Dad called my mother’s mother a witch.
He said she saw a dancing sprite weaving in and out of flames, cast like a shadow on her bedroom wall, the night before a fire stole her middle child. The green curtains that hung on his bedroom wall were deemed to be the cause, she said, everyone knew green curtains were unlucky, and all the drapery was blue thereafter.
She routinely cast salt over her left shoulder to blind the devil and interpreted the patterns in tea leaves for all who dared to take a cup with her. She’d brew it in a steel pot atop the stove, boiling until the tea was dark and strong and tasted as though the metal had bled into the liquid, an alchemy of fortune, good or bad. My dad insisted on a strainer and never let her near his cup.
During thunderstorms we were all called to cover every mirror, every reflective surface. The walls were hung with cardigans and pillowcases and compacts were shut inside a darkened drawer. I asked her once why we performed this storm-induced ritual. She took my hand in hers and said, “It’s only during a storm that Beelzebub himself can enter our world and even then, only through a mirror.” Her skin was paper thin, a parchment shroud for her shrinking body, and it moved and creased as her fingers tapped against my palm. “You never want to look inside a mirror when the room is lit by lightning and the thunder drowns out the beat of your own heart. That’s when Satan will come in.”
My dad, a rational man, laughed and lifted up the wrap that stood between our living room and hell and said he saw himself and nothing more.
Next day at dinner, gran threw salt into my father’s eyes.