked out the window towards what was left of his house and rubbed the puppy’s head between his ears. He probably belonged to someone – a child maybe. Tomorrow I would ask around.
I was going to have to figure out a way to get rid of the reflection shield or tone it down. Today I would just enjoy it. This being evil is good for me.
© 2013 by Suzy Stueben