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Laida Martínez Navarro > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

The Park Witch |

My mother tells me that I usually catch colds on the days that the weather is cold, and won’t let me go out and play. That is exactly what happens today, and when I get home from school she sends me off straight away to do my homework. Oh, no!! I sit down, open up a book, but it’s so boring! I don’t feel like doing my homework, so I decide to go to my sister’s bedroom. Everyone says Ane is very clever, and we get on very well together. Apart from that you get a fantastic view of everything going on in the park from her bedroom. It’s great fun.

I head for her room, go in and we spend the afternoon sitting by the window. And how misted up it is! We draw lots of pictures on the glass. Then we gaze at the trees in the park.
“Watch out, Max!” says my sister out of the blue. “You think those trees are trees. Everyone thinks they’re trees… But they aren’t... Do you know what they are?”

Ane! What a question! She’s doing it to frighten me, I’m sure... But if she thinks I’m going to be scared, she’s got another thing coming. I’m very brave.

“Tell me, Max. Do you know what they are?”

“N-no, A-Ane. N-no, I d-don’t” I reply with a stammer, because I’ve got a stutter.

Ane slowly comes up to me, takes a deep breath and while she is tickling my neck, she says:

“THEY ARE THE PARK WITCHES!!”

What a fright! We run out of her bedroom shouting and have great fun laughing and fighting till Granny appears and tells us to pipe down.
When Granny appears, that is the end of our fun and everything. We both have tremendous respect for Granny, because when she gets angry, she gives us a terrible spanking. Granny doesn’t understand our quarrels and neither does she care whose fault it is, it’s all the same to her. She punishes both of us and that is the end of the matter.

Mum thinks this is the best system; she agrees with everything Granny says. We are always the losers. Anyway, Mum often says she won’t be able to relax until Dad gets back from the sea, and that we make a lot of work for her and that being married to a skipper is very TOUGH.

When she says TOUGH, she looks at me… It’s not fair! Mum and Granny are always telling me not to get into trouble and to be good. That and not to get distracted, and that I’m a very poor eater and that I have to eat everything up.
That’s what they tell me today, too, at teatime: sit down and don’t get up from the table until I’ve eaten it all up. Uff!

They leave me in the kitchen with a sandwich in my hand. Oh, no! I’m not a bit hungry; that’s why I go up to the window and why I remember what Ane told me. Bah! I know there are no such things as witches, of course I do. But the street is empty: just the trees in the park and nothing else. And it’s dark, too! No, there aren’t any witches but it looks as if one might pop out at any moment. Pop out and start crossing the street. Cross the street and slowly make her way to our house. Stop and knock on the door...
Well! Just as I’m thinking about that somebody rings on the doorbell: “Brring, brring.” Twice. “Brring!” The third time I’m out in a flash. I hide in a corner of the hallway and watch from there. That’s when I see the witch.
She leaves me open-mouthed.
How ugly she is! Very tall and dressed in black. Never have I seen such a bewitching witch, never: a hat with a feather, warts on her face, a very long nose. I stare at her and decide we’d better watch out, if we don’t want to come under her spell!

The worst thing is that my head is buzzing and I don’t notice anything. Granny says something to the witch, the witch replies and off she goes down the street.

I run to Ane’s room,
“A W-W-WITCH, A-A-ANE!!”
I take her hand and lead her to the window. I draw back the curtains, peer out and... Oh, look! There’s no one there at all!

I am lost for words, I really am; but Ane isn’t. Ane is very cross, very, very cross… and tells me not to pull her leg, and shouts at me not to eat in her bedroom or else she’ll tell Mum.

The sandwich!! It’s true. It’s been in my hand all this time and I haven’t had a single bite out of it!

I go back to the kitchen feeling miserable. If Mum catches me with the sandwich, I’ll get a telling off. Sure I will. Like a good boy I sit down next to Granny and whenever she looks at me, I take a big bite out of the sandwich. A bite every time she looks. That’s what we do until I’ve eaten it all up. Uff!

“Well done, dear,” Granny says. “Now your homework!”
“H-h-home-w-w-work?”
But I don’t feel like doing it! Anyway, tomorrow’s a holiday. There’s no school. So, I’ll do it tomorrow; otherwise I’ll get bored. I’ll have plenty of time to get it done. I promise!

When Granny hears that she looks me straight in the eye. Then she opens her mouth… but before she says anything I ask her who the woman at the door was. If she starts telling me off, I’ve had it.

“Oh, yes. That woman...? She’s the new dressmaker in the neighbourhood.

I ask her to tell me more and that way I find out the witch’s name: she’s called Miss Kendrick. Apart from that Granny mentions lots of other things and they must all be very interesting, but as they aren’t about the witch, I don’t listen, so I can’t repeat what she said.

Thinking about Miss Kendrick the afternoon passes very quickly. By bedtime I decide I’d better keep a look out for witches. That’s what it says in all the stories.

I fall fast asleep and don’t remember anything till the sun wakes me up. It isn’t difficult to get up today; it’s a holiday, great! I’ll have breakfast in a flash, Mum will be very pleased and will let us go and play in the park.

No sooner said than done. I eat up all the biscuits and drink up all the milk without complaining. I surprise everyone! Mum tells me I haven’t had such a good breakfast in ages; and right away they send Ane and me off to the park to play. Great! We cross the road and arrive at the park.

Before I realise it, Ane runs off.

“Bet you can’t catch me, tadpole!”

I can’t catch her, of course. She’s three years, eight months and two weeks older than me. I can never catch her.

“A-Ane, w-w-wait!”

I run and run, but she goes into the trees and I lose sight of her. Oh no, Ane! We can’t play that way! You’ve left me all alone in the park! What a cheek! Well, if she doesn’t come back, I’m going to tell Mum. Mum always tells us to stay together… And not to speak to strangers. Mum doesn’t seem to like strangers at all.

Hell! The moment I think about that I look around nervously. Ufff! And what if a stranger shows up? And what if he or she offers me a sweet? That is exactly what happened to a kid in a story. The stranger was an evil witch. Extremely evil. The kid ate the sweet and the witch turned him into a frog.
Oh no! All that stuff about sweets has got me really worked up and I start thinking about the story: I remember that the kid in the story was very small… and very silly, because you have to be VERY SILLY to accept a sweet from a witch and be turned into a frog. VERY, VERY SILLY!! But I’m not small, I’m nine years old. So there’s no problem: if a witch shows up, I’ll tell her I’m TOO GROWN UP to believe in witches... And I’ll tell her to go away and say I don’t want to eat any sweets.
Witches? I’m not a bit afraid of them, not a bit.

“Oh!”

What a fright! All of a sudden Miss Kendrick appears, stops and comes up to me!

“Hey you, boy!” she rasps.
“Hey you, boy!” she rasps again as she moves closer!
“N-n-no, not a f-f-frog, n-n-no!” I shout, trembling with fear and leg it into the trees like a bat out of hell. Never have I run so fast, until I trip over a stone and fall flat on my face. Oh, no! Now she’s going to catch me!
I feel a hand on my shoulder.
“N-n-no!!”
“What’s the matter with you, Max?”
It’s Ane. Thank goodness. She helps me up.
“It w-was the w-w-witch, A-A-Ane!”
“What did you say, tadpole?”
And I tell her everything. The whole story.
“W-w-will you g-g-ive me your h-h-hand?” I ask, trembling with fear.
Ane holds my hand smiling and tells me to be careful, because all tadpoles turn into frogs. But I don’t find that funny!
I am scared all day as I watch the park from the window and look out for Miss Kendrick. That night I go to bed very worried. Very, very worried; and before I fall asleep I’m thinking about witches… and after I fall asleep, too, because I also dream about Miss Kendrick: she comes up behind me, clutches my neck and oh! Granny has woken me up. It’s time to get up.

Today isn’t a holiday, and we have to go to school. That’s why I take ages getting dressed and even longer having breakfast. Mum is very angry and so is Granny. Ane doesn’t wait for me. She’s gone off without me, after telling me I’m very slow. I go off later, much later and on the way to school I remember: homework. Oh no! If Granny finds out I haven’t done it, she’ll kill me! I’d better do it… So I open my rucksack and take out the sheet of paper the teacher gave us.

‘Percentages: make up an example.’

Piece of cake. I think of something right away:
... if there are 100 strangers and 10 of them offer you a sweet, you will know that 10% of strangers are witches.
Done it. When I go into the classroom, I give it to the teacher. I sit down and we spend the morning working out percentages. It’s great fun and the time passes quickly.
I am relaxed until I get home; but when I arrive, what a fright! I go in and see Granny with... THE WITCH!!

“Come here, dear. Say hello to Mrs Kendrick.”

And I go up shaking in my shoes.

“H-h-hello.”

Mrs Kendrick smiles and of all things has to offer me... A SWEET! I am suspicious right away: the sweet is bound to be bewitched! If I eat it, I’ll turn into a frog. I’m sure I will!

I take the sweet as there’s nothing for it; but the moment I get to my bedroom I throw it out of the window. I stand there biting my nails...
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