It is a glorious, sunny day in late October and I have decided I need a new table in my dining room. For over forty years, I have suffered with a Swedish Modern P.o.S. picked out for us by my mother-in-law. Someone, I feel, should have been sacrificed on the alter at my wedding to Al. Now I is the time to replace it with something I like.
I fall into my rolling wreck and set off for Indianapolis three hours away. It is a lonely ride. Before he died, I made these trips with Al at the wheel. Our dachshund Tootsey Roll in the back seat snoring mightily. We listened to the radio and sometimes sang along. Not that either of us was good at it but we enjoyed ourselves. Now I can’t bear to turn it on. Instead, I listen to audio books and I barely pay attention.
The miles speed by as my memories and I go past the wind farm and over the Wabash. The chocolate shop in Lebanon tempts me as I rolled by. I almost stop but the seat belt feels tighter than usual. Right through downtown Indy I cruise with all the memories of the years gone bye sitting in the passenger’s seat. Al and I in the front seats and our three daughters riding in the back to visit the zoo, state fair or the children’s museum.
Finally, I’m on the road heading south out of town where the specialty furniture shop is located. The light turns red and I slow to a stop. I glance out the window to the right and see some lawn ornaments. There is a sea serpent creature swimming in the parking lot. I smile and turn in on impulsive. My lack of thinking things through have already caused me some pain. I’ve been struggling with taming the reflection shield that causes harm to anyone who attacks me. I constructed it around myself a few days before when my deceased neighbor shot my sweet Tootsey dead. I had no idea what the consequences would be – I swear. I never dreamed it would cause his house to blow up with him in it.
After parking the car, I cross the tarmac to the sea monster. It is awesome all glossy green scales and big blue eyes. The price tag says $250. It will stay swimming in the parking lot. But right next to it is the most adorable stone gargoyle. Wonderful wings spout from its shoulders. I can see it in Marti Gras beads and shades right by my garage door happy to greet me when I pull in the driveway from work. The price is $35. I can handle that. I might have to give up pop for the month but it will be worth it. Somewhere, I remember reading, gargoyles with wings are said to fly around at night protecting their owner’s home from evil. Could it possibly be a replacement for the shield? A small voice in the back of my mind starts whispering bad, bad idea to buy this over and over again.
My car sinks a good inch in back as the guy loads it into the trunk. I may not ever get the thing out of my vehicle. The bottom of the wreck bangs against the ground as I exit the parking lot and continue my journey. The shop is only a block away. The table I order is a beautiful dark cherry mission style joy to behold. It is horribly expensive. It is pure indulgence like dark chocolate caramel. I close my eyes and picture it in my dining area with family laughing around it eating good food.
The journey back is uneventful and this time I pay attention to the War of the Worlds audio book. I can hear my mother’s voice telling me how she had listened to the original broadcast many long years ago. Apparently, people thought it was true had jumped off bridges to their death. Orson Wells must have felt awful knowing something he had done had caused the death of others. I can relate to that.
What can I do about the reflection spell? Maybe I’ll call Mother. Nah. It’s not good to bother her. Then again not calling her might be the worst decision I can make outside of creating the shield or possibly buying the gargoyle. How will I explain this? Better not.
I abandon the poor excuse for transportation in the driveway and pop the trunk. I suppose rolling down the road had caused the thing to roll around a bit because it had definitely moved. I reach in and wrap my arms around it then heave with all my might. It moves maybe a half-inch. It’s heavy. It takes a lot of heaving and tugging and dragging to finally get it out of the trunk and then it falls in a sort of controlled drop to the ground. I “walk” it over to the side of the garage where I run out of the strength to move it further. I pat it on the head and try to straighten up. Oh that hurts. I mumble, ”See you tomorrow” to the stone guardian and limp into the house.
Several days go by, a truck tries to cross into my lane when I’m in it on the way to work and ends up in the ditch. I hope the driver is OK. Someone rams my cart with theirs in the grocery and has a display of cans fall on them. As I trot or really just walk fast towards the entrance to the building where I work, I’m bumped by a delivery person. Who then trips and falls in front of a bus. This is getting very out of control. I’m really having some heavy guilt issues – maybe.
I notice that the gargoyle is never exactly where I saw him last. Tonight, he is at the mailbox by the curb. Now I know I saw him at the sidewalk this morning. I never moved him from next to the garage door. Something is going on and what it is I have no clue.
“Excuse me?” It’s my next door neighbor. “About your gargoyle …”
Oh oh “Yes?”
“It’s moving. I know this sounds really odd or maybe strange but I know I saw it last night chasing a car full of teenagers down the street. They’d been drinking and partying and were playing mailbox baseball until they got to your house. I was calling the sheriff and trying to describe what I was seeing when they screeched to a halt, turned and took off. That hunk of stone in hot pursuit.”
I look at the gargoyle with narrowed eyes. He stares back with not even a twitch. “I’m not sure I know what to say. Have you tried therapy?”
“Yes, but it didn’t help much, she left me anyway. I was just wondering if I could borrow him for a night or two. The people on the other side of me have these fights outside in the middle of the night and they’re shooting off guns under my bedroom window and I was thinking maybe he could scare them into taking it elsewhere.”
“I’ll have to think about it. I doubt he’d be very effective.” Oh I know I will have take back those words. I think the gargoyle seems to frown a little. “I’ll ask him.”
“Thanks,” he says and wonders back to his house.
The gargoyle shifts his position to face the rowdy neighbors. “You’ve decided to help.” I say and go inside as the sun drops below the horizon. I probably should stop him.
I awake to the sounds of screaming sirens coming from down the street. I crawl out of bed praying my arthritic stiffness will loosen up quickly. Whatever is the problem? What has the gargoyle or the shield done now? I don’t think any of my neighbors have caused me any difficulties recently. It has to be the gargoyle. I throw on some slacks and a sweat-shirt not caring what I look like. I hobble down the stairs and hurry out the front door. There’s a fire where the rowdy neighbors live. I groan and then I ouch my way across the acorns scattered all over the front yard from the oak tree. Fall, lovely to look at from inside terrible on bare feet outside.
I make my way over to the neighbors’ questioning my choice not to stop and put on shoes. I can see police, fire and EMT vehicles out front. People are moving around in fire fighting outfits. I look for the gargoyle. He isn’t by the garage. Suddenly, I hear yelling and cursing. Everyone starts running toward the street as a dark shadow falls out of the night and swoops across the rooftree of the neighbor’s house spewing fire. Who knew gargoyles spew fire? This is news to me. If I yell at him, people will know he’s mine and if I don’t he will keep going. I have to question if spitting fire is a violation of the health code given fire is used to sterilize things. Enough! I have to get him under control. Why didn’t I name him or does he have a name? Is he a he? I wonder if hand gestures will work. I have a full vocabulary of Italian ones. I settle on screaming, “What the hell are you doing? Get on home.”
I can be liable for this if they think I have anything to do with this and then I remember the shield. This is so out of control. I spot Laura, one of the owners of the house. We used to be friends and I miss our conversations. She is in the nagging neighbor’s camp and now she refuses to talk to me. I hurry over anyway. “Laura is everyone ok? Do you need anything?” Laura looks at me with a look of fear and revulsion. She quickly crosses herself and makes the symbol of the evil eye. I look behind me but no one is there. Is she reacting like this to me? “Where are the children Laura? Are they safe?” Laura’s six grandchildren live with her along with her two sons. She just looks at me with a face of horror. This is what happens when you try to exact revenge I think. Laura’s husband hurries up and pulls her away toward where her sons stand with the children.
I can see where they might have a problem. My gargoyle has just burned down their house and endangered their lives. Just wait until I get him home. I’m not going to let this rest and continue to fester. They are hurting and have problems. I am or used to be their friend and I need to step up and help. I walk forcefully over to where they cower. “Come to my house. I have warm blankets and beds for the children. I’ll make some hot drinks. You’ll be safe. What?” Their stare at me in total horror now. I raise my hands in a “what gives expression” and then I know. “He’s behind me.” Laura gives a single tiny nod yes. “ He won’t hurt you. I promise.” I turn and look sternly at him. He looks very contrite. His eyes are looking at his feet and his ears are drooping. “You need to think about what you have done here!” He shrugs. “Do you have a name?” He writes “Lex” on the ground with one wickedly sharp claw. “Lex, keep these people safe.” He nods.
I turn back just as Laura and her family drive off. I sigh with disappointment. Then I see Lex flying after them. “Ho shit!” I can’t win.
When I get back to the house the phone is ringing. I close my eyes in pain. All I want is some peace and quiet without nagging neighbors and nasty bosses. My hand grasps the cheerfully warbling thing from the base and raises it to my ear. “Mari! Mom wants you home now!” It’s Baby my younger sister. She hangs up not waiting to hear my reply. She knows I will come. We are all afraid of our mother. Going is the only option.
I shower and dress “presentably”. God help me if I show up in less than perfectly appropriate attire with messy hair. Mother is a force for propriety. My car putters along to her house in a very sedate fashion. I am so not in a hurry to find out what the woman wants. The front door opens as I approach it and I step through. “Mother is really upset with you!” is what I expect to hear. Instead my sister gestures for me to follow her down the hall to the matriarch’s room. Mother is lost in a huge old bed much like it is swallowing her. She makes a shooing gesture with her hand to Baby who leaves the room. I move closer to the bed. This is not the robust woman who chased me around the house with a hair brush until I topped six feet. I sit on a chair next to the bed. “OK Maternal Parenting Unit you called me here. What do you want?”
She snorts, “As if you don’t know and call me mom just once please!”
“Help me with the shield and not happening,” I reply.
“You wove it of all three sister’s magic. It’s never been done before. This is like the time they had to condemn the high school and tear it down because of your frog infestation,” she huffs.
“They were just a little poisonous.”
“They were deadly and their venom was everywhere.”
“OK so I was a little out of line. I over reacted to the gossip squad I admit.” I move my hands in a gesture of what’s the problem.
“Just because they stole your clothes and you spent the day going to classes in your gym uniform is no excuse to render the entire school unusable,” she preaches on.
“That wasn’t the only thing they did and it was ugly and smelled.”
Mother sighs in exasperation . “The school or the gym clothes or both? What about that time in college? The professor who told you there were no great women artists and you switched his gender on him. Why did you plague your mother-in-law with flies? Oh wait I’ll give you that one. I never liked that woman. Seriously, Mari you have to be more careful. That man died when the house blew up. Ok he killed Tootsey and was evil. He was probably a serial killer or something I admit but still. Regular people don’t understand about us. If they find out what you can do they’ll be asking you for all sorts of silly things. Love potions! Good luck charms to help them win the lottery! What happens when it doesn’t go the way they want? I remember this one time I made a love potion for this person and he ended up with a fish for a ‘spouse’. Shameful. Who knows you might make me a good luck charm for the lottery!”
“I can try.”
“No don’t! You’ll probably set it up so it bankrupts the whole world.”
“Why are you in this bed? You’re usually up and making everyone crazy,” I’m hoping of course that it’s not due to the reflection spell.
“Someone who has issues with her mother made this reflection spell.”
“Your older sister is having some issues also and Baby can only tell the truth. That can get very awkward. She’s hiding out here.”
“I’m just very tired of people pushing me around. Tootsey dying was the last straw. Maybe I went a little too far.”
“You think!” She yells.
“I want to modify it. Tone it down a bit. Put in an escape hatch like if they apologize and never do it again they can avoid the consequences. Is the spell just for me or can I extend it to my friends and pets?”
“Family might be a nice addition.”
“I must think this through.”
“Wish you’d done that before! Can you reverse it somehow? I’m itching like crazy.” She starts scratching vigorously.
“Maybe scale it back so the consequences aren’t as catastrophic. Did you try oatmeal?” I suggest.
I stand up and leave. I don’t mention my new pet. It will only make matters much worse.
That night I revisit the spell inspecting the weavings and the flowers and smells. I tweak a bit here and pinch a bit there humming as I go. I try to hold the thoughts of what I want to change in my mind as I weave. My daughters are added as are my nieces and nephews. My sisters are considered but I decide not. Memories of them torturing me as kids stays my hand. I only add them in a limited way. I put in parameters of response to scale to the cause of the spell’s trigger. Well, that sounds good to me. Expiration dates and time delays make it in. Death is off the table.
Maybe I should consider the element of intent. Perhaps the shopping cart ramming was more a matter of not paying attention than deliberately trying to hurt me. I add that thought to the spell. Now it will work only for intended evil thoughts or deeds. Now to see if it helps.
I decide I can try and train Lex while I wait for results. It’s sad to think that it is only a matter of time before someone thinks or does something nasty to me. Well – tries.
What kind of food does a stone gargoyle eat? Hold up where is he? Opening the front door I call out into the night, “Lex. Leeeeeeex.” I shake a small left over bag of dog food in the air. The sound of his wings tells me he is coming. I can see some smoke still curling slowly from the neighbor’s house. I better make this training a top priority.
Apparently, Lex likes dog food and treats. His training is coming along nicely when the sheriff’s car pulls into the driveway. “Officer? How may I help you?”
‘We’ve been told that you have an illegal pet here?”
“Some kind of flying, fire breathing monster.” He laughs.
“Does such a thing exist?”
The sheriff’s deputy chuckles. Then he spots Lex standing still by the sidewalk. He pats him on the head. “OK He’s made out of stone. Sorry to have troubled you ma’am. Someone is going to be in big trouble for calling in a false alarm.” He turns and walks to his car. Ah the spell is working perfectly.
I wait for the Sheriff’s car to disappear over the hill out of sight. “Lex! Come inside for supper.”
©2014 Suzy Stueben