She had many names, which was quite proper for somebody who had lived so long and moved on so often, but we will call her Mab for that is her name now in this particular time and age, Mab the bitch witch everyone loved to hate, the bitch witch everyone depended on for their sad secrets.
See Mab in the forest, in her shack. The shack is overgrown, wrought with morning glories and yagé, the twining vines of introspection, and a musk of cinnamon and jasmine and vanilla suffuses the wet air. Honeybees bumble about those flowers and parcel dizzying properties to their hives. Dilapidation reigns in the warped beams and crooked flue and the flapping eaves, but this is a ramshackle farce, for entering the house finds oneself in a cozy space, hearth warm in the winter, cool as stone in the hottest summer.
A cast iron pan hangs above the cast iron stove. Stainless steel kettle. Embroidered rug. A hempen hammock dangling from the rafters. Various herbs drying in bunches on the walls. Glass bottles of all sizes and colors on shelves along one wall, also hung on hooks and roped to the rafters. Mab herself is seated in a burnished rocking chair sipping tea from a finely rolled spliff. Through the artful smoke rings that litter her atmosphere, her hair is brown shot with gray, and she moves with slow lithe grace. She puts down the smoldering roach and putters about her abode. Now, Mab needs to go to the market.
As soon as she left her door she affected a humpbacked gait, held a cackle at the ready in her throat, and for measure, gave her eyes a good roll. It was a ways before she entered the perimeter of the town, marked by the rough translation of rutted dried mud to a relatively smooth pane of dusty road. She rolled her eyes at the beastly children who ran up to her to throw rocks and sometimes eggs. When Mab passed storefronts, the townspeople’s chatter ceased to stony silence, starting up when she was well behind them. Nevertheless, she had hawk ears and heard their prejudices from afar. The General Store lay ahead.
Cruel children hid and sniggered from the shadows of alleys, rags of light moving across their faces. She slipped into the stuffy heat of the General Store and ordered flour, eggs, nails, and dried fish strips. She paid, cackling and rolling her eyes, reveled in the alarm flashing under the shopkeeper’s bushy brows. That one, he had hives whenever he glimpsed women’s underclothings. He came to her one blustery night bloated with hives on his hives. He couldn’t see through one eye and his words were slurred. Apparently he had deviated with his proper and prim route and passed by the whorehouse. She had him kill a toad and smear its innards on his badonkadonk. It must have worked. The Madame was now part owner of his General Store.
The folk of this town feared her but that never stopped them from going up to Mab in the deep of night to knock tentatively at her splintery door, secrets of pains and curses heavy in their mouth spilling like blood from a pig’s slit neck. The cobbler beating at his leather averted his gaze, him she helped rid with a powder the sores inside his underwear. She cackled and rolled her eyes at him, saw he had blushed. The piemaker flashed her lashes with demure shame. Her husband was frigid so Mab showed her how to rub the button special to make her gush. She had concocted a bullshit potion for the Mayor’s wife who wanted to curse her husband for running around with his filly; it was bullshit in more ways than one for the mayor’s wife’s ill wishes were all it took for the filly to fall off her horse and break her back. It was sublime pleasure watching the high off noble borne quaff rancid steaming crap and daintily dabbing the corners of her lips with a kerchief, utterly trusting Mab. She had cackled high and long.
Mab walked through town without much trouble but for the infernal children. She shot a dart from her sleeve, small as a rose’s thorn, and it caught a red-haired brat in the neck. He slapped at it, probably thinking it was a skeeter. She cackled at them and they scattered like pestilent rats. The boy would have interesting dreams tonight. His mother would be stunned at the aftermath and burn the shamed boy’s sheets.
Mab had a bag stashed away with her essentials. If worse came to shove, as it often did with a constellation of burning torches in the night, she would small rose thorns dipped in quick acting hallucinogenics inside her sleeve spray, disappear in a swirl of purpleblack smoke and leave the cottage a night bloom of flame at her back. Once she had made the Slavs think her house run away on feet of chicken.
She cackled all the way to her rickety cabin.