May 25, 2013



Jack hesitated when he finally found the blood-red door and noticed the skeleton for a handle. Just part of the show he assured himself, since he was still in the safer tourist part of the island. Still he had to will himself to continue on, ignoring the internal physical protest.

The sun was setting on the main drag, and the horizon displayed a beautiful step pattern from gold to orange to pink to purple to deep, deep blue. He stepped through the door and into darkness. As he stood there waiting for his eyes to adjust, his mind raced through what had led him there.

A tropical vacation had seemed like a good idea to get a fresh perspective and new start. They had been together for roughly six years now, and still it seemed like their relationship was not leading toward or building on something. It was just sort of treading water. She had become increasingly restless, sensing his lack of center or purpose. She wanted something to anchor herself to, and he always seemed adrift. He went from one lower or middle management job to another with no real intention, competent enough to do what was asked of him, but not really caring about the results in any larger sense.

Like so many of their arguments, he couldn’t really remember what had started this last one, just that it was a launching board for so much history and histrionics. When she announced afterward that her father was sending her money to fly back home immediately, he didn’t even protest all that much. He wondered if what protest he did make was just for appearances at this point. Once again, he didn’t really know what he actually wanted.

Once she was gone he had proceeded to get hammered at the hotel poolside bar. So much so that when he slipped into the bathroom just a few feet away on the side of the bar, he left his wallet sitting there at his bar stool. When he returned just a few minutes later it was gone. The friendly bartender with the big dreads and big, white teeth seemed to genuinely feel bad for him as he gave him another drink on the house. When Jack took this as an opportunity to gush his personal misfortunes, the bartender studied him a moment before telling him about the voodoo woman to be found behind the red door.

Now inside that door, he was finally beginning to make out the descending stairs bathed in the soft glow of assorted colored lights from the room below. The music coming up was a mix of jazz and jungle that intrigued him by its uniqueness. It didn’t quite mask the low, static hum of voices punctuated by splashes of wicked laughter.

Tentatively moving down the stairs, he bounced one hand off the concrete wall with each step since there was no handrail offering support. The other hand wiped sweat from his face.

At the bottom he could see the bar stretched in front of him, just a few feet away. To the left the room opened up to a scattering of tables and a band tucked into the far corner. To the right were just a couple of tables where intimate conversation might be more possible, and a doorway with a darkly patterned cloth draped across it. His momentum carried him forward into the waiting gap in front of him at the bar. A bartender with even bigger dreads and similar beautiful white teeth was talking to the couple he was serving, but cut him a quick glance and slight nod in acknowledgement. Finishing his story with a hearty laugh, he came over flashing a big smile.

“Greetings, mon. What can I do ya?”

After receiving his Red Stripe, Jack told him how he had been told about the voodoo woman by the bartender back at his hotel. Nodding thoughtfully, the current one looked him over for a moment before somewhat dramatically pressing his finger to his lips like he had a secret and then holding it out as if to say ‘hold on a moment’. He slipped out from the side of the bar and beyond the drape covering the doorway. He was back out in less than a minute and held the drape to the side as an invitation.

“Have a seat, mon. She come.”

Jack looked at the smiling bartender as he walked over and ducked inside. The room was dimly lit with candles and smelled of incense and sweat. As he took his seat at the small round table he could not take his eyes off the small monkey bearing his teeth, frozen in taxidermy time.

His trance was broken when the old, short, stout woman entered the room. Her penetrating, bright green eyes were set off by her dark skin. She too studied him as she eased into the chair across the table from his. He did not feel intimidated by it. It felt more like a grandmotherly gaze to him.

“Why so troubled, chile?”

He told her the events of the last few days on the island. He told her the history of his relationship with his girlfriend. He told her about his life back in the States. He opened up to her more than he had with anyone as far back as he could remember. She listened and nodded with the same caring look in her eyes. Sometimes she would look down at his chest as if she was looking inside of him. She didn’t ask any questions, and he just kept talking.

When he reached the end of his purge they both sat there in silence for a moment. She closed her eyes, and his wandered back to the monkey’s teeth. After a few minutes she opened her eyes again and got up.

“Wait here, chile.”

When she returned she carried a small sewn doll with an over-sized head of a cat. She placed it on the table between them.

“It is said dat cats see what people do not, but if look ‘tween the ears of da cat you see what dey see. When you confuse on what to do, you look ‘tween ears of dis cat and you know…inside.”

He looked at her in confusion, but her warm look back at him made him feel embarrassed for his doubts. He picked up the doll and looked it over.

“You give my boy at dee bar 50 ‘merican dolla for ‘nother drink, den you go,” she said in matter-of-fact fashion, but the same sweet smile was there.

He stood up when she did to head back towards the room behind the hanging beads from which she had come.

“Um. Does this really work?” Jack asked almost apologetically.

“It works when you believe it works.”

He wondered if that wasn’t true of most things. “Is anyone ever really in control, though?”

She stopped and smiled at him. “Hmmm, yes. There be hope for you yet, chile,” she offered as she disappeared behind the beads.


Written in participation with Viewfromtheside’s Blog WeekendTheme: http://viewfromtheside.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/weekend-theme-107/

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12 Comments on “Handle”

  1. 68ghia Says:

    Could use that cat right about now…
    Good story Brett


  2. kateshrewsday Says:

    Great pace, great style, Brett. I’d like to know the rest.


  3. SidevieW Says:

    Great one, drew me on. But I did let out a wail at the end. NOW WHAT?


  4. Cameron Says:

    I think I need a voodoo cat. Wonderfully atmospheric tale, Brett.


  5. Eden Says:

    Just ♥



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