“Knock on wood!” My Grandmother exclaimed. “Oh my, that could have been a disaster, lucky for you that you were born under a lucky star.” She leans back into her rocking chair pulling the heavy crocheted shawl closer around her shoulders rocking with slower motion.
I had been regaling my grandmother with stories of antics my siblings and I had pulled. Some, of course, were embellished for the drama. I’m sure Gramma knew it, but she played along anyhow enjoying the time spent telling stories.
After a fresh cup of tea and some rough housing by the younger ones, Gramma leaned forward. “Come closer.” She said as she motioned the younger ones to sit nearer to her rocker.
“Have you noticed there are no dogs around here? Have you noticed the howling and growls emitted in the night? Have you noticed the claw marks on the trees? Have you noticed the prints left in the dirt?” My Grandmother’s voice was a mere whisper. Her voice was filled with anxiety and verve. She looked each of us, one by one, directly in the eye as she told her tale.
“Have you ever wondered why there is a basket of pine cones at each of my doors? It’s to keep evil at bay. I have seen it. It’s NOT a superstition or the workings of an old woman’s mind. It’s real….and it lives in the nearby woods.” She leaned back into her chair, taking a small sip of her hot tea. Allowing her words to “sink in”. Giving the audience a moment to absorb and adjust to the tone of the tale.
“My Grandfather, your great-great Grandfather, tried to warn us of the thing. He said there was a reason that old well had been sealed shut. I was just a young thing then. I didn’t see much of the initial havoc when they first opened the well. But lying in my bed, I could hear the screams of the victims. My blood runs cold just thinking about that first night.” Gramma was leaning forward in her chair; tea cup on the table next to her, her hands began to shake.
“Gramma, what is it?!” My cousin begged. Her curly hair fell forward as she buried her face in her hands.
“Some say it’s an evil spirit. Some say it’s a demon. Some say it’s a fallen angel come to claim more souls for Lucifer. Just then, a floor board creaked, startling all of us. My brother, sitting next to me, squealed a little.
“Shouldn’t we go inside?” cried my cousin. She had inched closer to my Grandmother, the rocker bow nearly rolling over her. I had to admit, even though we were all in our teens, we each scooted a little closer to the rocking chair and the perceived safety of an adult.
Grandmother reached out and stroked my cousin’s hair. “You are safe dear. You are safe with me.” My Grandmother turned her head and gazed out towards the woods. “The forest is no place for a youngster without the proper training. You all need to stay close to the house, especially at night.” She began to pet her black cat, Sebastian. Sebastian purred loudly, turning around twice before he settled into her lap. “Sebastian will tell us. He will warn us into the root cellar. When I call to you, you must be close enough to heed my warning.” Grandmother arose from her rocker. Slowly she made her way into the house. “I’m tired now. I think I’ll go to bed. Turn off all the lights when you retire, would you?”
I could see my Grandmother smiling to herself. She was good. Four teenage grandchildren had been dropped off on her doorstep for a two week visit. What better way to keep them close?