“Flip” by Cherie Ann Turpin Story #15 (30 Stories in 30 Days)

“Flip” by Cherie Ann Turpin Story #15 (30 Stories in 30 Days)


She was an ancient one, sleight of physique, but oddly swift as she glided from her modest, run-down house on a narrow, dark street to the local Bodega two blocks away on Georgia Avenue.  Long rumored to be a root-worker, most of the locals avoided talking to her or looking too closely at her wrinkled, ebony face for fear of being bewitched by her eyes, which were of a startling greyish blue tint.

Some of the younger elders, remembering what their own elders said to them as children about “devil eyes,” whispered things about the “witch who would turn your soul into dust if she catches you” to their grandchildren, at the ones who were still listening.  Most young folk these days had little to do with those stories of the old times from the South.  In fact, few paid attention to the tiny old lady going to the corner store to buy supplies for her one meal of fried bread in bacon fat for the day, as well as to buy canned food for her orange tabby cat who was in cat years just as ancient as her mistress.

Rumors of her being a witch seemed to be just that–rumors, and nothing more.  No one saw any unusual activity coming from her house, or strange visitors.  In fact, no one ever saw any visitors approaching her house, a somewhat rundown wooden structure with peeling white paint and crumbling stairs with faded green mats.  She never received mail, nor did she have social worker visits.  Surely someone her age needed a nurse from time to time, but no, not even Meals-on-Wheels.  It was as if she was invisible to the entire world outside of Chelton Street, NW.  Who was her family?

Most of her neighbors were now young, white professionals, some of them with growing families.  Most of the houses had been sold and renovated, attracting a wave of affluent buyers looking to live closer to the city and anticipating a completion of the gentrification process that would eventually push out poorer, older, browner residents like her.  The real estate firm handling the sale of the now expensive, neo-modern townhouse to her left sent a broker, a short yellowish man with reddish-brown hair and beady eyes, assuming their best guy could secure a quick buy and subsequently, a profitable flip.

Before his hand could reach the doorbell, the wooden door abruptly opened, and she stood behind the screen door, smiling.  The real estate broker jumped back, startled by the sudden movement of the old woman now staring at him with her strange smile.  He seemed frozen in place, unable to move or even think.  Without a word, she opened the screen door, and with a wave of her hand, motioned for him to come inside.

Chelton Street, NW, now an up and coming fashionable street for ambitious professionals working on the Hill, sits lined with expensive, foreign cars. The rundown white house, long gone, has been replaced by a shiny new townhouse much like its neighbor to the left.  On rare occasions the owner can be seen through the tall windows cradling her tabby kitten, a tall, slender woman with coal-black skin and greyish-blue eyes observing her quiet narrow street, watching the change of time, seeing the new replace the old.

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