I was told to go see someone who could help me. I followed the address I was given, and it led me to a cottage on a small, narrow side street. There were flowers in flower pots all around the railing of the porch, and there were wind chimes hung just beside the door that chimed softly as I came up the steps. I knocked at the door and an older woman in a flowery house dress flung the door open and stared up at me inquisitively. She reached up and clutched the door frame with her hand, as though to bar the way, and I saw her long black fingernails digging into the white paint. She made an insistent jerk of her head and shoulders and pressed her face forward, waiting for me to explain myself.
I started to tell her who had sent me and why, but she cut me off saying, “Yes, yes, yes,” and she turned back into the house, impatiently waving for me to follow her. She led me into her cluttered living room, where there were a variety of old clocks and framed pictures crammed together on all the walls. She went to get something from the hallway closet, and she came back with a thick bundle of rope. She held the coils of rope draped over her outstretched hand. She held the rope up to me, expecting me to understand the significance of it. “You see? You see?” she said, punctuating each sentence by thrusting the rope towards me. I shook my head.
She sighed with abundant exasperation, waving her free hand about and rolling her eyes at the ceiling as though there were spirits there that could grant her the patience to deal with me. She decided that she would have to demonstrate. She held a finger up to me, and then she began paying out long lengths of the rope which gathered into a loose pile of the floor. She tied one of the ends of the rope into a lasso. She twirled it around like a rodeo performer, and then she tossed it out into the empty space in the middle of the room.
To my amazement, the lasso seemed to catch around something invisible in the empty air. I drew up and leaned forward, blinking my eyes. She gave the rope a slight tug, and I actually saw it begin to tighten on this invisible presence. She nodded at me significantly, knowing that I could see now. And as I looked, I began to see a little round man with a long beard caught in the lasso. It was as if the pantomime of the rope had suggested his presence so convincingly that now I was able to see him there. I held up my finger and came forward, wanting to touch the apparition, but the woman slapped my hand away and pushed me back. Her nostrils flared and she scolded me with a shake of her head.
“This is a problem,” she explained, pointing at the round man. He scrunched up his face like a resentful child that has been caught misbehaving. “We all have these problems. Everyone’s life, filled with problems.” She waved expansively at the air. “You understand?” I nodded. “They are simple enough to deal with. You get the rope around them, as you see, and then you loop the rope around them five times. Five,” she repeated, holding her hand up with all five fingers extended, stressing the importance of this specific number. Again, I nodded.
She circled the round man, looping the rope around him five times. On each pass of the rope around his head, the round man watched with interest, but he did nothing to struggle or try to break free. He seemed as curious as I was about what was going to happen next. He even glanced at me once, blinking his eyes. He seemed a little shy and embarrassed by his predicament. The woman just kept slowly working her circles around him, holding the rope up as high as her arm could stretch and coiling it in nice even loops around the round man’s chest and midsection.
Finally, when she had all five loops laid down, she stepped back from him with a satisfied shrug of her shoulders. She held the end of the rope loose in her hand. “When you put the rope around him five times, exactly five, when you have the rope around the man, you have to give it a quick snap.” And before I realized that she was actually going to do it, she gave the rope a nice hard snap, just as she had said. The round man’s eyes went wide as the coils squeezed around him. The rope tightened like a fist around the round man’s chest, and his head and shoulders swelled up like a balloon. There was a look of fear and distress on his widening face, and then he just burst with a loud pop.
The coils of rope fell to the floor in a heap, and the round man was gone. The woman was shaking slightly as she gathered the rope up off the floor and began to loop it neatly over her hand. I could see that this ordeal drained her more than her casual demeanor would suggest. A few loose strands of her black and gray hair even clung to the sweat on her forehead. Once she had neatly coiled up all the rope, she presented it to me, meaning for me to take it. I thanked her and tucked it under my arm. She tilted her head and gazed up at me with a searching, concerned look. “You see how simple it is,” she said.