Read an Excerpt
Once upon a time. What is that supposed to mean?
In the room full of musical instruments, watercolor paints, candles, sparkles, beads, books, basketballs, roses, incense, surfboards, china pixie heads, lanky toy lizards and a rubber chicken, Witch Baby was curling her toes, tapping her drumsticks and pulling on the snarl balls in her hair. Above her hung the clock, luminous, like a moon.
Witch Baby had taken photographs of everyone in her almost-family-Weetzie Bat and My Secret Agent Lover Man, Cherokee Bat, Dirk McDonald and Duck Drake, Valentine, Ping Chong and Raphael Chong Jah-Love, BrandyLynn Bat and Coyote Dream Song. Then she had scrambled up the fireplace and pasted the pictures on the numbers of the clock. Because she had taken all the pictures herself, there was no witch child with dark tangled hair and tilted purple eyes.
What time are we upon and where do I belong?
Witch Baby wondered as she went into the garden.
The peach trees, rosebushes and purple flowering jacaranda were sparkling with strings of white lights. Witch Baby watched from behind the garden shed as her almost family danced on the lawn, celebrating the completion of Dangerous Angels, a movie they had made about their lives. In Angels, Weetzie Bat met her best friend Dirk and wished on a
genie lamp for "a Duck for Dirk and My Secret Agent Lover Man for me and a beautiful little house for us to live in happily ever after." The movie was about what happened when the wishes came true.
Witch Baby's almost-mother-and-father, Wheezie Bat and My Secret Agent Lover Man, were doing a cha-cha on the lawn. In a short pink evening gown, pinkHarlequin sunglasses and a white feathered headdress, Wheetzie looked like a strawberry sundae melting into My Secret Agent Lover Man's arms. Dirk McDonald was dancing with Duck Drake and pretending to balance his champagne glass on Duck's perfect blonde flat-top. Wheetzie's mother, Brandy-Lynn Bat, was dancing with My Secret Agent Lover Man's best friend, Coyote. Valentine Jah-Love and his wife, Ping Chong, swayed together, while their Hershey's-powdered-chocolate-mix-colored son, Raphael Chong Jah-Love danced with Weetzie's real daughter, Cherokee Bat. Even Slinkster Dog and Go-Go Girl were dancing, raised up circus style on their hind legs, wriggling their rears and surrounded by their pup pies, Pee Wee, Wee Wee, Teenie Wee, Tiki Tee and Tee Pee, who were not really puppies anymore but had never gotten any bigger than when they were six months old.
Under the twinkling trees was a table covered with Guatemalan fabric, roses in juice jars, wax rose candles from Tijuana and plates of food-Weetzie's Vegetable Love-Rice, My Secret Agent Lover Man's guacamole, Dirk's homemade pizza, Duck's fig and berry salad and Surfer Surprise Protein Punch, BrandyLynn's pink macaroni, Coyote's cornmeal cakes, Pings mushu plum crepes and Valentine's Jamaican plantain pie.
Witch Baby's stomach growled but she didn't leave her hiding place. Instead, she listened to the reggae, surf, soul and salsa, tugged at the snarl balls in her hair and snapped pictures of all the couples. She wanted to dance but there was no one to dance with. There was only Rubber Chicken lying around somewhere inside the cottage. He always seemed to end up being her only partner.
After a while, Wheetzie and My Secret Agent Lover Man sat down near the shed. Witch Baby watched them. Sometimes she thought she looked a little like My Secret Agent Lover Man; but she knew he and Wheetzie had found her on their doorstep one day. Witch Baby didn't look like Wheetzie Bat at all.
"What's wrong, my slinkster-love-man?" Witch Baby heard Wheetzie ask as she handed My Secret Agent Lover Man a paper plate sagging with food. "Aren't you happy that we finished Angels?"
He lit a cigarette and stared past the party into the darkness. Shadows of roses moved across his angular face.
"The movie wasn't enough," he said. "We have more money now than we know what to do with. Sometimes this city feels like an expensive tomb. I want to do something that matters."
"But you speak with your movies," Wheetzie said. "You are an important influence on people. You open eyes."
"It hasn't been enough. I need to think of something strong. When I was a kid I had a lamp shaped like a globe. I had newspaper articles all over my walls, too, like Witch Baby has-disasters and things. I always wished I could make the world as peaceful and bright as my lamp."
"Give yourself time," said Wheetzie and she took off his slouchy fedora, pushed back his dark hair and kissed his temples.
Witch Baby wished that she could go and sit on Wheetzie's lap and whisper an idea for a movie into My Secret Agent Lover Man's ear. An idea to make him breathe deeply and sleep peacefully so the dark circles would fade from beneath his eyes. She wanted Wheetzie and My Secret Agent Lover Man to stroke her hair and take her picture as if they were her real parents. But she did not go to them.
She turned to see Wheetzie's mother, BrandyLynn, waltzing alone.
Wheetzie had told Witch Baby that BrandyLynn had once been a beautiful starlet, and in the soft shadows of night roses, Witch Baby could see it now. Starlet. Starlit, like Wheetzie and Cherokee, Witch Baby thought. BrandyLynn collapsed in a lawn chair to drink her martini and finger the silver heart locket she always wore around her neck.