Discarded Christmas SpellAnn Hite / History & Fiction
Discarded Christmas Spell
Copyright 2013 Ann Hite
Discarded Christmas Spell
That night, close to Christmas, when the air sparkled with frost, I pieced some of my life together like one of them jigsaw puzzles I wanted so bad when I was little. The ghost appeared in the field out back of Granddaddy’s cabin. The full moon lit the broom-sage, turning it from brown to silver. The ghost grew from the rippling waves, but didn’t float like haints ought to. The thing danced, or should I say, she danced in her long white dress, graceful. I wanted to get out there and dance too. Her hair was long and looked white in the moonlight. She spun around like a little girl trapped in a grown woman’s body. Black Mountain had lots of haints, and most of them were easy to recognize. I slid out the door as Granddaddy’s snores filled the air.
The broom-sage made my movements into a swishing sound. My arms turn numb from the icy cold. But it didn’t matter none because I kept after the woman, who seemed solid enough. She twirled to a tune I could almost hear. When I reached out to touch the tail of her lace dress, the spectator whipped around and stared at me. Her eyes were the color of a clear blue sky, and the look she gave made me believe she was as real as me. But I knew every living soul on the mountain. She turned and began to run like she was a spell conjured and discarded into the air. When the woman got to the edge of the woods, she turned and whispered, “Talley May,” Then she became part of the wind. Sleep was long in coming. I tossed and turned, hearing my name floating and echoing through the old house.
The next morning when Granddaddy came in from milking, I was making coffee. “I seen a haint last night.”
“There’s a might of them out there.” He took the tin cup. The sun was just moving through the trees, and the gray light promised another icy cold day.
“It was a pretty woman with white hair. She danced all through the field in a white dress. Her eyes were blue.”
Granddaddy turned away from me and watched something out the window. “That’s just foolishness, Talley May. You can’t tell what color a haint’s eyes be. It sounds like to me you ate some fatback too close to bedtime.”
“No sir. I didn’t eat a thing before bed, and I wasn’t dreaming either. I seen her dancing out there.”
“No one, even a dern spectator, would be dumb enough to dance in the freezing cold night.” He gave me a sideways look. “And I don’t recall no woman who died that had eyes that blue or a dancer. Of course she could be one of those old spirits that roams the mountain. One that was killed so long ago, no one would remember.” He scrunched up his forehead in thought while he cut a piece of fatback from the block of meat and threw it in the hot iron skillet.
The hiss stirred my stomach. I pulled the biscuits from the oven. “She called my name.”
“It sounds like you might have run into an angel, Talley May. Maybe she was warning you to live your life right. Quit thinking on something you can’t have.” His voice was soft and thoughtful.
“Or maybe the devil.” I cut a hot biscuit open.
Granddaddy frowned deep in thought. “That just could be. Best be careful in your ways no matter.”
A big old feeling with no name settled around me that day so close to Christmas like a thick foggy cloud, and all I could think of was not having my mama and daddy. They both died when I was just a bitty baby, leaving poor old Granddaddy, who was a God-fearing Christian, to honor his daughter by looking after me. But see I’d known since I was little he wasn’t partial to girls. Both Mama and Daddy died from the Spanish Influenza that killed a lot of folks on the mountain. Granddaddy always said it was God’s work that I lived through the whole thing.
After I saw the ghost woman, I got to hankering after family, just a family with kids, with noise, laughter, and talking, lots of talking. Shoot I didn’t even have a photo of my parents. All I wanted was to be a girl. Half the time I worked like some dern old boy to help keep the farm going. There wasn’t one pretty thing in my life. And Christmas was coming with all those silly dreams of Santa and gifts. Me, I just wanted a new dress. That’s when I decided I’d had all I could take. Given a chance, I was going to have me something brand new.
About a week before Christmas, just as the second snow began to fall, the pot man’s truck rattled up the mountain. Lord, a girl could hear him a long time before he was seen. I stood in the front yard with my eyes closed, imagining I would buy a glass chandelier, crystals hanging all over, tinkling, a rainbow of colors sprinkling across the room. I’d never even seen a real one, but I figured the pot man would have one in that truck of his. He bounced into our driveway, rattling and creaking, just for me, so I could see his outstretched wrinkled hands holding some new do-dad I had to turn down.
The truck came to a bouncy stop and a fine looking town boy, the best looking boy I’d ever seen, with eyes the color of hazelnuts and thick dark hair jumped down from the pot man’s truck. He wore a smooth smile as he towered over me. And there I stood in Granddaddy’s old work boots with my white hair a mess of curly tangles.
“Good day, Miss.” He gave a little bow. “I’m Ronald Carter. My daddy owns this truck, the whole business. I’ve taken over for Mr. Jenkins who is poorly. What can I help you with today?” He swept one of the panels up, revealing all kinds of things tucked here and there.
“I was thinking of a chandelier to hang in the front room for Christmas.” I had ten dollars saved.
Ronald Carter frowned. “I’m afraid I have nothing of the kind, ma’am.”
“What did you do with Jenkins?” Granddaddy growled from behind me.
Ronald Carter turned that smile of his on Granddaddy. “My father said to tell you that the same deal still goes, sir. He said you might be worried since Mr. Jenkins didn’t show up, you two being friends and all.”
Granddaddy looked at Ronald Carter. “I can’t say Jenkins is my friend. You sit down and eat supper with a friend. I can’t recall having eaten a thing with that man. So you tell your daddy he don’t know a whole lot.”
“Yes sir.” Ronald Carter frowned. “I’m helping my father out because Mr. Jenkins had a heart attack.”
About that time Charles Ray Tucker drove his daddy’s truck into the yard. Leave it to that boy to show up at this very time. All I wanted was some privacy. He was the most aggravating person I knew. He thought for some dumb reason that he was sweet on me.
“Hello Mr. Green.” Charles Ray nodded at Granddaddy. “Good day, Miss Talley May.”
“Jenkins done went and had a heart attack, Charles Ray. This boy here thinks he can fill his big shoes.”
Ronald Carter threw his head back in a laugh. “No sir, I don’t plan on trying to fill Mr. Jenkins shoes. I’m just helping. Next year I’m off to college up north.”
This made me look hard at Ronald Carter. In my secret place, just behind my heart, I wanted nothing more than to have a life off that stupid old mountain. I was smart, book-learned too. Granddaddy thought I’d be scooped up by Charles Ray as his wife, but he was wrong, wrong, wrong.
“Hmm.” Granddaddy nodded. He never had much time for schooling and saw it as a complete waste of time. He frowned. “What you doing out here, Talley May?”
“I’m going to get me some good cloth for a dress.” I smiled.
“I sure hope it’s yellow. You look real pretty in yellow.” Charles Ray smiled.
“It won’t be yellow. It’s Christmas. I want a color to match the season.”
Charles Ray looked at his feet.
Granddaddy cleared his throat. “What you need today, Charles Ray?”
“I was going to ask Talley May if she wanted to go the Christmas party at the church.”
Ronald Carter grinned from ear to ear.
“So, you’re buying a new dress for the party. Good.” Granddaddy smiled and his washed out blue eyes glittered.
“I got some real nice red satin over here. It’s got little rosebuds sewn on it.” Ronald Carter pulled a bolt of the cloth down from a shelf. “This sure would look good with that blond hair of yours.”
The cloth was softer than anything I’d ever owned. “I don’t know. It’s probably too expensive.”
“Tell me what you need. I’ll make the price just right.” He smiled. “What kind of party is this?”
“A Christmas party. We have it every year. It’s the only time of year the church allows dancing, slow dancing.” I could feel both Granddaddy and Charles Ray staring at me.
“It’s nothing you would like, young fellow. You’re used to all them big Asheville