Cobalt Blue by Waldron Caldwell/Lynda Durrant
Mississippi typically woke with the sun and slept when the sun set. But there were the unusual times when sleep could not come to her. Tonight was one of those times. The moon was full and brightened her bedroom inch by inch, like a creeping dawn into dusk.
The white owl had visited her again, this time in the early evening at her bedside window. Shortly after that she felt sap coming from both her eyes. A sticky, white sap as what comes from the milkweed leaf and stalk. She wiped her eyes with a warm, wet cloth and noticed her vision was coming back to her. Is this the change the white owl foretold?
She remembered holding onto Ruby’s hand. A powerful wave of good had washed through her until Ruby snatched her hand away. Ruby and the white owl, helping her break the curse. Georgia.
She rose from her bed and covered her mattress with a handmade crazy quilt. It had been a wedding gift those so many years ago. Now almost threadbare, she still couldn’t sleep soundly without it. She looked about her home in wonder. How many years had she been blind? It seemed like forever. She walked around touching her knick-knacks, scattered and mixed awry. She turned them all to face forward.
Her cook stove had not yet cooled. She set her teapot on a warm burner to fix a sip of tea. When the kettle finally hissed, she poured water over the loose tea and stirred it with a spoon she probably hadn’t seen clearly in forty years. She felt for a small box on a receded shelf, found it, and shoved it in her pocket. It had been so long.
She unlatched her screen door. A simple lock with a simple latch to keep the door closed in blustery winds. Who dared enter a root mistress’s house and risk the danger? Raftus, her guard, rattled his tail gently as a reminder to her that he was still there.
“I hear you, Raftus.”
Mississippi took her cup of tea out to the porch to bathe in the moonlight. She tossed it down her throat and descended her steps. She had to check the cobalt blue bottles to see if they were still in place. She glanced over at Georgia’s house and saw a dead tree covered with blue bottles.
“Carolina’s doin’. Evil its own self be scared of Georgia.”
She picked up a stick she often used as a walking cane. She used it to tap the bottles as she walked by, counting each one. The moonlight hit the glass like it did ocean water and bounced back like a wave rolling back to sea. The bottles still stood on their rods, still protecting Mississippi from evil.
Mississippi made it back up her front steps and took her seat in her rocker. She pulled the box from her pocket and opened it. She found what she was looking for—a candle and pulled it out. She struck a match and held it to the candle to soften it. When she could shape it with her hand, she stuck it to the banister to harden enough not to fall. She lit it and reached inside the box again.
She pulled out a small container of marijuana she had crushed in her mortar with her pestle. She took in a deep smell of it. Stout. She searched the box for some rolling papers and lined one with several pinches of the ground marijuana. She gave it a sloppy, but tight roll and licked the end of the paper to seal it. It was satisfactory to her.
Leaning forward she placed the end of the joint into the candle and took some strong puffs to get it started. Then, Mississippi took a strong draw and held it in her lungs to get the full effect of the bud.
“That’s how I burnt my house down, Mississippi. You gotta set that candle in a metal holder.”
Scared near to death, Mississippi nearly flipped back in her rocker, then started choking. “Damn you, Carolina!” Mississippi managed to say, “coulda tol’ somebody you be trespassin’ on they porch.”
“Don’t be takin’ such hard hits. Ya ‘bout ta be coughin’ up a lung. Give it here, I show ya how.” Carolina reached out her hand.
Carolina took a softer, more subtle draw and held it in her lungs. After a few seconds, she blew it out and reached her arms out like a scarecrow in a corn field shooing away crows. “Gawddamn! Wha’choo got in that there? Formaldehyde?”
Mississippi chuckled. “Secret herbs and spices, like the Colonel.”
“Imma tell Georgia ya smokin’ that shit.”
Mississippi looked her up and down. “She’s the one give it ta me.”
Carolina hit her chest with her fist. “Well, she cursed that stuff. Makin’ my head hurt.”
Mississippi sighed. Wouldn’t be the first time Georgia had cursed her. Was it milkweed? She’d been wiping thick, white sap from her eyes for days. Sticky like milkweed.
Carolina lit her pipe. “She don’t like ya seein’ her girl’s girl. That Ruby. She heard tell Ruby was marryin’ some white man. She don’t like that neither.”
Mississippi stared into the moon. “Ruby’s like her momma. Lavonia always took to white men. Don’t reckon Ruby be marryin’ though. The white owl says change be comin’.”
“Georgia don’t like Ruby bein’ so white skinned,” Carolina said, puffing on her pipe.
Mississippi fought back a yawn. “Could be that’s the change that’s comin’. Georgia wants ta know that girl, I feels it.”
“I feels it, too. Goin’ be hard on both of ‘em.”
Mississippi leaned back in her rocker and took a last hit of the weed. She paused and blew out the smoke. “Gonna be hard on all of us, Carolina. But it be good in the end. Be good in the end.”
Carolina tried to stand up, but fell back in her seat. “I gotta get to bed. I can’t stand up.”
“Hold my hand, Carolina, then find the handrail fo’ the steps.”
Carolina grabbed Mississippi’s hand, almost falling over her own feet. “I ain’t neva smokin’ wit’ you no mo’.”
Mississippi chuckled. “Iffin’ you smell it, you be back.”
Finally making it down the steps, Carolina tried to cross the sandy road, wobbling from side to side. She fell into the gate in front of her and Georgia’s house.
Mississippi watched her fiddle with the gate and laughed at her awkward motions. Not once did Mississippi mention she was regaining her sight. It could serve her well to keep that secret to herself. She knew.