Henrietta H. House
Henrietta H. House is a middle grade modern fantasy
HENRIETTA H. HOUSE
By E.A. Bundy
Chapter One: How It All Began
When the mother of Henrietta H. House screeched at her, the sound echoed through their unkempt home, continued out into the untidy yard, and reverberated through their otherwise ordinary neighborhood in Monmouth, Oregon. However, Mrs. House did not scream her daughter’s full first name, but called her by the nickname Henrie.
So loudly did Henrietta’s mother yell, the neighbors surely heard inside their homes. It was an astonishing sound made by an extraordinary woman.
That sound most definitely penetrated the metal tool shed in the backyard where Henrietta lay snuggled next to her dog. He was a feisty little Scottish terrier. They often huddled there together, hidden in a bed of straw amongst rusty rakes and shovels, and a smelly wheelbarrow.
In her mind, Henrietta only pretended to whisper, 'Coming, mother.' That was because with the wisdom of all her eleven years, she had no intention of going into the messy house where her mom undoubtedly sat in her ancient overstuffed chair.
Their home was one of those craftsman cottages constructed back in the 1920s. It had a tall, secondary, gable roof covering the entrance like a giant capital letter A. The overall blend of brick and woodwork, plus ornate leaded-glass windows was reminiscent of bygone eras. Although it had seen better days, the house was still interesting to look at. However, from the street one had to peer above a rusty, ornate gate in the overgrown hedge to catch a good glimpse of the mostly-hidden dwelling.
The small metal shed out back was Henrietta’s refuge. Her dog, Elgin, was generally the only one who could find her there. He was named for a wristwatch he’d chewed up when he was a little puppy. During school days, in his mistress’ absence, this shed was Elgin’s hideout, since he could squeeze through the gap from a loose steel panel in the back wall. And although he was allowed to enter her home by himself through the pet door, he didn’t unless Henrietta was home because her mother had put one too many hexes on the lovable little pooch.
You see, her mother, Delvettica House, was a self-proclaimed witch. Sixth generation to be exact––as she so often bragged to her daughter––noting that Henrietta was a seventh generation witch girl. A truly auspicious offspring, Henrietta even had the legendary nose like her mother’s. One of those gosh-awful, long affairs, not the cute little turned-up sort that most girls had. Except, unlike her mother, Henrietta’s nose did not have an unsightly wart out near the end. For that, she was thankful, but her mom said it was only a matter of time before Henrietta had her own hideous growth. Delvettica, it seems, was also wart-free as a child. At least, that is what she said.
Henrietta shifted uncomfortably in her straw bedding left over from mulching the herb garden. Her nose wrinkled as she felt the signs that her mother was formulating a particularly nasty incantation to draw her only child inside the house−to do her bidding. Elgin felt it too and whined, placing a paw over his muzzle.
As she sighed, and grudgingly whispered aloud, “Coming, mother,” Henrietta unknowingly intensified those words without even trying. Her mother’s spell dissolved−although that was not for the reason Henrietta thought. She believed her mom’s acute hearing had heard Henrietta's "coming mother' answer to the summoning-hex and caused the witch to withdraw it. Not so!
Regardless of the fact that Henrietta rejected and fought against it, she was undoubtedly the most powerful young witch of her day, perhaps of all time. Despite her denial and her promise to herself never to use such powers, that only magnified them. Plus, they occurred anyway without her awareness.
With a sigh, Henrietta uncurled herself from Elgin and threaded her way through a maze of yard tools to the sliding door she’d left open just a crack. The metal shrilled as she slid the door open. There was Elgin, already wagging his tail, awaiting her after having wiggled his way out through the metal flap of the rear “entrance.”
Henrietta walked through the back door of her house and Elgin followed, his toenails clicking on the tiles as if for moral support. A mixture of both rare and common herb aromas assaulted their noses. The plants hung from the kitchen ceiling to dry, casting ominous shadows across the floor and one wall. Elgin growled and his hair ruffled around his neck as he showed his teeth to the large black cat strolling by.
Henrietta called her mother’s “pet” Sylvester, but her mom’s name for the unusually large feline was Bast, after the Egyptian god with a cat’s head. Elgin bristled whenever he encountered his nemesis, which had clawed him on numerous occasions.
In the barely-lit living room, Henrietta found her demanding parent sitting in the old chair just as she had imagined, except her mother was analyzing something cradled in her lap. Thus absorbed, the woman seemed not to notice the presence of her daughter.
“Yes, Mum,” Henrietta said, sounding as though she were from England and not the United States. It was an affectation she’d adopted long ago as a way of coping with her pitifully drab existence. But as usual her mother did not respond.
Henrietta stood there patiently. She was tall for her age and her ungainly form seemed from another era, or some other part of the world less-touched by modernization. She was one of those persons who invariably manage to look uncomfortable in their own bodies. The mismatched, out-of-date attire she wore did not help matters. It was comprised of ill-fitting second-hand clothing her mother had deviously selected from a local thrift store.
Elgin sat beside his mistress with one paw on her foot, and leaned his head against her jeans. Henrietta wore boys’ pants instead of tastefully cut girls’ jeans, and certainly not Capri pants. No. Just old, baggy boy dungarees−a source of much unnecessary teasing by other girls. Henrietta’s mother said this would build witchly character,and that it was a family tradition handed down from previous generations.
Right––Henrietta thought. To her, it would be preferable looking the part of a “fashionable witch.” That is, if she really was a witch. And she wasn’t.
Henrietta, you see, was in denial about her witch-hood and many other things. But who wouldn’t be?
Henrietta’s left foot tapped impatiently. It was clad in a worn-out tennis shoe−not Converse or any other name brand−but some imported poser that no one ever heard of. She continued tapping her foot. A girl could stand there only so long.
Her mother’s eyes rose, looking toward Henrietta, but clearly, her mom’s mind was elsewhere because that gaze went right through her daughter. One gnarled hand shifted in her lap, revealing an old-fashioned, wooden clothespin lying there. The kind customarily made of two pieces of oak fastened together with a steel spring. It was the same type her mother used when securing herb bundles to strings that crisscrossed their kitchen ceiling. In modern American households, however, it was an item relegated to the long ago past.
This particular wooden pin had been carved upon, but Henrietta could not see what the woodworker depicted.
Absently, still staring beyond her daughter, Delvettica said, “Henrie, take this…hide it someplace even I can’t find it, and tell no one about it––ever!”
She held the wooden clothespin out to her daughter.
Website copyright © 2011-2013 by EA Bundy. All rights reserved. None of the text or illustrations may be used without the author, and/or publisher’s—Singing Winds Press—written permission. (Please note, Singing Winds Press is closed to submissions.) Henrietta H. House was published in paperback and as a Kindle eBook in 2012