Madame Sadie waved her cloaked arm over the table. A few dozen keys were suddenly littered out in front of me without a sound. With a gnarled, elderly hand, she spread them out. This couldn’t be real. Surely it was just hocus pocus. But, what if it wasn’t? The woman stared at me intently, waiting for my choice.
“All I want is a new start,” I sighed. These keys wouldn’t help that journey.
The crone responded in a hoarse voice, “What do you value most, young man?”
Dreams, Love, Heart, Memory, Life, Wealth, Health… and many more keys glistened. I wanted to grab them all. Which one should I choose? My fingers pushed them about. Hope, Peace, Success… I picked up the one that said Security and pondered it.
“To always be safe,” Sadie crackled. “An interesting virtue to value above the others.” I didn’t care for the way she peered down her crooked nose at me, as if I hadn’t the wisdom to make this decision.
“It wasn’t my key of choice,” I answered, twiddling the key about in my fingers before letting it drop back to the table. “But I suspect you underestimate its worth. Security is much more than safety.”
She reached out a thin finger, and with a long, curved and yellowed nail, she pushed forward the key that said Wisdom. “You must know that with Security there is no risk, and for much to be gained, much must be risked. Come now. I haven’t all night. Choose and choose wisely.”
I didn’t care for her tone any more than her haughty air, and I particularly didn’t like the way she seemed to have read my thought. I could feel the disdain in her steel gaze. I poked around the keys again and pushed the one that said Patience out in front of her. An electric reproach crawled on my skin. There was something really creepy about this woman.
The choice seemed impossible. It didn’t matter how much I sorted. Something was wrong. The key I was looking for should be easy to spot. It would be more tarnished than all the others.
“I don’t understand,” I finally said. “There’s a key missing. Where is Truth?”
Sadie’s crooked smile failed to smooth the wrinkles in her ancient lips. “That key was taken by the young girl who was here just before you.”
Relief washed over me. I could not pick what was not there. “Did she take long to decide?” I asked.
With invisible slight-of-hand, my haggard hostess produced the shiniest key between her fingers and held it up with a flourish for me to see. It said Grace. “She considered this key a long time before taking the other,” came the answer.
“Save your parlor trick for someone else old witch,” I declared. “What I value now is the girl who knew which key to take.”
© 2012 Anne Schilde