The Cat Dragged Inn: Chapter One

The Cat Dragged Inn: Chapter One

A Chapter by Montilee Stormer

Chapter I

There are places in the world where time stands still. It isn't that Progress is stagnant or refuses to move forward, but rather, it has decided to skip that particular spot for reasons that the average individual can only chalk up to cowardice.

St. Helena's Island is one such place.

Slavery, revolution, and now quiet deterioration, there is no more desperate snatch of land that is watching magic hemorrhage from its people with every generation born into television, video games, and rampant skepticism. But that is now. We're going to a when, a time where the land was more alive with the thrumming pulse of magic.

It is also a when that people don't like to be remind of, and perhaps letting the magic die is the best way for some to finally be free of the horrors done to one human by another.

During the time of Slavery, that ugly scar on the backside of American History that itches with infected stubbornness from time to time, the Sea Islands of South Carolina was a large importer of rice, cotton, and tobacco, most of it sown and harvested on the backs and irrigated with the blood of slaves. Angolans were deemed perfect for fieldwork, their strong bodies able to withstand the withering South Carolinian climate, and no one knew how to better grow rice. While they lacked anything physical in the way of possessions, they carried with them generation upon generation of oral knowledge, seemingly passed through their blood. But I am getting away from the story. All you need to know is that there was a culture clash between the Angolans and the Anglos, and the resulting mixture is a thick spiritual gel that seeped deep into the minds and bodies of those it touched.

Those lousy with the gel rose up to become Root Doctors - practitioners of powerful medicines that could cure, kill, and settle legal disputes, sometimes all at once. usually within a few days.

The year is 1935, years before property around Hilton head skyrocketed into ridiculousness. Slavery is gone, but not forgotten, as Blacks are free but not equal. They live on land left behind after the Civil War by plantation owners who found safer pastures further inland. St. Helena's Island is by no means a rich place, but what it lack in money, it makes for in cultured men with storied lives.

In a shack on the edge of nowhere, one such person sits behind a closed door in an office comprised of milk crates, junkyard furniture, and scores and scores of bottles holding liquids, powders, bones, and substances that cannot be named. His face is the color of ripened plums, dark and rich with life. If every wrinkle tells a tale, his face is an epic of volumes; some stories merely one-liners, while others carry depth enough to tear at the soul. Across from him is a much younger man, who cannot bear to look this wizened creature in the eye. Compared to the older man, he is a blank page. There are no stories to tell, only dreams and unfulfilled fantasies, most of which make lousy tales. He shuffles his feet, barely clad in shoes that will not last the rest of the summer. His clothes are clean, but worn so thin in places, one would wonder why he bothered. He has come to the Doctor, that in itself a long and winding journey, to ask for a special root. He is young and in love and he needs a little something to help see his lady friend. He is evasive and shifty. It’s sort of … romantic.

There ain't nothing more beautiful than love, thinks the young girl on the other side of the door. She has been in the employ of the Doctor for less than a year, and while her duties add up to no more than light housekeeping, she is his unspoken apprentice, and maybe one day, he'll let her make up a root all by herself. One day, in between skinning the bark off of witchwood, boiling the flesh off of roadkill, sweeping, dusting.

This seems like foolish thinking, and she has done well to keep her brain from forgetting her place here, but she gazes with longing trepidation at the jars labeled "Black Cat Thigh" and "Goofer Dust" and pretends for just a moment (all she has really before she has to double check the drying animal tendons on the wire rack outside) that she is mixing up "Follow Me" roots and chewing them before unsuspecting folks.

The doctor asks his questions and the younger man hesitantly gives his responses. She can hear both men speaking, and she is suddenly sure the doctor will be dispensing no root for this man today. There is no truth in the young man's voice, and his words are hollower than bird's bones. If one cannot be truthful to the root doctor, than one cannot believe in the truth of the root. She has heard this for a year now and believes she probably mutters it in her sleep. She believes in the truth of the root, but belief alone will not get her any closer to making her own.

He has told her that she is not ready, that she is young and wild. He takes her on walks through the forests and points out rocks in the rushing streams. "See how those big rocks cut the current? That's me, cutting the current of the root. I can't control it, but I can bend it some." He then points out small pebbles at the bottom. Some smaller rocks ride the water, tumbling over smaller ones. "That's you," he says. "You're to little bitty for the flow of the root, and what doesn't wash over you will knock you down and roll you away." She is 18, practically grown, and insulted, but has the good sense and upbringing to smile politely and nod. He, after, all has done this rooting, this mystical conjuring, long before she was born, and she really is in no position to question him. For the time being, she will fetch water and chop bark, and peel tendons from bone. These are the basics, like sifting flour for cake or knowing the difference between nutmeg and allspice.

There is movement on the other side to the door snapping her attention back to the present, and not wanting to give the appearance of eavesdropping, she scurries on silent cat steps to the far side of the small room and picks up a broom. When the door opens fully, she has swept a nice pile and is humming tunelessly to herself. She makes every effort to appear indifferent to anything but the pile of dirt and leaves on the floor as the men conclude their business. "I'm sorry, son. It just can't be done," says the doctor. The young man limply shakes the doctor's hand and leaves.

"He's going to carry that torch for her until he day he dies," he says, watching the younger man shuffle into the darkening forest. "Don't ever fall in love, Paw Paw. It'll cut out your heart and leave you bleeding in the street every time."

He has called her Paw Paw since she was 9 on account of her soundless movings. She had been orphaned and was making due for herself by breaking into people's homes and eating whatever she could find.

It was the root doctor who'd found her out, and then treated her for the lye burns she'd developed from walking across floors strewn with the stuff, an old rooting trick for catching suspected hags and thieves.

It had been believed that a hag or a haint was set upon a new family just getting settled on the Island. The Doctor was called in to scrub the place clean with Red Devil Lye. Then on a hunch, he waited, first making like he was done with his job, and heading home and then hiding on the front porch. When the little waif opened a forgotten hatch in the floor and padded quiet as a mouse to the dry cupboard, it wasn't too much longer before she was hopping around, first grabbing one leg and then the other, and screaming with pain. The family didn't know who she was and while the doctor smoothed balm on her feet, the little girl told him how she'd been living with her pa, but he had gone away and never came back. When the place had been cleared out, she hid in the cellar, believing that when her pa came back, he'd look for her there. Careful subtraction deduced that she'd been living in the cellar for 4 months. She was covered with chigger bites and caked mud from sleeping on the cellar’s dirt floor. Her hair was a soft auburn, but tangled in such impossible naps they would have to be cut out. One eye was brown and one was blue, and this little mulatto girl was probably never going to see her pa again. The doctor took her in, after unsuccessfully finding any woman to do him the favor of raising her.

He did the best he could do with her hair, specifically cutting it all off so she looked like a boy for several months until it grew back into soft waves that he kept religiously brushed, his evening ritual of winding down after a long day. Her skin was scrubbed clean, and beneath the layers of dirt was a clear complexion the color of weak tea. She was sneaky and even though she was welcome in his home, she still padded around, often coming up behind him when he was sure she was playing outside. Now, almost 10 years after, Paw Paw was learning the trade of her adopted father.

While he may see it as a term of endearment, she felt it was yet another way to belittle her age and wisdom. She could sweep his floors and cook his dinner, but respect seemed more out of reach than rooting.


*****

A few days later when the doctor was out and about, “chewing the root” as it was for some client, the young man was back on his doorstep. He asked about the doctor but the young girl knew nothing of his wherabouts.

He was desperate, he said, near out of his mind, he intoned. It was bad and he has to see his love right away. He thought he would die.

Paw Paw made up her mind to help him. It was foolish, and she’d probably be beaten for it, maybe taken out to the swamp and left to find her way back. That was a punishment when she was twelve for repeating what she’d heard in a meeting. Since then the door had always remained closed, on-going punishment. She’d endure it. Young love was too important to let it strangle on people who didn’t understand. She’d never been in love herself, what with her adopted father being who he was, people just didn’t see her as a viable match for their boys.

She told him she’d help and he spilled out his tale.

He was currently forbidden from seeing his love, because her family wouldn’t understand, and he needed something to keep his motions hidden, and their meetings out of sight. Paw Paw thought about it for a quick moment and decided on a “Follow Me” root and a “Thin as a Shade”. The “Follow Me” would keep their love strong, the “Thin” would make their actions unseen by anyone who looked their way – like shadows in trees.

She grabbed jars off of shelves, mortar and pestle from beneath the counter, a pair of scissors which she used to cut a swatch of his already pathetic shirt. She mixed, she spit, she chanted the few words she knew. Paw Paw asked him if he had anything that belonged to his love, and for a moment all the momentum he’d built up and mentally transferred to her plunged like a stone dropped from a cliff. He had nothing - no lock of hair, no whisper of ribbon, not even a letter with her perfume. Things came to an immediate halt as she found herself at a loss. The doctor had always has a little something from both parties to bind the conjuring together. This is why she wasn’t ready. She wasn’t prepared to ask the right questions. She got ready to dump the mixture into a waste tin specifically reserved for bad ju-ju to be used later in terrible magic she’d most assuredly never be ready for, when the younger man let out a shout.

He dug deep into his dungarees and pulled out a button. He placed it on the counter and said that she had dropped it off the inside of her dress and he’d been meaning to give it back to her. Paw Paw picked it up as someone would pick up a found diamond earring on the street, so precious was the button.

She tossed into the mixture and said more chanting. When the Doctor said it, it sounded like gibberish, but she could feel the words and magic flow out of her and they sounded as natural and saying the Lord’s Prayer. She sifted the potent potable into a small cheesecloth bag and secured it with the button. She held it before her, feeling the power of the Follow Me and the thinness of the Hide Me. She kissed it reverently, sealing the reverence and the power within.

Paw Paw passed it to the young man and he took it into his own hands, sighing deeply, and shaking slightly. He looked into her eyes and told her that he had no money, one reason why the doctor turned him out the first time. Paw Paw told him that when the time was right, he would repay her ten-fold. Until then, this was to be kept a secret, even though the Doctor always made it a point to tell as many people as possible that there was a root in the works.

She shooed him out and away, now fearing the Doctor’s imminent return, and there were things she had to righten and straighten before he returned. She told him to keep to the back roads all the way home and to hide his thoughts from the Doctor.

The younger man thanked her over and over before finally bidding her a farewell.

She replaced the herbs she used, carefully measuring the amounts in reverse, wiping down the jars and cleaning the mortar and pestle. The root now working strong in her system, she put the power to constructive use and cleaning from top to bottom. By the time the Doctor returned, the place was spotless and the younger man forgotten. She didn’t give him another thought until the lynching two nights later.

By then it was far past too late to help. She was down one bloated corpse and up seven buttons.

End of Chapter 1
Copyright © 2005 MontiLee Stormer




© 2008 Montilee Stormer



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Reviews

I love your style! Your descriptions are vibrant and the opening really grabs me. There are a few grammatical errors, but the story is really stunning.

Posted 2 Months Ago


wow, fantastic so far luv ;P cant wait to read the rest

Posted 10 Years Ago


brainstorm, go to the national geographic web site and order the episode of tabboo, witch doctors, CD ,yeah theres such a thing, I was too freaked out to watch all of it but I saw a bunch on the ngc channel one night. watch that like 50 times till ya cant stand it and I bet the voice will just live in your head from then on and say whatever you need to say even if they dont ever speak those words. Are you a sponge like that? I am:)

Posted 11 Years Ago


welcome man, thank you for posting these are bomb regardless, you got that right?:)

Posted 11 Years Ago


Yes - the tenses - I knew there was something "off" about this. I'm so busy searching for mis-spelled words (and I still missing some), I completely forget the grammar part of things.

I need to go over this with a fine tooth comb with preferably someone not my mother.

Hedra - I read that sentence ten times and I thought I'd fixed it. Guess not. Heh. I flip back and forth on the speech of the Doctor - Island dialect is damned hard to write, but it wouldn't be worth doing if it wasn't, right?

William - It starts off in the present and segues to the past and that's deliberate. It'll be more apparant in the next chapter.

I'm nto trying to justify anything because I love the criticism. That's why I wanted to post this here. I knew you would catch what I couldn't.

Thanks so much!

Posted 11 Years Ago


haha me and willie see the same:) rad

Posted 11 Years Ago


You know the best things about this( to me;) are that your story is so well described that I feel like im in the shade of the herb and animal room with her ( smelling the roadkill boiling) and Im so engrossed in the story you're leading me on, knowing that you're going to describe these mystical things with common place knowledge and take me along. I love that. Your chapters are perfectly paced, as far as how much you say, how much description you give and how far you move to tell the story, before moving on. Its never overkill, but you describe in 3D.
I think that an editor to clean up tenses and some small timing is all you need. someone who hasnt read it, haha, probably the million times you have and can see fresh the inconsistencies of speech like this, (which might just be me but I think its just a tad off...)

"there is no more desperate snatch of land that is watching magic hemorrhage from its people with every generation born into television, video"
="there is not a more desperate snatch of land, watching the magic hemmorage from its people"
just to fit what came before it and after....(but it could just be me )

and the only other thing that stood out as feeling a tiny bit off was the accent of "thought" of the root doctor and a tad the girl, I instinctively wanted to feel a bit more island in his thinking voice ( a darker mohogany color) and maybe a mulatto accent in hers.

otherwise dude this is awesome. really you just need an editor to fresh eye the thing. All the meat and fruit( if you get what im saying) is in perfect position to make this an awesome meal for the eye and mind.

Im so a fan." 5" because I have foresight and I can see the future

Posted 11 Years Ago


Okay, girl, you are really, really on to something here. There are sentences and phrases all over this piece that just made shiver with delight.

My only complaints have nothing to do with the direction or tone of the story -- those are near to perfection. However, this needs a visit to a grammar doctor (sorry, but sometimes grammar really does just matter some). Also, you need to watch your tenses. You start this out in present tense, which is a difficult, but effective, way to tell a story. Then suddenly, you're in the past tense.

Other than, I'm so wanting more!

Posted 11 Years Ago



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Added on February 7, 2008


Author

Montilee Stormer
Montilee Stormer

Royal Oak, MI



About
Short Version: MontiLee Stormer is a troublemaker, writing acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. Her interests wander from abnormal psychology and serial killers, to lost loves and.. more..

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