Monstrous Femme

The Making of a Witch

The Making of a Witch

Dusty noticed everything. She had since she was a small child and she had watched her father and mother argue over how much bread to serve at dinner, and how her brother disappeared for short moments during the day and always looked ashamed for a little while when he reappeared. She noticed how Samuel, their scraggly little brown dog, would strain his wiry body all the way round to nibble at the rubbery smooth ring of skin around his anus. She noticed and she watched. Sometimes she even peered. She knew there were things she shouldn’t be noticing, shouldn’t be seeing, but she always kept looking anyway. She couldn’t help it. Things held her curiosity.

That morning, she was on the train on her way downtown. Of course, she didn’t have much to do there, not at her age, but she liked to sit outside the station and watch a whole new set of people. She sat bundled in her warmest coat, prepared for a day outside. It was a bit worse for wear and admittedly didn’t look very smart but it still did its job.

Dusty was a large, bulky woman, who’d feel her thighs push painfully in between the cracks of the packed train seats, but she always tried to squeeze herself onto her own side of the division, to make herself as small as possible. She always tried to be considerate.

Dusty was in the process of wrapping her coat as tightly round her as possible, trying to minimize her own fleshy spread when she noticed a tiny old lady totter onto the train. She was very advanced in years, even more so than Dusty herself.

She was really quite doddery on her feet and the train sprang quickly into action between stops, which necessitated the little lady sit in the first available seat – the ones specially reserved for people like her.

There was already a man sitting on one of the pair of seats. A young man. A man who, Dusty was quite sure, could have sat anywhere else on the train. She didn’t like to make assumptions: she knew he could have had a gammy leg or a twisted ankle or something that made even his young lithe body relatively immobile. But she didn’t think that was the case here. He was dressed in running trousers, worn far too low, of course, but she was used to that by now. He was also wearing running shoes. She couldn’t see any trace of a plaster cast or a shadow of discomfort play across his face.

In fact, he had an all-round sense of serenity and entitlement that comes with never having to fight for scraps of bread or to squeeze yourself smaller for the comfort of others. She noticed he was doing quite the opposite, in fact: he was slouched way down in the chair, his long, strong, very capable-looking legs stretched out well beyond the limitations of his own seat. The little old lady beside him was having to twist herself at quite an unpleasant angle to fit onto her own chair. Dusty worried about the little old lady’s back. It wasn’t good to twist yourself round like that.

She wanted to say something. She wanted to help. But she didn’t feel she had the authority, or that anyone would listen. She worried that if she confronted the young man he would say something mean to her. Maybe something about the way she looked, or spoke, or smelled. That would upset her, and she didn’t want to spend her day alone, outside, and upset. So she noticed, and she watched, and she said nothing. Dusty’s stop came and she shuffled as briskly as possible out the doors, trying hard not to push or shove anyone else. She looked back once at the little old lady, and saw that her mouth was pinched with discomfort.

Dusty was angry. She was angry at the man, but even more so she was angry at herself for not having the courage to speak up. What was the good in noticing everything if you were too timid to do anything? She had always been angry at herself for being so timid.

She was still chastising herself when she missed the last stair exiting the station, and fell hard on her right side. She felt her ankle bend and snap agonizingly beneath her. Strangers rushed to help. They held her elbows and straightened her out and had concerned, pitying expressions on their faces.

Dusty didn’t want anyone to worry about her and she definitely didn’t want anyone to pity her. She didn’t like that they were all so close to her – she knew she hadn’t bathed that morning. She tried to shoo them away, but as she moved her ankle sent a burning hot pain all the way up through her body and made her cry out in a voice she didn’t recognize. The next thing she knew she was in an ambulance, lights flashing, siren wailing.

After three weeks of mostly bedrest, Dusty was feeling much better. Her daughter, who hadn’t really spoken to her much in the past 15 years since she’d left home to live with her handsome new husband, had come to stay with her. Her daughter had looked after her, and pampered her. She had washed her hair, even though Dusty could have done that perfectly fine on her own. Mostly, she had been kind to her. She had hugged her, and stroked her cheek, and called her “mum.”

The time had come for Dusty to get out of the house again. She felt comfortable with that now. Her daughter had said, “That’s a good idea mum, I’ll be right here when you get back we’ll have some warm soup for dinner,” and that sounded very nice indeed.

Dusty made her way to the station, with quite some difficulty. She had, to aid in the recovery of her ankle, been given a nice knobbly wooden stick. It wasn’t a boring old crutch; she couldn’t afford that and she wouldn’t have wanted it either. All that plastic and shiny metal. The nice doctor lady had just gone to the woods behind her home and found her a good proper stick. It had crevices and knolls and little pointy bits, but a smooth round top she could grasp onto.

When Dusty made it onto the train, she hobbled briskly toward the first seat before the train bumped into motion and would cause her to lose her balance. As she huffed down, before she started to squeeze herself small, she noticed she was sitting next to the same young man she had seen three weeks ago. His legs were splayed out in the same way, he had the same serene expression. He didn’t try to make room for her at all.

But Dusty had a stick now. It made her feel grounded, sturdy, connected. It gave her power. Dusty gripped the top of the stick and melted back into her chair. She let all of her soft flesh relax into the space around her. She made no attempt to squeeze it onto her side of the dividing crack. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the man beside her look up in surprise, and shift uncomfortably. She held her stick more tightly and relaxed some more. She felt her flesh squashing the man into a smaller space, his knees forced up toward his chest, his shoulder pressed into the window. Dusty melted further down into her chair. The man next to her tried to shift some more, to make his way up and over her, to find a different space but he was trapped. She adjusted her grip again with her warm, soft hand, and allowed her flesh to expand even further. As Dusty took up more and more space, the man grew smaller and smaller still, until he was no larger than vermin. She reached into her bra where she kept an old faded handkerchief pressed against her warm wrinkled skin, shook it out, and wiped the small squashed insect off the window. She closed her eyes and smiled, and waited for her stop.