The first time I walked away from my second career, that tenured one in academic I didn’t burn my bridges behind me. I took a year off to explore non-Oklahoman living opportunities a little bit and maybe get well laid while doing some traveling. Instead, I met Bob Marley’s ghost, learned my destiny according to some Mayan cave spirits, and met Acer, my friend the maple tree.
It probably all turned out to be a whole lot more valuable than getting laid would have been. Of course one never knows, in some alternative dimension, on some different channel, perhaps I’m lying on a tropical beach with a cute young man and a margarita, oblivious to the channel that includes the 2016 presidential campaign and its aftermath. There’s no telling.
The second time I walked away from my second career, I didn’t quite burn the bridge, but I’d not left a rosy impression on Sister Paula and the gang when I left. I’d also paid heed to what Debra had said about the letter. What the heck, I'd been flying with eagles, I was far less restrained than I’d been with the douchebag. He was already pretty deflated and so I’d been kind to him. I’d seemed to have picked up a bit of the Godzilla vibe while in Belize. Whatever the case, the letter did serve as evidence the Sister might use to support truths she might want to tell about me to prospective employers in higher ed. Of course I’m not so sure she’d want to share the same truths I had about why I was choosing not to return, they’d likely be pretty embarrassing for the University. It was probably for the best all around for me to collect my paycheck and go away quietly.
We set off on these divergent paths in life, thinking we have some idea about what might lie ahead to the left or right, what various destinies might exist at the end of each choice, only to find out that the winds of change come out of nowhere.
Who’da thunk that exploring meso-America would transform me into a channel surfer? Who’da thunk that moving to New England to work in a nunnery would hook me up with witches? Who’da thunk that the more I looked around, the more I'd see magic, everywhere. Who’da thunk I’d wander around and meet big blue dragons and trolls and others just like me, people who’d hopped into some very interesting wavelengths indeed, inquiring minds like my own, bobbing around in the sea, catching waves of wonder?
The third time walking away from that second career was the charm and I’ve never looked back at the smoldering ruins of the bridge to the old story of my life. I did a semester and a half at the local community college before the snow and bullshit both got far too deep for me to bother to show up there any more.
he poor soul who was my last boss (in every sense) did feel the full force of Godzilla; as the beast took one last look back while I rode it out the door looking dead ahead myself, the bridge was incinerated in his fiery roar. I rather rejoiced in it, felt like Daenerys riding the dragon.
For the first time in 40 years, I was pretty seriously unemployed. It felt awesome. It tasted delicious. It smelled good. It turned me on, I liked what I saw. My world was atwitter with it, the love frequency was turned on and audible. Still is, really.
Of course despite how vastly my horizons of reality had expanded in the previous couple of years, despite the fact I’d soared with eagles and chatted regularly with all manner of theretofore non verbal and sometimes even inanimate entities, including ghosts, there was still the matter of the mortgage. And the gas bill. And taxes. Those imaginary 0’s and 1’s that the banks invented to drive capitalism and enslave us.
Talk about voodoo.
I decided to go to the library and see if I could find a book on how to make money without actually having a job. I hadn’t just walked away from academia. I’d walked away from an entire plot line, changed channels, shifted world views. I did still seek my knowledge at the library, some things never change.
Robert was there. He was playing a guitar at the same bench where I’d seen him before, but he looked like a different man. There was an older man playing banjo along with him, and a woman on violin.
“Hey, how’s it going?” His smile was genuine, joyful. “I keep meaning to come by and thank you. I still don’t like that place much. I heard the witch house is empty.”
“That wasn't me, it was Pierre. And yes, Alexandra’s parents decided they wanted a new school for her, it was right after Pierre left.” What the heck, he knew Pierre as well as I did. One learns over time with whom such things can be discussed openly. There’s a vibe of sorts, a resonance of the waves coming off them.
“Anyway, everything has changed. I went to the soup kitchen and met Craig.” The older man waved. “He was starting a community garden on the old rail trail and hired me to work on it with him, got me into an addiction program he’d gone through. We hit it off right away, both being into traditional music. As it turns out, he’s Pierre’s father. He was in almost exactly the same mess I was”.
“Yes, Pierre and I had had an argument that day. I wanted him to mow the lawn and he wanted to play with his friends. I told him he had to be home before dark to do the job, that’s why he was in such a rush at that time of day when it’s so hard to see on the road sometimes. He was careless because he knew I’d be disappointed with him if he didn’t keep his agreement with me. I feel into horrible depression; my wife and I divorced, our marriage couldn’t survive the grief.”
“Wow, quite the coincidence.” I had no idea what else to say. It was easy with Robert, Pierre knew what to say to him. But something had already healed Craig’s wounds. It became quickly obvious that the something was a someone, the lovely woman who played the violin.
“We met at a retreat.” Shana was a country girl, one whose vibe clearly indicated to me that she, too, could communicate in other realms. She was a channel surfer. In fact, she looked like a pro, all crystals and tie dye and a pretty distinctive rainbow aura. I’d never seen anyone quite like her before.
She turned to me.
“Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” she asked.
“Who, me?” I looked left and right, it just happened. “I not a witch at all. I'm Brooke Schaufelkot, from Oklahoma.”
“Oh! Well, is that the Witch?” She pointed at a bird flying high overhead.
“What? That bird? That’s my feminine spirit animal.” What the heck, when in Salem……
“Well, I'm a little muddled. The Trolls called me because a new witch has just dropped into a house next door to the Wicked Witch of the East. And it happens to be the house where Robert used to live, and the place where Pierre left this plane, and here you are, and the empty house next door to you is all that's left of the Wicked Witch of the East. And so, what the Trolls want to know is - are you a good witch or a bad witch?”
“But I've already told you, I'm not a witch at all. Witches are old and ugly.”
“My dear, you’re no sweet sixteen. Have you looked in the mirror lately?”
“What was that?” I’d just picked up a wavelength that sounded a lot like irritating white noise.
“The Trolls. They're laughing because I am a witch. I’m Goldilocks, the Witch of the North.”
"I thought Goldilocks hung out with bears."
"We live up in the mountains for most of the year. The bears are lovely. Believe me my dear, I'm a witch"
“You are? Holy Shit! I've never heard of a beautiful witch before. Of course Alexandra was beautiful. But she didn’t seem so wicked, are you sure that's the right house?”
“It was her mother.”
“Oh, yeah, Stephanie was kind of a bitch.”
“Only bad witches are ugly. And of course ugly and beautiful shine from within.
“Really?” I’d started noticing auras.
“Yes. Ugly is kind of a pukey bilous yellow brown green.”
“Yup, that was Stephanie.”
“The Trolls are happy because you have freed them from the Wicked Witch of the East.”
“Oh. But, what are Trolls?
“My dear, are you completely web illiterate? Where have you been for the past few decades? Trolls sow seed on the Internet, almost always provocative stuff. But trolls are like witches. There are good trolls and there are bad trolls. Some spread knowledge and thought and joy in hopes of producing interesting new interactivity of ideas and art and creativity, using the Internet to its full potential, spreading good vibrations. Others sow discord and hate, stuff not so nice. Most new age politically correct circles don’t like to use the term bad troll, but we witches aren’t so shy. We’ve felt the torch of the Inquisitor.”
“How did I free them?”
“Stephanie’s husband works for the FBI. He had a server system and firewall set up there and so much EM radiation cranking out of that spot their hacking efforts were being disrupted. You know there used to be a radio station there, right?”
“Yeah. Even the plants are high energy. There’s skunk cabbage all over the place back in the wetland. It really makes a lot of noise early in the spring, even kicks out some hypersensible wavelengths sometimes, not to mention the smell.”
“Are you sure you’re not a witch?”
“I don’t know.” I really didn’t, still don't. Witch hadn’t occurred to me. I’d considered the cave spirits and nanobots, why not witches? I had heard something about Shamans and Ayahuasca that sounded interesting. After all, the voodoo woman had been something else. I was pretty sure she hadn’t been a witch.
"Anyway, apparently the second hand smoke from your weed habit has been drifting directly into his bedroom window and he was rendered inoperative at that site. They had to move him."
I said goodbye to Robert and Craig and Shana. The threesome made a good living playing traditional Acadian music together, mostly in the gift. The garden downtown near the soup kitchen was quite productive and had done a lot to help people help themselves and all of them were active in its creation. I felt like a slackard for having spent all my new found free time communing in that beautiful space that held me, that which had called out to me from the road.
Perhaps it had been Pierre, perhaps he saved us all that day.
That relationship was one that was developing in some interesting ways, mine and the land's. I headed into the library. I hauled my not so random variety of books up to the checkout.
“Wow, what a random variety of books you’ve got!” The guy at the library knew me by sight, I’d been coming in for over a year at that point.
“Yes.” I smiled at him. No, I thought. Each book had called out to me, clearly, until I found exactly it. I had a lot of reading to do.
It was time to set off on the yellow brick road of unemployment opportunities, off to encounter some trolls and meet some beautiful new friends and to see the Wizard.
Linda Brooke Stabler, Ph.D.