by Beth Spencer
Six o’clock is the witching hour. Samantha flying in side-saddle on a broomstick, burning the dinner, transforming into a black cat, leaping into What’s-His-Name’s arms. I lie on the green carpet, mesmerised, pretending I can’t hear my mother calling and calling from the kitchen. ‘Girls! Come set the table for dinner.’ Who could believe that Sam, able to conjure anything with a nose twitch, would willingly trade wizardry for a kitchen whizz? Now that’s fantasy. Ever-loyal helpmeet to Derwood as he manipulates desire and peddles illusion, casting his dreary capitalist spells. But who’s the real creative genius? All those contortions and tricks so necessary to enable the man of the house to believe he’s the head. The laugh track — hahahahaha! But who could miss the way Sam keeps coming down with mysterious ailments. Such as, finding all the doors and windows sealed against her. (Trapped in the house!) Or the time everything she touches turns to gold. (A gilt complex!) And the day every sneeze manifests a bicycle or tricycle. (‘Totally logical,’ announces Doctor Bombay, ‘In fact, it’s cycle-logical!’) Dr Bombay twirls his moustache, ponders, then diagnoses the problem. She has been suppressing her powers. The solution? Simple. Start using them! Curled on the fler lounge, I do notice how Sam flinches at Darrin’s anger, his constant criticism if things go a tiny bit wrong (Julius Caesar in the kitchen, for instance, instead of a caesar salad). A hint of violence under the laugh track. But what do you expect if you agree to give up your powers? All the other witches see Sam as a fallen woman, a drudge to a man. Meanwhile, look! Here’s Serena —super fun gerroovay ‘Dark Lady’ to Sam’s ‘Fair Maiden’. ‘Fly me to the moon,’ croons one of her lovers and next minute there he is, up among the stars. Another, turned into a bedwarmer when she tires of him. Everything so literal and full of puns. Like dreams. With Endora perched on the stairs, the mother-in-law of all jokes come home to roost. For half an hour each weeknight I am part of a coven. Revelling in a Wiccan heritage. This quicksilver world where the galaxy is one’s backyard. And while men can be a part of it, women rule supreme. The queer, the magical, the feminine — the irruption of the repressed — opening all the doors and all the windows. Letting in the stars.
It was great to revisit this old favourite withBurrow’s particular concerns in mind. May we all have our own version of Dr Bombay, to ‘come right away’ when things go awry, and remind us to use our powers.
Beth Spencer is an award-winning author of poetry and fiction. Her work has frequently been broadcast on ABC-Radio National, and her books include How to Conceive of a Girl, The Party of Life and Vagabondage. In 2018 she was awarded the Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award for the story collection The Age of Fibs.www.bethspencer.com