A witch cursed you. You must touch lightning to see your lover again.
At first, you mope about it, lie on the couch and put cold cloths on your forehead. You watch reality TV shows, eat ice cream straight from the tub. That’s the first week.
Then you grow tired of your self-pity. And you grow weary of the workings of curses.
His name is Edmund. You write it on the underside of a dusty brass sphere from the thrift store down the block. A weathervane is harder to find, but after several days, you track one down in a junkyard. Hopefully, no one minds that you hopped the fence.
The shed behind the house contains Edmund’s woodworking supplies. You grab wire and nails from his toolbox, then drag the sphere and weathervane into your front yard. The sky is blue and cloudless, and you flip it off before setting to work, mumbling curses beneath your breath.
A white picket fence separates your house from Mrs. Taffety’s next door. She’s the secretary for a local law firm, and she used to stare suspiciously when you and Edmund first moved in. But over the years, she’s become something close to a friend. You can feel her watching you from the porch, but you studiously ignore her.
“Do you know what you’re doing, Alten?” she says in an exaggerated stage whisper.
“Summoning lightning,” you say. You’ve tied your weathervane to the top of the big old fir tree. Wires trail downwards from it in a long metal braid; their ends wrap around the sphere in a wonky embrace. Some part of this will surely do the trick.
Mrs. Taffety looks at the contraption with an arched eyebrow, pushing her glasses down low on her nose. “Did Edmund get cursed by a witch?”
“Yes, actually. How did you know?”
“Oh, they love abstract things like lightning,” Mrs. Taffety says. Her rocking chair creaks in the wind; she bobs in and out of view like a sailboat. “It’s all about the poetry of the curse, you see. It has to be something with a metaphorical meaning.”
“Well, I’m glad I can be a good metaphor.”
You go to hammer a nail deeper into the wood, but miss and hit your thumb instead. A stream of swear words bubbles into the air. From the porch nearby, Mrs. Taffety laughs.
“That won’t break the curse,” she says. “It’s scientifically unsound, but more than that, you’re thinking about this all wrong.”
You give her a placid grin that means go away now, please and continue hammering at the tree.
The weather forecast says thundery showers by early evening. It’s agony to wait till nightfall. You stand by the tree and impatiently tap your fingers on your thigh. The clouds gather. Drops of rain soak through the plush of your pyjama pants.
You wait. And you wait.
Lightning strikes the weathervane. It smells like an egg gone bad, or a melted laptop drive. Electric sparks crackle down through the web of wire.
For a second, you see Edmund’s silhouette on the steps of your house. He reaches out a hand.
You reach for the brass sphere, your breath tense and tight in your chest.
The weathervane explodes. Shards of metal rain down on your front yard. Patches of grass burst into flame. You fall to the ground, covering your head with both arms.
When you eventually uncurl yourself, the tree is in ruins.
More importantly, Edmund is nowhere to be seen.
“Well, fuck,” you say out loud, and go knock on Mrs. Taffety’s door.
In the living room, she shoos you to an armchair and makes a cup of tea. Her hair is wrapped in foam rollers, and her bathrobe is printed with pictures of cartoon dogs. She sits across from you and folds her hands in her lap.
“You’ll need to call someone about that tree,” she says.
“I don’t care about the tree!”
“Calm down, Alten. No point in yelling.”
She’s right. You apologize sheepishly and take a sip from the cup in your hand. Lavender and lemon, poured at the perfect temperature.
“I meant what I said,” Mrs. Taffety continues. “You’re thinking about this all wrong. Curses are simple to remove. You just have to shift your perspective.”
“How do I do that?” you say, aware that you sound foolish for a man closer to thirty than twenty-five.
“Well, I’ll ask you again,” Mrs. Taffety says. “Was Edmund cursed by a witch?”
You think for a moment.
“Oh,” you say. “I mean – I guess I was the one who was cursed, not him.”
Mrs. Taffety takes a sip of her tea.
“There you go,” she says. “Look inwards, not outward. That’s often the answer. Would you like some cookies to take home?”
You have long wondered if Mrs. Taffety was a witch in her younger days.
You leave her house with a box of white chocolate chip cookies and sit on the front steps. The storm has subsided. The air smells heavy and clean, and the grass is dotted with puddles of rain. The tree is split in half. Your weathervane lies melted in the center of the trunk.
You stare up at the twilight sky. No lightning to be seen, but you rub your palm steadily over your thigh, pressing down on the plush of your pyjama pants. Edmund bought you these pants. He says you look cute in them, even though you think they’re not really your color.
A faint crackle, the friction of skin against fleece. The hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
When you look to one side, Edmund sits beside you on the steps. Just a silhouette, but as you stare at him, details fill themselves in. Hunched shoulders, grey shirt, blue jeans with a hole at the seam. Short hair, earrings, pimple at the base of his chin.
He reaches out a hand again. You take it. Static electricity snaps where your fingers touch.