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Once upon a time, in the land of Jiggaliggalala, there lived a little boy named Fakola.  He lived in a little house on the edge of the kingdom with his mother.  She had magical powers which she used to help people but everyone called her a witch and pretended they were afraid of her.  So they lived where they did to stay out of the people’s way.

Fakola didn’t have very many friends.  The ones he had were very bad and tried to make him do bad things but he would not let them get him in trouble.  They would try to tease him but he would just stand there with his arms folded in front of his chest and his bottom lip stuck out.  He’d say, “say what you will but I am what I am.  I say what I say and do what I do cuz I make the rules, not you.”

His friends would start to tease him again but would see the look on his face and know that they had better leave him alone.

Fakola would love to watch his mother work her magic and would sometimes help her when she’d let him.  He’d rescue the little insects that would sometimes get trapped in the house and set them free outside.  He would light the white candles for her and help her make the cleaning water that smelled so good and helped protect their house.  Sometimes he even helped her sprinkle it thru the house.

One day, Fakola came home from school but he didn’t see his mother. It was very strange.  He looked everywhere but could not find her.

Finally, he went out to the back where his mother grew her plants and it was there that he found her.  She was frozen like a statue.  He went and pulled on his mother’s arm but it was stiff and cold.  He called her name but she did not answer him.

Fakola started to cry but realized that it wouldn’t do any good.  He sat down at the base of the giant tree in the garden to try and think about what he had to do.  As he sat there, he heard a voice call his name.

“Fakola.  Fakola,” the voice said.  “Can you hear me?”  Fakola looked around and couldn’t find where the voice was coming from.  It sounded like a man’s voice and he began to be frightened.

“Don’t be afraid,” said the voice.  “I will not hurt you.  I am your friend, the tree.”

Fakola looked up at the tree.  He did not believe what he was hearing.   Trees could not talk.  But then he remembered how his mother would talk to the plants while she watered them, and sometimes she even talked to the tree as she passed it by but she had never said anything about it talking back.

“I’m not really talking,” the tree said.  “You are just feeling what I am feeling and it sounds like words.”  That didn’t quite make sense to Fakola either but it seemed a litte easier to take than a tree actually talking.

“What happened to my mother?” Fakola asked the tree.  He decided that since the tree was talking to him, he would try to get some information.

“A wicked witch has put a spell on them,” the tree told him.  “She looked for you but couldn’t find you.  She will be coming back this way very soon.  You must leave this place.”

“People call my mother a witch,” Fakola said.

“This is true,” the tree responded.  “And she is.  But people don’t realize that there can be good witches and bad witches.  Your mother is a good witch.  The woman who put a spell on her is a very, very bad witch and she is very dangerous.  You must leave here at once.”

“I cannot,” Fakola said.  “I must find a way to save my mother.”

“Oh no!” said the tree.  “You waited too late.  She’s coming.  Quick, climb into my branches.  I will hide you so that she cannot find you.”

Fakola scurried up the tree like he had done so many times before.  He had barely reached the branches when the ugliest, most hideous witch he had ever seen in his life came into the yard.  She was 6 feet tall and almost as wide as she was tall.  Her skin was slightly greenish and she had very bad smelling breath.  He could smell it all the way up in the tree.

“Come out, little boy,” the witch called.  “I know you are are here, I can smell you.”  She looked around everywhere trying to find the boy, but for some reason never looked up in the tree.  “I can smell you, I say,” she screamed, “come out now.”

Fakola settled deeper into the branches and held on for dear life.  “Be still,” the tree whispered in his ear.

“Eye of newt and hair of bird, wing of bat and nails of nerd, witch’s brew of tar and sand, turn all boys to frogs that touch this land,” the witch sang as she touched the ground in the garden.

“Heh, heh, heh,” the witch cackled.  “That will fix you,” she said.  “And now, my pretty,” the witch said, turning to Fakola’s mother, “let me see what I will do with you.  Shall I take you to my cave and make a slave out of you?  No, that won’t do.  Shall I take you to the forest and make you food for the crows?   But what will happen if it rains or snows for sky water is the only thing fit in this day that will turn you back all the way.”

The witch began to pace backwards and forwards.  She stopped and leaned against the tree.  Fakola held his breath.

“Hmmm,” said the witch.  “I know.  I will leave you here until the sun comes back up tomorrow.  And then I will turn you into one of these stupid little flowers you love to play with all the time.”

The witch laughed really, really loud and then disappeared in a cloud of smelly smoke.

“Whew,” said Fakola, “that smoke smells almost as bad as her breath.”  He started to climb down out of the tree..

“Wait,” shouted the tree,  “You can’t go down there.  Don’t you remember that the witch cast a spell turning anything into a frog that touched the ground here?”

“Oh no,” cried Fakola.  “That’s right.  I forgot.  What am I going to do?”

To be continued…

The day had been relatively peaceful.  He and I caught a moment’s conversation on the porch before I went in to dig into the evening’s routine.  The children were playing quietly.  Nothing gave me a clue to the words that would soon escape his lips.

“I want a divorce.”  I looked at him.  So many times before did just such a threat hover in the air, bringing tears to my eyes and pushing me “back in line.”  The last major incident had come shortly after our second child, my first son, had been born.  Both timing and luck had been incredibly bad.  I had lost a job that paid quite well and everything had gone downhill.  We lost our house and ended up living in the back of the little store of our business.  He had begun spending more and more time over a female friend’s house in the evenings while I struggled to create the semblance of a home for our two year old daughter and infant son.

My husband had felt it my fault that we were in the condition we were and I believed him.  I was grappling with college, convinced that a degree was the only thing that was going to economically save us, and the store he handled wasn’t making much money, so I took a job as a homemaker while he kept the children in the back of the store during the day.

I thought such a position would not be difficult and would afford me time to study.  There was no way I could have known I would end up changing a sixty-five year old man’s diaper and being his vindictive wife’s “girl.”  Then I had to come home to my husband’s moodiness and implied accusation.

“I can’t take this anymore,” he said to me one evening.  The tears welled up in my eyes.  “I’m sorry,” I told him.  “I’m doing the best I can do.”  He told me that as soon as we got of the mess we were in, he was leaving me.  I got upset and raised my voice at him.  He slapped me and walked out the door.  My daughter watched in stunned silence.

I quieted my tears and comforted her but it was a moment she was never to forget.  Her father had hit her mother, it was an additional characteristic to add to her assessment of him.

Things began to improve and his words disappeared from my psyche.  We had the wherewithal to move to a new city and start again.  I got a job as a bookkeeper, bought a piece of a car and attended classes while he, once again, watched the children.  He began sleeping a lot and staying in a state of lethargy.  He had been collecting disability from social security and sunk into the reality he had created for himself.  I tried to get him to see that while our daughter knew him to be productive, our son was just witnessing a man with no spirit and that could be detrimental to him.

One day he casually mentioned looking for a job.  My heart skipped a beat and I looked to see how serious he was.  Then I pounced, grabbing every opportunity to support his efforts.  I had managed to get a computer and had been doing some free lance desktop publishing, so I created his resume.  I helped him look through the papers.  His family didn’t think it was a good idea for him to work since he had steady income under social security.  These were the same people, though, who had convinced him he was crazy in the first place and had encouraged his drinking, making him apply for disability originally for problems stemming from his stint in the army.

I was able to get him to stop listening to them.  He decided to look for maintenance work because he was good at it.  He had always worked on our various homes and had done such work earlier in life.  He went on a few interviews but nothing came of them.  We thought perhaps his Spanish accent hurt his chances.  While he was from Puerto Rico, people were skeptical about his citizenship.

I continued to support his efforts and he stuck to it, finally getting a job at a large housing complex.  He was ecstatic.  He began talking about having another baby.  I was in my late thirties, had two children by him and an older daughter, but the idea appealed to me, so I became pregnant once again.  Life was grand.  We had a little extra money coming in, my publishing business was picking up.  We were doing pretty well.

He began to pressure me about taking more responsibility in the house.  At first I tried, as this had been an age-old battle with us.  My car had died and I wasn’t in school at the time.  I went out on free lance jobs and my business was picking up momentum, but I tried to fit into the mold of his desires.

He would always say his mother fixed three meals a day, kept the house clean, and worked.  I would always reply that I was not his mother.  Then I would remember the warnings of cultural difference I had been given and again I would try to do it all.  He began teasing about getting a second wife.

Finally I suggested we seriously look at the issue of another wife.  It was obvious I was not going to meet all of his needs in the home, including satisfying his libido, and meet my own needs and those of our children as well.  I had been in a polygamous relationship before and it was not alien to the tradition he and I followed spiritually.  A second wife could bring fresh energy to the household and allow our endeavors to be more productive as a unit.

He was excited by the idea but could only focus on the sexual innuendoes of such a possibility.  He kept asking how I would feel with him making love to another woman.  I told him I would have no problem with it.  I think he began to feel I no longer loved him.

We continued to discuss it.  I told him it was imperative that I be a part of the selection process.  He went wild, though.  The first woman he started eyeing was a co-worker who was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend and extremely overweight due to a lack of self-confidence.  I explained to him that we didn’t need another child to raise, that we were looking for someone to enhance the household as opposed to being an additional burden.  He claimed she would change.  My intuition said she wouldn’t.  It wasn’t until he discovered she was selling drugs did he agree to let it go.

His next pick was a girl in her early twenties with two young children.  When I met her, it was my sense that we could best relate as teachers to student.  This was affirmed spiritually.  He was convinced, though, that she was the one.  I appreciate his humanitarianism but I will not forget my husband’s failure to inform me of some of the issues she was working on.

Our baby had been born and I had secured a part time job.  She had agreed to watch the children while we worked and we would pay her.  It was during this time I discovered her children had ringworm.  She had never taken them to the doctor.  I took her to the health food store and showed her what she needed to purchase.  Then I discovered her three year old daughter had been vaginally and anally raped by a friend’s seven year old son.  She hadn’t taken her daughter to the doctor because she didn’t want to get the boy in trouble.  When I told her that he and his mother, who was aware of his tendencies, needed counseling, she stated that she herself had had counseling as a child and didn’t think it was a good idea.

When I talked to my husband about these things, he said he was working with her and she was getting better, to trust him.  I didn’t like it, but I did.  She and her children began spending more time in our house.  I really did begin to like her and wanted to be supportive.  I knew she could never be a second wife but felt that perhaps we could help her get her life together.

I encouraged my husband to try for a job that had become available.  He applied and got the job, receiving an increase in salary.  We decided to buy a house and invited her to live in it until she could get herself situated.  She would watch the children, straighten up and cook dinner while we worked.  I had just given birth and my vaginal wall had collapsed so I couldn’t lift anything.  My husband and the girl moved everything into the house.  It was then I began to open my eyes to what was going on around me.

He had begun drinking again.  He and she were constantly talking and I would get little more than a grunt from either of them.  The household items were placed without any input from me.  Her bedroom was perfected while my bed still lay in pieces on the floor.

When I discovered that she had set my kitchen up, I knew it was time to talk.  It was then I came to know that my husband was still looking at this child as a potential wife and had assigned himself as our go-between.  Whenever I attempted to talk to her, he interjected himself into the conversation.

Shortly thereafter, he came to me to say that she was feeling like she was an outsider, with watching the children all the time and that I needed to start doing more around the house so she wouldn’t feel so bad.  He wanted me to start by cooking his dinner when I came home from work in the evening.

I saw red.  I knew I had made many mistakes, the first one by allowing the girl to move in to the house in the first place.  And I knew that his food was very important to him.  But I saw red.  I reminded him that she was there, with free room and board, to do just that and I wasn’t going to have her sitting around doing nothing all day.  She had agreed to the arrangement and that I would talk to her.  He said that he would.

A few days later we were standing on the porch with the words “divorce” echoing in my ears.  I saw the young girl who had taken over my home and saw the cockiness of his demeanor now that he had steady work and knew he was serious this time.

But I asked anyway.  “Divorce?  Do you realize what you are saying?”  He replied that he did.  I pushed past him and rushed to my room where I had isolated myself in recent days and began packing my personal belongings.  He came into my room and asked what I was doing.  I told him I was going to my mother’s to think things out.  My older son was asleep so I took my daughter and the baby to my mother’s house.

My mother dried my tears, heard my fears and basically let me pour my heart out.  I began to comb my daughter’s hair which had not been properly cared for in a while and saw that she, too, had ringworm.  I then began to panic.  I thought I had been monitoring what was going on closely enough without usurping my husband’s authority but if this had occurred, what else had happened?  I questioned her as carefully as I could and felt satisfied.  I spent a sleepless night until dawn finally came.  I rushed out of my mother’s apartment to the house, where I got my son and brought him back with me.

The next few months were the most emotionally torn centuries ever spent on the fact of the planet, so it seemed to me.  I somehow managed to get by on remote.  To this day, I still find files at work that I have no idea how they were created or the work completed within them.  Ironically, I worked for a divorce attorney so the pain was intensified as each new case came in and its sordid details revealed.

I suppose in the back of my mind, I kept thinking the man would come to his senses and actually wanted him to, so I ended up being a lot more tolerant than the situation called for.  Many decisions that appeared logical and elementary to one outside the drama appeared monumental to me.  I agonized three months before deciding that I and our three children should get the house and that he and his new friend should move.

I had just wanted to run from the situation and hide until my wounds were healed but forced myself to attempt getting my life back in order.  The next months were far from steady.  There were incidents of emotional and sexual abuse.  I finally was able, though, to get my house to myself and my three children.  I slowly discovered that a single mother could, indeed, survive with three small children and not have to eat beans every night.  (It wouldn’t have worked in my house anyway.  My children can’t stand beans!)  We don’t have cable but that has turned out to be a blessing.  My children had been slowly dissolving into couch potatoes and the lack of television forces them to read more and find other activities to keep them stimulated.  We don’t wear designer clothes but the few things we have are neat and clean.   I have discovered that all of us older ones were somewhat lacking in the self-esteem department.  I have been focusing on making us feel better about ourselves and that is working wonderfully, especially for my eight year old daughter.  Even her teachers remark on the change in her demeanor.

I slowly began rediscovering the parts of me that had been buried during my marriage.  The biggest shock was realizing how much of my creativity had been rechanneled into having babies.  I had to accept the fact that I had allowed my husband to validate my existence for me and because he had not appreciated my writing or other creative pursuits that I pushed them aside.  I had truly become one of those kitchen, barefoot and pregnant type of women.

I was also afforded the opportunity to view how I have cheated myself in the relationships I have chosen up to this point in my life.  I have chosen not just mates, but friends and associates, who did little to motivate or encourage my development.  I believe I enjoyed the role of little dictator, surrounding myself with people I could manipulate without realizing that I was actually the one being manipulated.  I always found myself in relationships where I did a heck of lot of giving but received very little.  While I consider my children to be indeed a most wonderful blessing, I have never been one of those who desired to live their lives through their children.

I am slowly beginning to know myself a little better and am even getting to the point of liking myself.  I am also realizing that this is the first time in my life that I did not have some sort of male in my life, either a husband, mate or “friend”.  The truly wonderful thing is that after I get past the superficial yearnings, I find I am really enjoying being in control of my life on my terms.  I miss the companionship but am beginning to realize I can be fun to be around.  I still find myself missing my ex-spouse at times but I can hear the words of my godmother echoing in my head, “You deserve better!”

You know, she’s right.  I do.  I deserve me.

It was a most perfect stone.  Its sides had been smoothed over the ages, polished to mirror exactness.  The roundness of its being was symmetrically sound.  The vibrations of its ageless essence quivered in her hand as she gingerly caressed its surface.  She had found what she was looking for.

“Not just any old rock,” her godmother had said.  “You will know it when you see it, it will call out to you.”  Deidre hadn’t heard any such voice, yet she was as sure that this was the stone that was to be hers just as if it had actually shouted out her name.

She left her seven pennies at the edge of the lake and raced back home.  She lovingly bathed the stone in cool water, sprayed it with rum and cigar, and placed it on the place that was soon to be her altar.  Gazing at the spot, she resisted the temptation to pick it up again and left for work.

When she came home, the stone was gone.

Diedre sat down for a moment, trying to go over what had happened earlier in the day.  She was certain that she had found the stone.  She  searched everywhere but couldn’t find it.  She started to panic when her cat woke up and stretched his body, dropping the stone that had stuck to his side in his sleep.  He had obviously been playing with it.  This did not negate the magic of the stone.  A home had been found.

“Leave it there,” Maria told her.  Her godmother knew about these things.  “Cats are so much more in tune to the spirits than we are.  He and the stone have made their pact.  The stone is where it wants to be.”

Day after day Deidre would spend time with her stone, trying to understand the energy she felt there.  Her life began to evolve around the stone.  She talked to it before she left and again when she returned.  She lit candles and placed water by it, feeling more united with the energy within the stone as the days went by.

She would go to Maria’s house, begging for permission to begin working with her stone.  Maria would always laugh and make a snide comment about what happens when one lacks patience.  Deidre would pout and stay away for weeks.

She began to spend less time with the stone.  Days would go by without her even acknowledging its presence.  When she would go by Maria’s house, she wouldn’t even talk about it.

One morning, she thought she heard someone call her name, waking her up.  She tried to remember her dream, but all that came to her was that it had something to do with responsibility.  Something made her go to her stone, and she felt sorrow for having neglected it.  She gave it fresh water and a new white candle, and promised herself to be consistent in her respect.

The time had come.  Maria performed the appropriate rituals causing Deidre’s altar to come to life.  She taught Deidre how to talk to the stone by throwing pieces of coconut to the floor and reading the way they fell.  She taught her the prayers to say each week and the things to do each day to perfect her relationship with the stone.

Deidre was very prudent, at first, in working with the stone.  She checked on major activities that she planned to do during the week and important decisions she had to make.  The stone would tell her whether the timing was good or not.  It even promised to assert some energy toward her favor provided she did the things she needed to do.  She gave it fruit and candy and occasionally her godmother would give it a rooster.  Everything was in balance.  Her relationship was in check.

This made her feel special.  She felt so special that she began to believe that she had a different type of relationship with her stone.  She thought that perhaps the rules that applied to others weren’t necessary for her because she was so unique.  She began to start talking to the stone every day instead of weekly.  She began asking for favors she didn’t need and making promises she couldn’t keep.  The problems began when she asked for a million dollars.  She lost her job, instead.

“Why would you do this, after all I’ve done for you,” she asked the stone, but it just sat there, staring at her.  She sat and fumed, mad at the stone for betraying her.  She waited for it to make things right but times got only got rougher, as one by one, the phone, lights and finally gas were disconnected.  She began to feel that perhaps it wasn’t the stone so much as her own arrogance that had put her in such a state.  When she got a better job, with more money and less stress, she thought she began to understand a little more.

The next thing she was given was the perfect man although she had thought that she didn’t need anyone.  Then her struggle began to become the perfect woman.  She didn’t like cooking or cleaning and although she liked children, being around them nonstop wasn’t her ideal moment of glory.  But all of these things were necessary and although her husband was very adept in the house, her turn came too and she had to learn.

The children came and she felt herself drifting from her goals.  Then she realized that she really didn’t have any.  The stone patiently sat, accepting her offerings and giving her the rein.

She became so confused that she began to lose everything by deciding not to decide.  “I have you,” she told the stone, “and you’ll take care of me.”  Its stony silence was epitaph to the moment.  She found herself in a bottomless pit of non‑direction.

It took her a moment or two to learn to look within herself for guidance.  It was there that she found her strength.  The slightest trace of the most minute smile might have appeared on the stone.  She began to find the self she thought she had lost.

Her children started growing and her newly found old talents began to blossom.  The stone was joined by other friends and Deidre found her responsibilities growing.

The day came when she crossed the boundary to become to others as Maria had been to her.  Her first godchild was a mirror version of her earlier days and she drew from her warehouse of experience to guide this child along her way.

The godchildren grew in number and power.  Soon she found herself with an army of spiritually aware beings that would help to herald in the new age dawning.  At night she could hear laughter ringing through the house, and although it came from the direction of the stone, everyone knew that stones don’t laugh.

Her godchildren birthed godchildren and her strength became world known.  Her writings went across the waters and everyone came to know what had been so knowable but lost for so long.

The day came when her journey on this plane ended.  Her rest had been well earned.  As they laid her down to sleep, they asked her stone where it wanted to go.  “Back to the beach” was the divined answer.

***

It was a most perfect stone.  Its sides had been smoothed over the ages, polished to mirror exactness.  The roundness of its being was symetrically sound.  The vibrations of its ageless essence quivered in her hand as she gingerly caressed its surface.  She had found what she was looking for.

“Not just any old rock,” her godmother had said.  “You will know it when you see it, it will call out to you.”  Phoebe hadn’t heard any such voice, yet she was as sure that this was the stone that was to be hers just as if it had actually shouted out her name.

The sales clerk looked down at the little boy standing in front of her counter.  The suit he wore bagged at the knees and stopped short of his wrists.  His shirt showed signs of aged stains too clever for bleach.  The hair circling his head reminded her of the bowl cuts her father used to give his sons.

She smoothed down her tailored suit and patted the coiffured hair, reminiscent of her own days of poverty.  It hardened her heart.

“Young man, are you sure you’re in the right place?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” he softly replied.  “This is the ladies department, ain’t it?”

“It certainly is,” she snorted.  “What could you possibly want here?”

The boy placed a worn‑out shoebox filled with various denominations of coins in front of her.  “I don’t know how much is there,” he said, “but I’ve been saving a real long time.”

“Young man, really” the clerk said, “I have much better things to do than to sit around counting pennies all day.”

“It’s money, ain’t it,” he replied.  “I mean, couldn’t you just put them in some of them paper rolls?  It spends just the same, don’t it?  Please, lady, I’ve been waiting so long.”

“What exactly were you looking for?” she asked.

The boy started walking around.  He would stop in front of a mannequin display, look at it for a moment and then move on to another.  He finally stopped in front of one and reached for the dress it wore.

The sales clerk rushed from behind the counter to grab him before he could touch the dress.  “Look here now, don’t touch anything,” she said.

“Well, this one’ll do just fine,” he said.  “This is the one I want.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said.  “That dress costs three hundred dollars.”

“I don’t want the dress,” he replied, looking at her a bit quizzically.

“Run along, little boy,” she said, “before I call security.”

“Please, how much does the lady cost?” he asked.  “This is the ladies’ department.”

The clerk began calling for the guards.

“I don’t want any trouble,” he cried.  “They’ll be here any minute, I just want the lady.”

“Bobby, there you are.  Come here immediately,” called out a woman who rushed to the boy.

“Are you this boy’s mother?” demanded the sales clerk.

“No, I’m the administrator of the Niles Orphanage,” the woman explained.  “I hope he didn’t bother you too much.”

“Whatever in the world is wrong with him?” the clerk asked.

“Let’s go, Bobby,” she said and began pulling him away.  “He has the silly notion,” she explained over her shoulder, “that he can buy a mother.”