Hero This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   She was a witch.

We all knew that. From the youngest of the neighbors, innocent in our belief of Santa Clauses and Easter Bunnies, to the omniscient twelve-year-olds, past such childhood fantasies - we knew.

She had terrorized the children on Lupine Street for seventy-odd years. It started with our grandparents, her contemporaries. They had told us hushed stories about her family - (strange and unhappy) - and her childhood personality - (unfriendly and vengeful). She had had no childhood friends on Lupine Street; perhaps none anywhere. By day, she was the neighborhood tattletale, regaling parents and teachers with the slight misdeeds and faux pas of other children. At night, she went home to an ill, indifferent mother and abusive father, evidenced by the screams and loud crashes, as well as the obvious bruises that were visible by day. Her father was a scary-looking fellow and all the neighbors were afraid of him, so no one ever made the slightest attempt to intervene.

The next generation of frightened children were our parents. Like many families on Lupine Street, she remained in the home of her childhood. She cared for her aging parents and worked at some unknown job in the city. She hadn't gone to college or done particularly well in school, so it was assumed that she must have some low-paying secretarial job in a law firm or doctor's office. No one cared enough to ask. She never married - in fact, as far as anyone knew, her life was totally devoid of amorous pursuits. She spent all of her spare time sweeping her ivy-obscured front porch, yelling at kids for riding their bikes too fast or for trampling her lawn in pursuit of an errant soccer ball. She also made anonymous phone calls to people's mothers. It was our parents who first perceived her as a witch, an idea that endured.

We, the third generation, knew her only as an ancient, evil spinster. She rarely emerged from her house, decrepit from years of neglect. When we saw her, she was stooped over and shuffling, clad in shapeless black, a far cry from our own grandparents, who wore bright cardigans and golfing pants as they went off on Caribbean cruises or to the Senior Center for line dancing. The old woman was still the Big Brother incarnate, yelling at us when we walked on "her" sidewalk or threw snowballs, still calling parents with garbled reports of the wrongdoings of children she had witnessed. Any unkind reference to her at Lupine Street's dinner tables drew admonishment from parents or grandparents. They told us that she was just a sad old lady who needed people to be nice to her. Deep down, they too were scared of her.

I'm not sure whose idea it was. One morning we were discussing how much we hated her. We got more and more upset, suggesting worse and worse ways to punish her for her cruelty. Then it hit us - we would simply demand that she leave.

On Saturday night, we would all proceed to that infamous house, bearing flaming torches. Then, in no uncertain terms, we would make our demands: she must leave the neighborhood. We, the third generation of children persecuted by this woman, would finally revenge what we, our parents, and grandparents had suffered at her evil hands. It was terribly exciting.

Saturday came. We searched our houses for flaming torches, but found we had to settle for flashlights since our parents wouldn't let us use matches. They had no idea of what we up to, but I don't think they were too worried. The neighborhood was safe and it wasn't dark outside. We assembled on my front lawn, twelve vengeful children - a veritable lynch mob.

We began to march down the street together, our steps thumping and threatening. It did not take us long. We marched through her front yard, rebelliously trampling the grass that she had yelled at us so many times for walking over. Suddenly, a rush of adrenaline ran into me. I felt strong - I felt powerful. I felt big. I was omnipotent.

I marched up the crumbling porch steps, followed by the rest of the ranks. I was nearly oblivious to everything surrounding me: the other children, the flashlights, the parents who were peering out of their windows or standing on their porches, bemused at our procession. None of them made any motion to stop us.

I banged on the door with all my might, the sound echoing through the street. The other kids teemed behind me in a volatile group, waiting to revolt. There was no reply at first, so I rapped again, my knuckles stinging from the impact. Finally, we heard the noise of her shuffling footsteps. She opened the door just a crack. I could not see her face.

"We've had it with you," I shouted angrily, glib as an intoxicated politician. "We know you're a witch! Everyone on this street hates you! They always have! We've had it with your pettiness, your craftiness and your constant unfriendliness! You are the most horrible old woman we have ever met, and we demand that you leave, before we ..." I was cut off by rowdy shouts and screams of anger behind me as the other kids welled up onto the porch, dangerously overloading its aged boards. I heard a slight gasp, and she shut her door with a slam.

The group sent a bloodthirsty cheer up into the air. People began to congratulate me, thumping me on the back, cheering for me.

"You're a hero!" they cried in exuberant veneration. "You're a hero to us all!" I beamed, raising my hands above my head as if I had won an Olympic title. Some of them picked me up and bore me off the porch as one would carry off a baseball player who had hit five home runs. We yelled and screamed and shouted. I was golden ... I was the champion ... I was the brave transgressor!

I turned around to view the site of my conquest. Then I saw her haggard face. She looked at us out of the dimly lit window, cowering behind a sheer curtain. She looked devastated. Our eyes made contact - mine victorious, hers sunken and sad.

Suddenly, I didn't feel so heroic. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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IamtheStargirl said...
Jun. 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm
Beautiful.
 
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