PINKY PROMISE Sarah O’Connor
ARTWORK BY JASON LAU
hadn’t meant to come into Witch Donnell’s house and certainly hadn’t meant to eat her food and drink her iced tea. But when your neighbour invites you over, especially when she’s an old lady, no amount of stranger danger tips can keep you from entering, even if she is a witch. I was six then and scared out of my mind. My classmates told tons of stories about Old Witch Donnell and how she would turn any kid who came to her house into a scarecrow. I had all these stories in mind when I was invited over, even though I had only asked her for my soccer ball back. Brandon and his stupid friends had taken it from me and drop kicked it into her backyard then forced me to go get it because “it was my ball” but Witch Donnell told me that they were just scared and the only reason she invited me inside was because she wanted to scare them more. I’m glad she did though because otherwise we wouldn’t be such great friends. I was scared and shaky all over when she invited me inside, I was convinced she was going to turn me into a scarecrow! That’s what Brandon and his friends said and they kept telling me to say hi to Alexis. Alexis was a girl in my class who used to bully me. A few months before I met Witch Donnell, Alexis was kidnapped. It was really weird because all the windows and doors were locked in the house and there were no clues for the police to find out who did it, they thought it was her parents, but Brandon said that Witch Donnell kidnapped her and made the girl her newest scarecrow.
But she isn’t a scarecrow, I know that. She hinted it to me when I first visited but I was too young and stupid then to understand. I’m older now, nearly eight, and she explained everything to me yesterday because we’re friends and that’s what friends do. Anyway, when I was waiting for Witch Donnell to come back with my soccer ball, I was eating cookies and drinking iced tea (my mom says it’s rude to not eat something your host offers you, even though I thought I was going to be a scarecrow), I started looking around her dining room. I’ve seen the whole house now, but I hadn’t then because it’s rude to explore someone’s home if they aren’t showing you, according to my dad. The house looked like an ordinary old lady house with pink carpet and a radio playing somewhere I couldn’t see. But there was something different about the house that I just can’t explain. It was almost like the house breathed. It was like a plant, something that quietly lived and breathed and existed but that nobody remembered. Witch Donnell told me it’s because she’s lived in the house so long that it’s sucked up some of her magic. She protects the house and the house protects her. They’re friends, like how we’re friends. Witch Donnell finally came back with my soccer ball. She didn’t look like a witch, though she did have saggy skin and saltand-pepper hair. She stood nice and tall and she wasn’t hunch-backed or covered in warts and she wore denim overalls that were smeared with grass stains instead of
a cape. I remember feeling scared and brave then and asked her, “Are you going to turn me into a scarecrow?” And she laughed at me, laughed! And it made me feel all creepy crawly like when an ant crawls up your leg. She kneeled down and smiled, “No no. I only do that to bad kids.” “Did you turn Alexis into a scarecrow?” I asked because now that I wasn’t going to be a scarecrow, I was also being brave and curious. “She was a very bad girl,” Witch Donnell said. “She would come to my house and take the petals off all my daisies. She destroyed them.” She went over to the fireplace and threw a ginormous log onto the fireplace. The log crackled, hissed, and almost seemed to scream when the fire ate it. “No, I didn’t turn her into a scarecrow.” And then we did a pinky swear, which I did on the playground tons of times with the other kids but Witch Donnell said it was an old tradition that was popular with Witches. It’s because I knew about the scarecrow kids and Alexis crackling in the fireplace but I didn’t know it then. Witch Donnell didn’t want me telling the stories to the kids at school. She said that if I break the pinky swear it means that she gets to cut off my pinky finger and keep it. But she also told me she knows I won’t tell because I’m a good girl and her friend and she’s going to teach me magic as long as I keep visiting, so I do. And I can’t wait. INCITE MAGAZINE, SEPTEMBER 2014