Tanti Paige

In response to Photo Fiction #35, ok well not so much, because I way over went the word limit, but hey, when a story comes it comes, no so?

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Jarvia and I stooped in the thicket of banana trees outside the old wooden house in the back yard. The shed was old and the boards didn’t fit together too well so there were plenty cracks for two girls to look through, as long as we didn’t rustle the dried leaves at our feet and give away our spying.

Inside the hut, a scrawny woman sat, in a skirt suit that was her signature. This one, as prim and prudish as all her others was white, trimmed with demure beige. She sat at odds with her surroundings, looking out of place among the rough wooden furniture and the hard packed dirt floor. Her eyes darted around suspiciously at the bundles of drying herbs dangling from the roof, and the jars with indistinguishable labels sitting on the shelves made where the 2 x 4’s ran horizontal.

“Wait, is not pastor wife that? Is God she to pray to not the Loa.” I stifled my laughter and shushed my friend, she should know better than to attract her mother’s attention. Said mother was a big woman, tall and rotund in all her features. She stood at the other side of the room, chanting and rocking back and forth cross legged on the earthen floor. She rose in one smooth motion and danced across the room in a jerking stilted way, each of her movements bringing a loud huff or moan from her lips. Sweat ran in rivulets off her in the heat of the small room with it’s barely there roof. She danced and she huffed throwing plumes of colored powder into the air around the fidgeting woman, who jumped and twitched every time a limb came hurtling in her direction. We kept trying hard to control our giggles.

Tanti Paige suddenly stopped her moaning dance and her gibberish chant. She stood stock still and peered deep in the woman’s face. As quickly as she stopped she whirled, she tore around the little space, plucking this bottle and that from the improvised shelves, sprinkling and dashing things into a dried calabash bowl. The air was heavy and thick in the room, made more so that the smell of sour sweat roiling off the woman, she offered the bowl to the woman. The woman took it greedily, her beady eyes now filled with something sinister. She took the bowl from the Mobu and drank from it. A vial tasting brew, rum soaked kitchen herbs and salt.

Tanti Paige gave instruction and the woman danced as she had and chanted gibberish as she had, with her bare feet she beat the earth until her sweat ran and mingled with Tanti’s on the floor in front of the small alter dripping colored candle wax and burning dried cattle tongue leaves. At the end of it, Tanti Paige handed the woman a little doll. It was made of burlap, stuffed with the banana trash and had two black buttons for eyes. The woman in exchange handed over a wad of money, all grey and black bills about as fat around as my wrist. She left, first peering around the yard then darting to her tinted Mercedes and sped away. Back to her god maybe, or her cheating preacher husband.

Tanti watched her go then laughed out loud, a big booming sound to fit all else about her. She called us inside. No use pretending, the Mobu knew all, or so it was said. So how could she not know of two girls spying on her “black magic” dealings? She beckoned us sit and we did. We watched her laugh until her belly was fill of it, and she wiped a tear and heaved a sigh.

“That woman comes here and pays heavy for black magic. She pays to keep her church sisters down and to keep her husband faithful, but I go tell you a secret.” her eyes twinkles as she leaned in, as if some other spy lurked near. “No magic there that can help her, no black magic ever did a thing but make matters worse. Her trouble is not  from magic anyway, it’s from her frigid self and boastful nature, evil envy sit hard on that one chest. She paying high for chanting and chalk, and dolls, when all she need is a contented mind and a bar of soap!” we all laughed at that, it was a good show and it kept us fed, but that is all it was.

“One day I will teach you about magic children.” she was serious now. “I will teach you bush medicine and how to talk to those that watch over. I will teach you how to heal, never to hurt. Never hurt, our souls were not made for malice. Both of you will lead this village when I am gone. ”  She brushed a kiss to each our foreheads wandered back to the house to Make Uncle Del’s dinner.

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5 thoughts on “Tanti Paige

  1. Oh my gosh, Michelle! I’m so glad you let your fingers talk and talk. This is my 2nd favorite thing you’ve written. I’m still in love with the one about (was it) The Fisherman’s Boots (Shoes)? I tried to find it on your blog. I must have the title wrong. What was it again?

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