Thursday, December 07, 2006

Witches Meet, Here

The Japan Club meeting had been a bust. Our advisor was mad that no one wanted to be president, the past president didn’t want to be present president--or future president, for that matter--I liked being secretary since that meant I didn’t have to be president, and the other five people there managed to keep their heads down and eyes diverted so as not to make some sign they would regret later. Once we had all had enough of this silliness, the others who had to get some homework done although I didn’t, right now, at least, I headed home. A shot of coffee might calm my nerves but I also thought maybe a little change of scenery might also wake me up. The walk to the coffee shop in the cool October air fixed the latter and the coffee wasn’t made yet so I helped myself to a table made for four and waited.

The campus coffee house was small, of course, and the rent was probably very high. Space was at a premium being stuck between a laundromat and a tattoo parlor. The owner had decorated it with coffee labels and African and South American road signs and city banners. The furniture was eclectic-used office furniture and mixed imported pieces with a dash of art deco. The floor was concrete, covered by burlap rugs. The walls were painted block speckled with color photographs of beaches and islands.
At the bar was an older fellow, jeans, baseball hat, dress shirt with the tail out, making a pass at the young girl taking orders. She had to do the coffee, fix the sandwiches, and take the pestering from his type. I hoped she liked her job.

Out by the window two guys were conspiring to blow up the world, I imagined. They talked without much emotion. Heads down and serious. You meet people like that in places like this. Bars are too noisy and smoky; too many drunk, obnoxious people. The non-drinking obnoxia came here.

Next to me was a table of six, and now I noticed a sign “Witches, Meet Here.” My composition instructor would have us take apart those three words by moving the comma. “Witches, Meet Here” was a command while “Witches Meet, Here” was more like a convention placard. But they looked the world to me like old hippies. Washed up communites. Homespun clothes. Tie-dye. Plain threaded. One had her small child in a carrier down on the floor. They all had coffees of some kind, a latte or two. No tea. The women wore their hair long, braided, but only two of the men had ponytails. They were all so deep in thought. And once in a while one would sit back in their chair as if what every they had just said carried weight of the future of the world.

I could catch snippets from--what would their group be called? If cattle herd and quail covey and vultures kettle then was this a convergence of witches? A dash of goblins? A stand of brooms?

“...their chickens aren’t approved....” drifted my way.

Now there was a thought. Did witches need, like, kosher chickens to make the sacrifice--what was the word I was looking for? Blessed? Sacred? Reverent? Was there some kind of sanctified chicken quartering ritual? Did they start with whole fryers or cut up? Did they use grape juice or wine?

“...we need a better place outdoors than Fred’s farm...,” said someone.

“Yup, it’s getting hard to have some privacy in this world,” replied somebody else.

I imagined the headline, “Urbanization Threatens City Witches.” Was the city’s expansion putting the squeeze on the small farm, or the park, or a corner of the forest, where they had met for 30 years to practice their craft. And now the farm was being forced to sell for taxes or the nearby woods had been cut exposing their meeting place hidden back off the road to the neighbor who want living in the country with all the city conveniences, who want to see cows but not smell them, to see a real farmer but not at midnight on a full moon, circling naked around a bond fire. How do they recruit new members? Or do they? How do you ask around for the local coven? Is it in the phone book? Do they have a chapter name and number like the local plumbers and steam fitters? An internet search?

“Besides, his barn is really cold!” someone added. I had not noticed whose barn they were talking about.

My coffee was getting stale and I went to the pump to refill. A red head was sitting at the bar trying to ward off a nosy guy who didn’t seem to understand (or at least ignored) the too-subtle brush off. When I got back to my table one of the women, a young one, the one with the baby in the carrier, was preparing to leave. They gave her a hearty enough farewell. No secret messages--that I could tell--or hand signals. No bowing like we do in Japan Club where Billy McAllister hasn’t yet learned to take off his ball cap when he bows and the thing ends up on the floor. He’s a good kid, kind of conservative, likes being in the club and likes especially Nioka Tooms who is only the most attractive girl on campus, in my humble opinion. Billy just also hasn’t figured out he not only won’t get to first base with Nioka Tooms he’ll never even get up to bat.

“...anybody?...” sneaked across the gap in the tables.

I wondered how one witch greets another? I could fake a bow. We encourage guests. Do they? Or did you have to wait invited to participate in a ritual at an outdoor meeting? What if they could only meet in a garage? Do their thing over a star of candles. Churches had been founded on less, I guess.
Between the guy at the microphone trying his best to read his poetry, that lacked emotion or sense, and the general noise level, I lost track of the conversation at their table. Occasionally I’d hear a chuckle or exclamation but nothing worthwhile.

The coffee was stale again and so was my brain. I headed home about 7:00 or so. The sun was just below the horizon and the clouds had a curious blue and pink striped look. Just coming up was an orange full moon. Would they meet if the full moon was clouded over? Or if it was raining? Who was in charge of the fire and collecting the wood? That’s no so easy anymore. Folks have their brush hauled away and you can’t just wander onto somebody’s property and help yourself to their wood. Did they use scrap lumber? Two-by-fours and plywood? Or ends? Was that kosher?

When we were kids we’d pretend witch by standing a couple of flashlights on end and sitting inside a tent made up of a sheet draped over the backs of chairs: until mom would chase us out of the kitchen.

Our club needed some help. Maybe we needed a monthly ritual meeting. Serve sake? We needed organization. We really could meet someplace other than the school, too. Not in a restaurant but maybe, when the weather was good, at a park. But mostly we needed officers and members or we’d fold from lack of interest.


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