The Wizard of Tar Heel Bend
The Wizard of Tar Heel Bend
A short story by Gordon Brown
There’s this wizard lives in the house at the end of the road down yonder. I know cuz I seen him, and he’s tall like a wizard is, and wears a big bushy white beard what reaches to his chest. What’s more he talk funny, like how the people do in those haunted castle movies they have in town. Sometimes you can’t hardly understand him at all, and he has to write down what he means on a piece of paper.
My pa says I oughtn’t to talk to him on account of him drinking blood but I don’t think he drinks blood. I know because there were this time my ma sent me and my brother Lester over to ask for sugar, as she had run out and hadn’t had the time to go into town, because the preacher and his wife were come calling and would be here soon. The wizard were out on the stoop of his house, and he had a pitcher what had lemonade in it. He smiled at us and asked us if we wanted any lemonade and Lester said no sir and thank you sir, and Lester made me say the same, even though I was thirsty and it was intolerable warm.
The wizard wears a big hat made of fur, even in the summer, and long black robes what catch up the dust off the road. I seen him once in the general store and I asked my pa if the wizard didn’t get hot. Pa laughed and said to Mister Holloran behind the counter that the wizard’s just practicing being hot for where he’s going. Mister Holloran didn’t laugh though. Just said that he don’t see nuthin funny ‘bout matters such as the state of a man’s immortal soul. Pa got cross and said he didn’t see why Mister Holloran could be a good Christian man and let the likes of the wizard in his store. Mister Holloran said it was his store and he would sell to who ever he damned well please, if they had cash and good manners anyhow.
I told Lester how Pa got mad ‘bout the wizard, and Lester asked what wizard, and I said the one who live in the house down the end of the road. Lester said he weren’t no wizard and where did I get such foolishness? But I seen him. Seen him last month when I were catching lightning bugs what come out by the old oak in the field behind the wizard’s house. Chased one fat lightning bug almost up to the window, which is when I looked inside and seen him. Seen him wearing a piece of cloth over his head. Had them long hairs from around his ears hanging down and there were silver candle holders on his mantle like in the Dracula picture. And he were reading from a book what had magical symbols in it. And I heard him chanting words like barook ah tah Adonai and other such encantations.
All a sudden the wizard looks up and seen me looking in at him and he smiles and gets up and comes to the back door. He ask me what I’m doing out there, only he has to ask it a few times so I can understand him. I tell him I weren’t snooping, just trying to watching lightning bugs what to make lamps with, and I show him my jar so he knows I weren’t spying. And the wizard smiles a little, and tell me to stay put. He goes back in the house and come out against presently with a big jar size of my head, and its just like the kind of jar a wizard would have, though ma has some too. We walk out to old oak in the field and chase the lightning bugs a while, and the wizard catches a whole mess of them, so that the big jar glowed like a crystal-magic ball. The wizard tells me a story I can’t quite understand account of how funny he talks, but it were about lamps what stay lit for eight days, which was important account of how they didn’t have ‘lectrics. The wizard says he lived back in a place where they had genuwine Dracula castles and he and his son would go and catch lightning bugs. He gets real quiet after that, and doesn’t say nothing. He unscrews the top of the jar and turns loose all the lightning bugs and for a minute they swirl around his head, so as I can see his face in the darkness. His eyes are shut and he’s whispering something what I can’t understand, but when he’s done, all the lightning bugs fly away, and all of a sudden the tree line is all lit up with them – glowing and dancing.
So that’s how I know he’s a wizard.