Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Tale of Wanda the Wicked

(Copyright 2006, 2012 Dee Fairbanks Simpson)

Once upon a time there lived an old woman with her old husband in an old house in an old, old forest. She peered through gold opera glasses between the curtains to the mulberry bush on the front lawn.


“George,” she repeated, not waiting for answer. “What’s on the bush? I think it’s a bluebird, it looks like a bluebird! Can you hear it chirp? It sings like a bluebird! It must be a bluebird.”

George sat motionless in the rocking chair in the corner. Without looking up, he replied, “Can’t be a bluebird. It’s only January and…”

“Yep, it’s a bluebird alrighty,” she interrupted, still looking through the glasses. “My Spring Come Early spell must have worked!” She lowered the glasses and squinted out the window. “My children will be here soon,” she exclaimed, sighing heavily and wiping a tear of joy from her eye.

“No, Wanda Jean,” George said. “It is still only January. It is cold, it is not springtime. Your children are far away. Your spells never work.” His voice trailed off; this was a conversation they had had every winter for 50 years and he knew it was a lost cause.

“We must begin preparations at once,” said Wanda spinning quickly, losing her balance and clutching the back of a wooden ladder back chair to regain it.  “Prepare the feast,” she shouted, to no one in particular.

George, still sitting in the rocker sighed. “What shall I prepare?”

“Oh!” Wanda exclaimed. “We must have bread and stew and sugar cookies! And cider and  wine!” She hobbled to the corner where George sat. She offered her hand to help him up out of the rocker, but instead he pulled her down into the chair onto his lap.

“Not now, you old fool,” she laughed, not meaning it; in 50 years she had never turned down a quick smooch from her beloved.

The next morning, when they awoke, the room was warm, and Wanda thought aloud, “That is odd, the fire is out but it’s not that cold in here...”

“It’s this new bear skin, it is warmer than the old wool blanket.” George said, slowly lifting the bear skin from his body, careful not to expose her tender skin to the anticipated cold. He tucked the blanket back around her and slowly lifted himself off the bed. Something caught his eye out the window; a small flash of blue in the mulberry bush.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he whispered, staring out the window. “It’s a bluebird!”

In his heart, he knew that Wanda the Wicked was just a nickname, but he knew there could be no other earthly explanation; this had to be the result of a witch’s spell; a good witch, but a witch nonetheless. The sun was shining, the snow was melting, and here was a bluebird in the mulberry bush.

He decided against lighting a fire and instead lifted the latch on the front door. As he opened the door, warm sun streamed in and filled the room with heat and light. He noticed the green tips of the crocuses popping through the rapidly melting snow.  Wanda heaved herself off the bed and padded softly across the floor to join him.

“Did you remember to record the incantation this time?” he asked, his voice full of obvious wonder and astonishment.

“Yeah,” she said softly and slowly moved to a great stack of papers lying in the heavy oak table. She shuffled the papers for a few moments and finally retrieved her most recent composition:

Incantation for Early Spring, Attempt #50

Bobby Orr and Gordy Howe,
The season’s over, the time is now,
Make winter go, I want spring days,
No more speedy power plays.
Go away, Phil Esposito,
I want it warm as Sausolito,
I want to see butterflies, not snow leopards,
Head back to the locker room now,  Gregg Sheppard.
I’m sick of sleigh bell’s tinkly music,
Hang up your skates right now, Johnny Bucyk.
Win the Stanley cup next year,
Right now I just want Spring to be here.

She re-read the words aloud and smiled to herself proudly.

George looked bewildered. “But you love the Bruins,” he pleaded. “You use your crystal ball to watch them every night! They were going to be contenders this year! Now what?”

She hadn’t thought of this angle at all. “Uh...” she began and voice trailed off. She hobbled over to the crystal ball in the corner. Slowly, gingerly, she rubbed the glass. She couldn’t think of a spell and simply asked it, “Now what?”

Slowly in the glass, visions of her children came into view. From the south, from the far north, from the east and west, they were beginning their annual spring pilgrimage home.

“No! No!” She shouted, “What about my Bruins? Did they win the Stanley cup? What about my Bruins?” She angrily pounded her fist on the crystal ball.

Slowly a scene of Boston appeared in the ball. But instead of the Boston Garden, it was Fenway Park; instead of ice there was green grass cut into a tidy checkerboard pattern; instead of stocky toothless hockey players, there were clean-cut lanky ball players.

“Baseball?” she said in disbelief. “Baseball?” she sighed, on the verge of tears now.

George was unsure of what to say. “Hey, “ he said brightly. “The kids are on the way! We better get going on that feast. No?”

“I don’t care about the kids! What about my Bruins? Forget the feast,” she cried, “I need to write a new spell right now!” She hobbled quickly over to the table and furiously began scribbling:

Incantation to Bring Back Winter #1

Spring is here too soon, I don’t want this.
Go back home, Carleton Fiske.
It’s way too soon, bring back the ice,
Hang up your cleats and go home, Jim Rice!
The bitter cold is what I want,
Come back in 6 months, Louis Tiant.
Stop playing baseball now, Dwight Evans,
Bring the snow forth from the heavens.
Carl Yastremski, don’t round the plate,
It’s wintertime! For Spring, I’ll wait.

As she spoke the words, a cold wind began blowing through the front door. The sky began to go grey and a light snow began falling. As George rushed to shut the front door, she hobbled back over to the corner and once more began rubbing the crystal ball. She saw her children returning to their homes, and said hesitantly, “...and the Bruins?”

And slowly the Boston Garden came into view and she sighed contentedly as the familiar strains of John Keilly’s organ began playing the National Anthem.

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