My name is Chirtle. I know that don’t sound like a name. I don’t think it is. But it’s the only one I got. I mighta had anotha name at some point, but I don’t know it. Madame Beliveau calls me Chirtle, so Chirtle it is. She neva told me why before. She say now I make that noise sometimes. She say I sound like a lil chirtlin’ bird so that what she calls me.
She gave me a place to live and I took it. I ain’t sure if I had a ma and pa before. I can’t rememba that far back. I don’t rememba a lot. But, now I wanna tell a story of the Madame. Everyone knows it now, but one day they all gon’ forget. I don’t want folks to forget. It’s a good story. I don’t want to forget it either. The Madame don’t forget nothin.’ And she in ma head now so I prolly rememba too.
This story is part of history. It began a long time back when the folk from the place called Eh-frica brought us the voodoo. Some folk say voodoo and hoodoo is different things but it all the same I say. Some folk think the voodoo is bad but they wrong. Voodoo is meant for good things. It for protection and healing and to worship the dead ones. You can do bad things with it but it ain’t supposed to be bad. Some folk make it bad though, like the Madame. She started good. She lied to the folk. She bad now.
The Madame worked the voodoo circles when she got here. She say she even lived in the city with the othas. She climbed to the top and became a voodoo queen. She made it to the top with the othas like Marie Laveau. I neva met her, but she a good one.
When the Madame made it to the top, she changed. She started usin’ black magic voodoo. She started givin’ curses and poisons and hurting folks with the stuff that was supposed to protect em. The folks tried to drive her away, but she was too good at what she do. Some started dyin’ and the rest got scared. Othas liked her. Ya see, some folk in this world is mean and they like hurtin’ othas.
The Madame say she didn’t want to live in the city no more. There was no need now. She say she want folk to know she bad. She want them to feel the shivahs when they hear her name. So Madame Beliveau built her a house in the swamp. It was creepy but that how she wanted it. Downstairs is the voodoo room and upstairs in the trees is the sleeping rooms. She had made two, so she gave me one. But I gotta work for it. I gotta fetch herbs for the poisons and food for our stomachs. I gotta fetch otha stuff too when she need it. She say she knew she would need help. She was looking for someone like me. She say I got what she need.
I like to look at the Madame. She not pretty, but she not ugly either. She interestin’ to look at. Her eyes so dark they look black. And she got black hair too. And all straight-like down to her waist. Her nose is hooked. That’s why she ain’t pretty. And sometimes it got a lil black dot on it and sometimes it ain’t. I can’t always tell. Her face look like … look like … uh, I ain’t got the word but it look like it got magic on it. She got magic all over. Sometimes it look like it slithahs all over her. Visitors don’t like it. But I think it interestin.’
The Madame tell me to get on with the story. I got to move on from this she say. I don’t have a lot of memory, but I rememba some things. The Madame gets happy when she do bad things. I rememba that. Always. The people who come to her is desperate. They got to be, to come this far into the swamp. That’s the folks she wants. She say she like the smell of the desperation. But sometimes desperate folk ain’t a good thing.
I rememba one man. He was smart. He come up with some good ideas. But anotha man stole ’em. He couldn’t make no money off them cause that otha man kept takin’ them. So Madame Beliveau gave him a curse. It make the otha man forget his ideas and lose all his money. The otha man died cause he had no money for food. But the man with the ideas got real rich. He gave the Madame lots a money so we had lots a food.
A lot a ladies come here for men. The good voodoo ladies won’t give ’em love potions cause they say it wrong. But the Madame will give them. Sometimes she make ’em too strong. It make the folk unhappy. Sometime they die. This make the Madame smile.
Sometimes I wonder why the Madame likes to hurt folks. But neva for long. She give me food and a place to sleep. That’s what I need. That’s the only way I can live. Otha wise I die. So what the Madame do don’t bother me too much.
The voodoo dolls is supposed to protect folk. But Madame Beliveau use them to hurt. One man said his wife talk too much. So the Madame sewed her mouth shut. Now the lady can’t talk no more. A nice voodoo lady came to try and undo it. But the Madame drove her away. She made a voodoo doll and messed with its head. Now the nice voodoo lady don’t know who she is no more. She just wanders around the city all the time. The nice voodoo ladies avoid this place now. They scared. They should be.
Sometimes I see folk from town. They ask why I stay with her. I tell ’em “I ain’t got no where’s else to go.” I ain’t even got a name. I saw a girl named Elizabeth. I like that name. Maybe I could have it. But the Madame calls me Chirtle. So Chirtle it is. Besides, she feed me. And make my clothes when I grow. She good enough to take care of me. I don’t need nothin’ else. It like I say before. I just need to live.
She say I distracted again. And I need to keep tellin’ the story. I remember otha stories too. Like the time she turned that man into that frog. But the last man is the most important. He changed everything. He the reason I have to tell a story. He the reason I have a story to tell.
This man name was Christophe. I don’t usually notice the names. I make em up instead. I noticed this one cause he was a handsome lookin’ man. I don’t usually notice that either. About men or women, ‘cept for that one woman with the pretty green eyes. But I noticed this one’s eyes too. He was a white man with chocolate about him. Chocolate eyes and chocolate hair. That was a nice color on them. He seemed like a nice man the first time. He was nervous-like the whole time he was here. He, what the word, fidgeted his hand the whole time. Sometime he gripped his hat so tight I thought he would snap it in two. He got real sad while he talk to the Madame. His wife was a cheater. He knew what she was doin’ and he couldn’t stop it.
Madame Beliveau laughed at him. She … she . ..she cackled. I didn’t know why. She say now she laughed cause it was funny. She said “Leave her. She ain’t no good. There’s ya solution.”
The man looked like he was goin’ cry. He said he love her. And she love him too. He knowed it. The Madame laughed some more. But she said she gone help him. She said she had just the thing for him.
Now I had been with the Madame for some years. I learned the things she know. Sometime I try to do ma own voodoo when she ain’t watchin’. I even help a man once. I used the voodoo doll on his brother. He neva came back angry so I guess I killed ’em right. I wanted to tell the Madame but I was scared she be mad. The Madame say now she knew. She say that why she let me stay. Cause she knew I could learn things. She knew what I can do.
And I do know things. And I knew she gave him ouanga. It a bad poison. It one you give to yah enemies. I didn’t say nothin’ cause I ain’t supposed to talk when folk here. They can’t even tell I’m in the room. I hide in the corner when I ain’t needed. Madame Beliveau say I gonna have to talk now. But I couldn’t talk then.
Christophe was so happy. He gave her good money for it. He didn’t know it was the poison. The Madame say it was gon’ stop his wife from cheatin.’ He left with a smile and a bounce. And a glow in his chocolate eyes.
Madame Beliveau was in a good mood that night. She smiled and laughed and danced. The next day she was still smilin.’ She told me to watch for the man. So I did. He came when the sun was at the top of the sky. He was mad. The ouanga had killed the wife. He called the Madame a liar. She laughed at him some more. She said “It did its job. She ain’t cheatin’ no more.” That’s when things went wrong.
Usually, when folk get mad at the Madame they don’t do nothin.’ They can’t. They scared. But Christophe was so angry. He had loved his wife too much. He had brought a knife with him to get back at the Madame. He attacked Madame Beliveau real bad. I tried to stop him. He was startled ‘cause he didn’t know I was there. He hit me real hard. I heard a crack when I fell on my leg. I couldn’t move after that. I saw the Madame scratch his face. Her long crooked nails left thick lines across Christophe’s face. I can rememba his scream.
He lunged at the Madame and stabbed her in the middle. She just laughed at him. She stared into his face as she pulled out the knife and tossed it on the floor. She had an evil smile too. His chocolate eyes got all wide-like. You could tell he was real scared now. I saw the magic on the Madame’s face start to move. She put her hands on her stomach and put herself back together. Her face faded. The magic went away. She was green underneath it.
The Madame say now she had to use too much magic to heal. So she wouldn’t able to keep her face. She say it called an illusion. It made her look like the otha folk.
After her face disappeared, Christophe just stood there in shock for a bit. He didn’t want to be there no more. But he wasn’t leavin’ till she was dead.
“You evil witch!” he yelled. He tried to get the knife to kill her again. He stabbed her but she grabbed a potion from the wall as they fought and threw it in his face. The potion went in the scratches and in his mouth. The scream was louder than the first. I will always rememba that scream. His bones started to creak and crack. He shrunk before my eyes. Before I knew it he was a little kitty. A lil chocolate one.
But Madame Beliveau wasn’t healin’ herself this time. She say now she didn’t have enough magic left. She say she needed more. But it take time to get more. She fell down and got real still-like. She started turnin’ gray this time. Then she started crumblin’ into ash. As she crumbled I saw a little green smoky-ness come out of her. I watched it float across the room into my ear. It hurt me. It hurt me so much I passed out.
When I woke up, I saw myself in the mirror. I green now. And my nose is hooked now. And my leg didn’t hurt no more. The Madame say it worked. She in my head now. She talk to me. She say that why she needed me. In case somethin’ happened to her. She been alive a thousand years. And she say she neva gon’ die. She show me how to make illusion and put magic on my face. She say I run the voodoo shop now. And she gon’ tell me what to do. So now I got a voodoo shop. She say I got to find someone to help me. A new Chirtle.
I got a cat too now. He is a handsome chocolate cat. Imma call him Antoine. I like that name. I might switch with ‘em. I might call myself Antoine. After all I got to get a new Chirtle. But the Madame say I take ova everything now. I got to be her. My name is Madame Beliveau.