Sunday, May 21, 2017

Character Profiles ~ Aisha

In life and in fiction, we see what someone is made of when they're under pressure. In Crawdad, all the characters are stressed by something in their lives, usually events outside of their control.

In Aisha's case, she's got a strange insight into people she's learning to understand, but can barely control. Is it voodoo? Aisha doesn't know, but it scares her and the people around her. Who is she? Is she evil? Is she crazy? Is the power real or just her imagination? And when will it go away?

~Meet Aisha from Crawdad~


“Aisha?” I could hear my grandmother calling me from the porch where she’d been shelling peas in a big, red bowl. A vibration, so faint most folks wouldn’t have noticed, had lured me off the porch and out into the woods, wet and green, steaming like a rain forest. I glanced back over my shoulder where I should have seen grandma’s house through the trees. I saw only shrubs. I could still hear her yelling though.
“Aisha, you get back here or I’m a tan your hide!” she was screaming but it sounded like she was a million miles away. She used to scare the crap out of me, but she’d threatened me too many times in my young life. I didn’t believe her anymore. Besides, I had something in me I needed to understand. No one else around me understood, so I kept walking. I wanted to see Naomi.
My head buzzed with electricity. It was just a feeling I got sometimes when I knew stuff. Once, it started on Friday at school. I knew what the answers were on Mrs. Whitnack’s quiz cause she was thinking them. I knew Paul was gonna ask me out, so I hid in the bathroom until most everyone had got on the bus or left for home. I didn’t like that boy and he couldn’t seem to get it through his thick skull. Missing the bus meant walking a long way home, but it was worth it to avoid Mr. Grabby Hands. I took a short cut through the woods, like I was now, and I was overcome by the same feeling both times. Alive with a vibration like no other. Every leaf was sharper, every sound perfectly clear in my ears, like it was right beside me. Something was coming.
I thought I knew the way, but pretty soon there was a creek I didn’t recognize and the trail turned to little more than a pattern of pine needles and dead leaves.
“What you looking for?” I heard a voice say. I looked around me. I was sure there weren’t nobody there before, but now there was a woman, old and wrinkled as the bark of a gum tree, staring at me with eyes blacker than midnight in a rainstorm. She rattled me, but I tried not to let it show. That was the first time I ever met Naomi.
“Nothing. I’m just walking home,” I said.
“Dat’s not what your heart says,” she said in a little know-it-all voice.
“My heart?”
“’Bout to beat right outta your little chest, it’s so loud. I hear it searching.” I gave her my best “you must be crazy” look, which was easy ‘cause she looked kind of crazy. Her hair was covered by a tightly wrapped purple bandana and her eyes darted around like she kept hearing things in the forest I couldn’t hear. She wore a flowered house coat and slippers, like a patient who just wandered away from the old folks’ home.
“What are you?” I asked her.
“My name is Naomi Wentworth. I got a lotta names, but that’s my favorite.”
The name sounded a little familiar, but too normal to be the person I’d heard all the stories about.
“You ain’t Mama Copperhead, are you?” I blurted out.
I always thought Mama Copperhead was a story meant to keep us out of the woods or away from snakes, but his lady made me wonder if it was true. She laughed a raspy sound.
“Maybe…maybe.”
“Well, nice meeting you, Naomi, but I gotta go,” I said, moving my feet away from her.
“But you ain’t told me what your blessed heart is looking for yet,” she said almost pleading.
I paused. What did she expect me to say?
“I know you been misunderstood a time or two,” she offered as she pulled a loop of string out of her pocket and started lacing her fingers through it to make a cat’s cradle.
“That’s the truth,” I muttered.
“So maybe you’re looking for understanding?” I squinted at her, the momentary glare of the sun through the trees blinding me. A rare breeze cooled my face for a second.
“Ain’t everybody?”
“Maybe, but that ain’t exactly what I mean, honey child.”
I never really heard nobody use that expression before, except for in a joke. Naomi made it sound like the most natural thing in the world.
“I won’t hurt you, sweet pea,” she murmured. I felt the humidity dripping down between my shoulder blades now, itching.
“I know,” I said, a little too smart mouthy. I didn’t mean to be rude, but snapping at people had gotten to be a habit with me.
“Sometimes it’s ok to ask folks to help us, especially when we can’t see the path too clearly,” she said shuffling toward me.
“I heard you was some kinda witch,” I said, backing away a few steps.

“Maybe, maybe not. All in how you look at it, I suppose. They don’t call them witches in voodoo.”


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