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    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Wizard Part IV



    Part IV

    When I was fifteen, my Uncle took me on a road trip. We went west from the panhandle of Florida and stopped when we got to New Orleans. He evidently made the trip every few years or as needed when his "spice" jars ran low. He took me to a small store in the Creole part of town and introduced me to an old woman named Pirate Jane.

    Pirate Jane smoked thick dark cigars and exhaled smoke into your face to punctuate her sentences. She smelled of cat urine and dried leaves and had a high cackle of a laugh. She refused to put a patch over the hole where her left eye had been, so more times than not you stared at the hole instead of her good eye.

    Neither my Uncle nor Pirate Jane indicated how long they had known each other, but it had been long enough that they were comfortable in each other's presence. In the end I made a total of three trips with my Uncle to see Jane. Every-time, the transaction went the same way.

    Entering Jane's small store would cause a bell over the door to ring. Jane would answer this with a loud, "Fuck off," and then Mr. Toots, her cat would raise his head from where he lay on the counter, bear his teeth and hiss at you. Then, if she didn't hear the bell ringing again to indicate that whoever it was had been scared off by the theatricality of it all, she'd cackle and come into the main room through a haze of smoke and curtains.

    Her store was set up like most Apothecaries or Chinese herbalists. There were undreds of small drawers lining the walls from floor to ceiling, each with a label. A scale on the counter sat next to a mortar and pestle. Behind the counter were rows of empty jars of differing sizes, and in this case at the end of the counter was the ever watchful gaze of Mr. Toots.

    Of course what my Uncle was buying was not in the front room, so Pirate Jane would lock the front door and flip the open sign to closed. We would follow her trail of smoke through the back curtain where she'd pull aside a rug. My Uncle would grab the iron ring in the floor and pull open the basement door.

    Descending the stairs into the basement always made me uneasy. The room smelled of earth and decay. The shadows cast by the exposed bulbs would dance across an entirely different set of small draws, lining the walls, each with a label. What was different here were the large Jars inside which floated all manner of things best left to nightmares and fever dreams and the relics which filled a whole wall of shelves.

    Later when I asked my Uncle about what I had seen he told me that both magics shared a common menu of ingredients, but where they diverged, they diverged widely. Pirate Jane was an Apothecary. She sold whatever was needed. Pirate Jane didn't take sides. According to my Uncle the last time she had, she'd lost an eye.

    When I woke, I remembered my dream, and then I remembered why I'd had it. I was heading to see Pirate Jane, just like the letter had told me to. She had something I needed. Something in the basement. Something that diverged from what my Uncle had taught me. Before that though, I had a key that needed to be used.

    1 comment:

    Chicke said...

    You can recreate your uncle's original journey on Check it out!