On Witch’s Hill are two houses
separated by a minute’s walk.
house is dull, with peeling paint, splintering trim and crumbling brick; smoke is never seen to come from its chimney. Those who pass
by say this is a good thing, because the house and its surroundings already smell
like burnt pork.
house is much more beautiful. The Witch built it seemingly in hours before
leaving. She adorned it with colorful
birds' feathers and windchimes and surrounded it with fireflies. On its lacquered door is a sign which reads
"Come in" (though she instructed Milton to never, ever enter), and
from its chimney always billows a soft column of white smoke that smells like
lives alone now in the ugly house.
leaving, the Witch moved her hands in circles and told him, "I will be gone a
long time, Milton, because I have much work to do. But I will provide for you. You need not ever leave this house." And in that instant he felt dizzy, very
dizzy, but that was alright. He knew she
would come back.
He does not
know how long he has been waiting.
The witch was
fond of building miniature houses. Most
of the miniatures represent homes in the village claimed by that mysterious
series of fires.
the houses with miniature people: scraps of Milton's old socks stuffed with
cotton. Their button eyes shine in the
slanted sunlight from the window.
of the pretty house sits on a separate shelf.
Inside it, lights always shine.
At first only
children entered the pretty house.
that men tried to board its doors shut. After their nails broke against the frame they returned with
torches. They went home with singed hair
they started to force their worst criminals into the house.
a group of young men entered the ugly house and found Milton sitting serenely
in his favorite chair. When he got up to
shoo them away they scrambled; one of them, Milton saw, left a thin trail of urine. He wiped it up in disgust.
villagers returned with torches.
home with singed hair.
watched the procession from a second-floor window. His laugh, rustling hay, was lost
to the rising heat.
Milton goes to the pretty house's miniature, opens its door and all its
windows, and takes it to the kitchen.
Usually he has to turn it on its side and shake it over the skillet to
get all the little people out. At first
it was children who fell; then teenagers; now it is men, usually, who beg for
forgiveness before slapping against the iron.
given up trying to reply to the men who fall from the miniature. When he speaks only sighs come out. His
tongue, a fat red strip of felt, can hardly taste anything.