There were a few things about Timmy that no one understood, not even his closest friends or his parents. And if you asked him, he couldn’t have explained any of those things any better than anyone else either.
For instance, he insisted that the jelly go on his bread before the peanut butter, even if the slices were switched. It just felt wrong to have it the other way; and the one time his mother forgot and made it the other way around, there was no way Timmy could have know that she had put the peanut butter on before the jelly – but the moment he sank his teeth into the sandwich, he let out a shriek so horrifying that his mother never forgot again.
And then there was also the fact that he couldn’t sleep unless every door in the house was closed. Windows left open were fine, but as long as a door remained open, or even if it was not quite closed properly, he couldn’t bring himself to sleep.
“What if you just ignored it?” was one of the many unhelpful things his father tried suggesting. “You know, pretend that it’s closed.”
“But it’s not,” was Timmy’s reply. He never understood how grown-ups could pretend so well. He supposed that given enough willpower, some grown-ups could pretend that gravity didn’t exist, and walk right up into the clouds.
But maybe that was how witches flew, he thought. They pretended that they didn’t have to walk, and they pretended that broomsticks could fly.
Then came the time when he suddenly got the urge to climb up onto the roof of the family barn with a piece of chalk. He tried to ignore it, as his father said, but the urge, not one to be brushed aside, came mewling back to him like a cat. Except it didn’t actually mewl, because urges can’t mewl; but it had about the same effect. As the days passed, Timmy found it harder and harder to ignore the urge.
And so one day, he took a piece of chalk, and somehow found his way up onto the roof.
Okay. Now what?
Now draw a spoon, a pointy hat, and a schoolmistressy tick, the urge said. Oh, and while you’re at it, draw a cute little kitty. I love cute little kitties.
Timmy drew, on the family barn’s room, a spoon, a pointy hat, and though he had no idea what a schoolmistressy tick was, he must have somehow got it right, because the urge didn’t bother him.
The cute little kitty. Don’t forget the cute little kitty.
Okay. Timmy drew, to the best of his abilities, a kitten beside the spoon, the pointy hat, and the somewhat schoolmistressy tick. With that, the urge left him alone. He climbed off the barn roof and carried on with his life with no further strange disturbances.
That is, if you don’t count witches-in-training crashing through the roof of your room as a strange disturbance.
“Yow!’ Timmy hollered when she burst through his ceiling, showering him in splinters and dust. The witch got up, her face contorted violently, and then she let out a sneeze so strong that she fell over backwards.
She must have been a witch, and Timmy knew this because she wore a black pointy hat, and in her hand she held an old, crooked broom. Her face was surprisingly clear of warts, though she had freckles like constellations over the bridge of her nose; and instead of a big beak-shaped nose, this witch hat a small, upturned nose. She was a young witch then, and considering that she crashed through the roof of his room instead of flying across the moon while cackling, she wasn’t a very good one either.
“Well, excuse you,” she said, sniffling. “But I have been to dungeons that had less dust lying around!”
There were many questions that Timmy could have asked. Including, but not limited to, “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where do babies come from?” or “What is the secret to immortal youth?” Generally questions that grown-ups had no answer to; and by law, the witch would have been required to answer the first question from a child with all truthfulness. Instead of any of these, however, Timmy asked: “Why are you here?”
The witch’s eyebrows went up, and she assumed a testy look. “I don’t know,” she said, dusting her customary black cloak, “Why are you here?”
“Well, I live here. This is where I sleep.”
“And there you have it,” she said. “This shall also be where I sleep.”
“No, it’s not,” Timmy said.
She looked genuinely surprised at this. “What do you mean, it’s not?” she asked, in the way that told him she wasn’t really asking, but really telling him that what he just said was incredibly silly. “You drew the FTW sign over the roof.”
“Friendly To Witches. The spoon, the pointy hat, and the schoolmistressy tick. The cute little kitty was a nice touch, I must say.”
Timmy had no idea what any of this meant. So he said: “I drew that on the barn roof,” and pointed out his window.
The witch followed his pointing finger and saw the pictures drawn in chalk. An embarrassed look crossed her face, but she wiped it away and replaced it with an air of superiority, which she achieved by puffing up her chest and raising her chin at him.
“I meant to miss it,” she said. “Now, I require you to bring me a glass of milk!”
Again she gave him a look of incredulity. “Because I said so,” she said, summoning all the authority she had (which wasn’t a lot) into her voice, “And I’m a witch! So do as I say!”
“What happens if I don’t?”
“You… You get turned into a… A toad!”
“Cool!” Timmy exclaimed. “Can you show me how to turn into a toad?” He knew at least thirty girls at school who would be very grossed out if he did, and he couldn’t wait to see the looks on their faces.
A frown formed on the witch’s face. “Um. No!” she said. “Bring me my milk, and we shall talk about it! I shan’t say another word until I have my milk!”
“But what if we don’t have milk? Would you like orange juice instead?”
Those who have played charades would empathize with the witch, who could not say a word, but had to tell Timmy that either one would do. So she shrugged, and mentally hit herself on the head. Witches aren’t supposed to shrug.
As Timmy went past his parents’ room to get the milk/orange juice from the kitchen, his father’s sleepy voice came trailing out: “Timmy? What was that ruckus about?”
“A witch crashed through the roof and landed in my room,” he told his father. “She’s going to show me how to turn into a toad, but she’s not going to do it unless I give her milk or orange juice, so I’m getting it for her from the kitchen.”
It was the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth. Timmy’s father sighed heavily, and must have went back to sleep, because then the snoring resumed. Timmy poured a glass of cold milk and brought it for the witch, who finished it in one long gulp.
“So you can do magic?” Timmy asked when he felt it was appropriate to ask.
“Not magic,” the witch said. “I practice witchcraft. Magic is a gimmicky form, reserved for amateurs and party performers.”
“So how do you turn into a toad?”
“You don’t. You don’t get to turn into anything.”
This struck Timmy as deeply disappointing. “But you said you’d turn me into a toad,” he whined.
“Even if I could,” she said, “I wouldn’t do it on you. It’s simply far too much effort, and oh, how I need my sleep!”
With that, the witch climbed into Timmy’s bed, set her pointy hat on the floor beside it, and fell into a deep sleep. A trail of drool escaped her mouth and ended up on his pillow.
Timmy laid down on the ground with his hands tucked behind his head and looked up at the hole that the witch made on her way in. It was big enough for a door, but it didn’t end on the floor. So was it a window, or a door?
The more he thought about this, the more frustrated he got, and so he brushed it off as a hole in the ceiling. And that was when he realized he could neither sleep with a hole in the ceiling.
So Timmy laid on the floor, staring up into the starry night sky, unable to sleep for the rest of the night.