Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 1, 2009

The Two-Color House

Bailey Island, ME. May 3, 2003.

5-3-03-green-and-teal-house-3

Randy peeked around the stairs. Blueberry muffins. The smell pulled him closer, until he was crawling past the front door to crouch beneath the kitchen window. Sometimes she put fresh muffins out to cool. Maybe today’s my lucky day!

It wasn’t really the muffins he wanted to steal. His own ma made wild strawberry muffins so tasty kids would pay ten perfect slingshot stones for half of one.

He wanted a glimpse of her face. Was she ugly as a toad like Billy said? Did she have snakes in her hair like Greg said? Was her nose long and bumpy and crooked like a witch’s? Did she add bugs and bat’s wings to her muffins?

The sill lifted with a whish, and Randy’s heart pounded. A slender hand, pale and adorned with a thin gold ring, retreated back into the house, only to emerge again a few minutes later hidden inside a red and white checked oven mitt. The hand placed the muffins on the sill, and Billy inched his head up.

He was so close he could probably stick his tongue out and lick one. He heard giggling coming from behind the stone wall. Shut up! he silently ordered them. It was all a dare of course. Billy and Greg had already stolen muffins. The stories they told about the ugly witch in the two-color house … well, they made every other kid jealous. Randy had even paid a whole strawberry muffin for the story about the snakes in her hair.

With that memory making him suddenly bold, Randy reached up and grabbed the nearest muffin. “Ouch!” he yelped. It was hot! The muffin plopped sideways back in the pan, and Randy turned to run … but it was too late. He felt bumpy cloth wrap around his wrist, holding him tight.

Billy and Greg’s backs were already retreating down the road. They wouldn’t save him. I’m gonna be chopped up and popped in the oven like Hansel and Gretal! She’ll keep me in a bird cage! Or maybe just turn me into a frog or something …

“If you wanted a muffin, you could have asked.”

The voice wasn’t raspy or evil or old. It was just … a voice. A little deeper than ma’s, but actually kinda more soothing. If he’d stolen one of ma’s strawberry muffins, you woulda heard her voice all over town, and Randy would already be getting a whacking with a wooden spoon.

“I …” Randy started, his mouth opening and closing.

“Stop that. You look like a fish.”

“Sorry ma’am.”

“Come in.”

“What?!” Randy struggled for a second, but it was hopeless. Her grip was iron-tight.

“I said, come inside. I’ll meet you at the door. You can have a muffin with me.”

Her grip released, and Randy considered making a run for it. Then he remembered the snakes story and thought better of it. If I get out alive, I’ll have a story to beat all Billy and Greg’s stupid tales.

The front door hung open, swaying in and out slightly in the sea breeze. Randy paused on the doorstep.

“H-hello?”

“What are you boys so afraid of? Come in.”

Randy nearly tripped over the welcome mat in his surprise. The witch in the two-color house wasn’t ugly at all! She was the opposite. In fact, Randy thought she was prettier than the new school teacher all the boys had a crush on.

Except she looked so sad.

It was something about the way her hands hung at her sides, and the tiny lines by her mouth.

“I’m not afraid, ma’am. Thanks for inviting me in, but …”

“But nothing. It’s been a long while since I had company.”

*****

Later, when Randy told his story (cost Greg and Billy twenty slingshot stones, five penny candies, and a nickel), they left quaking in their shoes. She eats baby kittens? You saw all her cages of mice and bats? The looks on their faces made Randy laugh so hard inside he almost cried.

But he had to get going. He was meeting the witch for tea and cookies today, and he didn’t want to be late.

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