once upon a time, as all good stories begin, in a tall pointed house the colour of twilight, there lived a witch. You’ve probably heard about witches with their warts and magic cauldrons and bottles of potions all in a row ready to harm others for imaginary slights and in many ways this witch was like some of those other story witches. But this witch had no warts and really was not much interested in harming others. She had a black cat who sat in the upstairs window and watched the birds in the feeders outside in the yard. The witch didn’t have a broom. Instead she used a vacuum to clean her house and a big black Cadillac to travel distances farther than she could walk. She had a cauldron that was often full of a most marvelous, magical soup and she did love to be outside when the moon was full. Her name was Kala.
Kala’s house sat on one corner of a crossroads. Crossroads are places where two roads or more intersect and when you arrive at a crossroads you get the chance to change the direction you are going. Kittycorner from Kala lived the wild boy in a dusty cave with a front wall made of sticks, old boards and discarded tyres. The cave had a door, but it was frequently open and at night a little sliver of light could be seen slipping through the door into the wild boy’s front yard. Most days the wild boy paced around and around his cave home swinging a willow switch at the air, at the grass, at the trees.
On the other corner lived the trollkin in a neat gingerbread cottage with a neat picket fence a carefully trimmed lawn and one potted plant that may have been plastic. Trollkins are not anything like their fearsome distant cousins the Trolls. Trollkins live alone and are very neat and clean. In fact, they are so neat and clean that no one else can live with them because other people touching things or making any kind of mess drives a trollkin to fits. This particular trollkin was a lady and every morning, rain, shine, sleet or snow she got up and was outside cleaning her yard before anyone else had even had their tea and toast. First she raked up any leaves or grass or twigs then she vacuumed any grass or leaves or twigs, then she swept to make sure she hadn’t missed any bits. Then she would get in her little red truck and go buy more cleaning supplies.
Old Blow, the north wind loved to torment the trollkin. He would hide behind the roof tops and as soon as she had made her yard nice and orderly he would swoop down blowing up swirls or dancing leaves, dirty, snow and sometimes even garbage and drop them in the trollkin’s yard.
Every day at the crossroads the same things happened. The trollkin would arise early and start cleaning and sweeping and making her corner orderly. The witch would wake up a little later, make a hot drink and warm cereal, tend her plants, gaze out the window, read, write and feed the birds and the wild boy would pace all around his yard muttering and swinging his willow switch.
One day when Kala was out feeding the birds she asked Madpie about the wild boy. Madpie travelled all over the country side and saw and knew much about everyone. Kala was worried about letting her cat out as wild boys were, well, Wild and who knew what could happen?
“What wildness is it that cause him to pace around and around swinging a stick and muttering?” she ask Madpie.
Madpie tipped his head to the side and peered at the witch.
“Gack!” he said, “Gack-ack”
Kala sighed and wondered how she could find out the answer to this mystery.
Two weeks later she spent the morning watching the trollkin rake the leaves that had blown into her yard during the night. Then she watched her vacuum the yard. Then she watched her sweep the yard. Then she watched her blow any remaining specks into the street away from her yard.
Later that day when she was watering her plants Kala asked Madpie who had stopped by for a drink, why the trollkin cleaned so much.
“Gack-ak” replied Madpie.
Kala the witch sighed. Madpie might know everything that went on in the neighbourhood, but he wasn’t always willing to share the information.
One night while the moon was full and Kala was sleeping a moon beam came in her window. Deep in her dreams she heard a voice whisper,
“Why don’t you ask them?”
Kala slept and Mr. Snookums, her big black cat purred and put out a paw to try to catch the moon beam.
The very next day when Kala was walking home from picking some wild violets she noticed the wild boy out in his yard, muttering, pacing and swinging his stick.
“Hello Wild Boy”, she said. “How are you today?”
Madpie and two, then three more of his children slowly drifted down into the yard trees. They sat silent, watching.
The wild boy looked up from his pacing. His look was intense, his eyes dark and his forehead wrinkled with worry lines. His hands were red and chapped. He sighed.
“Grampa is sick”, he said. His eyes got suspiciously moist.
“Is that why you are pacing? Are you worried about him?” asked Kala
The wild boy nodded.
“It keeps the monsters away. As long as I go round and round and say the secret song and swirl the air the monsters will stay away from us. My grampa taught me but I’m just not good enough to make it work and I have to keep doing it over and over” he said a little teary.
“I’m so tired”
“Hmmm” said Kala. “I think I might have some soup to help your grampa, could I bring some over?”
Kala was smart enough to know that what sometimes sounds silly or imaginary can often hold more than a little truth. She was also learning that how things look from across the crossroad in her own yard is not necessarily the way things are. The wild boy wasn’t necessarily wild, but just a boy doing the best he could.
The wild boy nodded and his eyes lost some of their fear and darkness. He turned and went back to his pacing, muttering and swinging but the way he moved now seemed a little lighter.
Later that evening Kala took some of her marvelous, magical soup and fresh bread over to the wild boy’s cave. As it was still warm she put some soup in two bowls and served the wild boy and his grampa. She sat and talked with them while they ate marvelous, magical soup and warm bread. She learned all about the monsters and the wild boy and his grampa.
“Hmmm” said Kala as she walked home.
Later still she left her house wearing all black and walked down the road past the wild boy’s cave to a row of trees and climb up high in one to watch for monsters. After some time the stars started twinkling brighter and she could hear hooting and hollering down the road. Sure enough, five stumbling, shambling creatures came out of the dark. They were hooded and slouching, pushing each other and laughing and falling out into the road.
“Hey!” snarled one of the monsters, “Let’s go chase way the Horribles that live at the crossroads. We don’t want those kinds here in our town!”
“Yeah” growled another monster and laughed a beastly laugh. “They steal children and leave one of their kind in the child’s bed so the parents don’t know their real child is gone. They feed it and care for it and it grows up to be a Horrible but the parents never know until the day they find it with a book Learning Things!
“I heard they don’t believe in Our Way. They think Other Things! Things that are unhallowed and wicked”, grunted another.
Then they all laughed only it was not a happy sound but one full of bitter things and meanness.
Kala up in the tree held her breath and watched, waiting to see what happened next and the monsters moved down the road in the direction of the Wild Boy’s cave, the trollkin’s cottage and her very own tall house the colour of twilight.
Suddenly one of the monsters stumbled as if he had bumped into something, then he staggered into another monster and then there was pushing and shoving and hollering and yelling, hooting and growling. After a few minutes of this monstrous behaviour they stopped, looked around and then turned and staggered off in another direction. Kala could hear them arguing over where they should go eat pizza.
Kala was not a witch for nothing. She knew exactly what to do with this problem. She hurried home and pulled out her cauldron. She mixed and stirred and pinched and measured long into the night until she had it exactly right.
A half portion of Nothing-To-See-Here mixed well with Suddenly-I-Have-Somewhere-Else-to-Be should do it thought Kala. She took long strands of thread and dipped them in the liquid, then dipped rocks in too. She took flower and grass seeds and swirled them around in the mix and then she strained the whole thing. She separated out the rocks, seeds and threads and put the liquid into a spray bottle. Then she took all of them out and went up and down all the roads leading to the crossroads tying threads around branches, dropping seeds and rocks and spraying the mix all over. It took her all night and she finished just as the sun was peeking up. Madpie watched her drop the last rock and tipped his head up and down at her several times.
Kala slept late that morning and when she woke up she made her hot drink and watch Jack the bunny hop around and dance in the sunny places of her yard. He was all white now except the tips of his ears and he ran excitedly back and forth smelling the still green grass. Madpie landed on the fence and said good morning. Kala agreed that it certainly was a good morning and asked him what was new in the neighbourhood.
“Gack-ack, see for yourself” advised Madpie and flew away.
Kala stood up, stretched and went around to look at the crossroads. There kittycorner from her tall house where the Wild Boy’s cave used to be was a nice neat hobbit hole home, with round slopping corners and little round windows with curtains. In the yard she could see the grampa fixing the front gate. He smiled and waved and Kala waved back.
“Hmmm” said Kala to herself, “Isn’t it amazing what you can see when you stop seeing what you expect?”