Greek-American Stories: Who Do Voodoo?

I swear this story is true! I came home from work and asked my mother, “where’s Ellen”, my daughter. She said she’s across the hall in Maro’s apartment. “What’s she doing there?” My mother shrugged. “A visiting friend of hers saw Ellen and said she has the evil eye.” I was stunned. “That’s not possible! The eye doctor said her eye sight is 20-20.” Mom corrected, “No! They said someone gave her the evil eye. That’s why she’s sick and couldn’t go to school today.”

I dropped my purse on the chair and went straight across the hall to Maro’s apartment. The door was opened by Maro. “Where’s Ellen?” I asked without a, ’by your leave’. She greeted me with, ‘Shhh! She’s almost finished.” Inside, a woman who looked like Bela Lugosi’s fiancé was muttering in a language I was not familiar with and burning, then tossing cloves into boiling water. Then, she uttered a loud, ‘Hah!’ as the cloves sank to the bottom of the pot. “Just as I thought!” She looked up at me as if she was about tell me that she’d seen the ‘Light’. “See? The cloves sank!” I told her, “So? That’s what happens when cloves are burnt!” She shook her head. “It’s because she’s been given the evil eye! Now, she’s cured, thank God!”

Maro explained that she and her friend, Domna, went to visit my mother and noticed Ellen wasn’t in school. I kept her home because she complained of a throat pain and difficulty swallowing and made an appointment with the doctor. I asked Domna how she became an evil eye remover. She said she inherited the gift from her mother. Taking me aside, Maro explained that now, as is the custom, I must give Domna some kind of alms as a good faith token. I gave her five dollars and then took Ellen to the doctor’s appointment.

“Well? What did the doctor say?” asked my mother. “She was diagnosed as having Tonsillitis. He gave me pills and a gargle. I gave him twenty dollars.” Back in my mother’s apartment, Maro came to ask about Ellen. I couldn’t find the courage to discredit her friend. I told her, “She’s fine!” All smiles, Maro pressed my hand, made her cross and left. When she left I began to wonder about the whole thing.  Domna cost me five bucks. The doctor cost me twenty.

Most of that same month of July, New York was in serious drought conditions. My father was still annoyed that my mother allowed Ellen to be treated by, ‘ancient Kooks!’ Towards evening, my father got a strange look in his eye. We watched as papa rose from the dinner table and went out in the hallway. His shoulders wrapped in a bath towel, he began to do a dance while chanting aloud, “Humbabba, humbabba, humbabba.” Mom and I gave each other stares at seeing the strange actions of my father, a no-nonsense, ’there’s a plausible answer for everything,’ kind of guy. Upon hearing the commotion in the hallway, curious Maro opened her door, looked out at the strange scene and asked, “what are you doing, Kirie Yiorgo?” Papa stopped, looked up at her seriously and told her, “I’m doing the rain dance to end the drought!” Continuing his hopping and chanting a few more rounds of ‘Humbabbas’ he then came back in, sat in his chair and read his newspaper as if what he had done was an accepted ritual done by an expert on ethereal matters. Maro made her cross and reentered her apartment.

Next morning, getting Ellen ready for school, we noticed rain clouds darkening the sky. By afternoon rain came pouring down. My mom and I looked at each other. I said, ‘Nah!”

Now, either it was the precipitation forecasted on TV last night or – and, I hate to say it – my father has a rare talent. Maro, all excitement, knocked on our door to thank my father for his benevolent efforts in ending the drought. Papa stood in the doorway, astounded. Anyway, I just want to inform you that, in case of an emergency or drought, Domna and papa are available.


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