Thomas F. O'Neill
Amanda the Witch Doctor
On a blistering hot summer day a young couple with their daughter got off a greyhound bus and settled in the small town of Millville. On many occasions they told the town’s people that being from Ambian, Australia, their nearest neighbor in their home country lived twenty miles away, “so Millville will take some getting used too.”
They soon learned that everyone knows everyone else’s business in Millville and gossip travels fast. It wasn’t long before Joan, Albert Yarnell and their daughter Amanda became the favorite topic of the town’s gossip.
The town was named after the town’s lumber mill which has been in existence for a hundred and fifty years. In the last century and a half, Millville has seen very little change. The main street has one local department store where the local’s shop and pick up their daily mail. The town has one family restaurant which also operates as the local gas station and bus stop.
The town was certainly a culture shock for the Yarnell’s but Albert took his job at the lumber mill seriously. It was the most money he ever earned and it was hard honest work. It took some time though for the others to get to know him. They had difficulty understanding his thick Australian accent and he used Australian slang words that the locals never heard before.
When some of the Mill workers invited him to join them at a local bar, after a long shift, he told them stories about his home country and the various animals that inhabit the land there. They were fascinated by his stories and how far he traveled to come to America. They were also amused that he and his family settled down in their hometown. He told them that he came to the United States because, “America is a great land, and I want my family to have better opportunities and a better life.”
Their daughter Amanda was quite the attraction in school. Her manner of speech and thick accent took her teacher and classmates off guard. They were not used to having foreigners in their town. She was certainly different but they soon began to learn about their differences and the similarities between their cultures.
On her way to school Amanda had to walk down a street that had a very large and mean looking dog. Though the dog was behind a fence it was scary and frightening to the second grader. The dog would growl and bark at anyone who passed.
The owner of the dog rarely came outside. He just kept to himself; he never socialized or talked to people. If he needed food he ordered it by phone, he would pull his large dog into his house and leave the money on his porch for the delivery person. Then he would come out get his food and put the dog back out in the yard. People feared the large mean looking dog. They also feared the house that the dog was guarding, and that strange person who inhabited that place.
“The only way to tame a beast is through its stomach,” Amanda’s father said as he placed four bags of beef jerky in their refrigerator. “Now when you go to school in the morning, give that dog a beef jerky. Before long he will look forward to seeing you on your way to school.”
Amanda stared at the fence, trembling, as the dog barked and growled at her. She quickly tossed the beef jerky over the fence and ran. She went through this routine every day on her way to school.
One day she didn’t hear the dog bark. She then built up the nerve to walk up to the large sign on the fence - written in blood red - ‘Beware of man-eating dog,’ and ‘Stay away.’
As she approached the fence, a large head popped up and two large paws came down on top of the wooden fence. Amanda jumped back in fear but once again she built up the nerve to hand the large beast a piece of beef jerky. He gobbled it up out of her hand without a bark or a growl.
“You’re all bark,” Amanda said to the dog as she petted him on the head, “I bet you've never eaten a person,” she then thought to herself as she turned and walked away, “that sign is just to scare people.”
“You never heard of Halloween” the teacher said to Amanda as the other students laughed. Her classmates and her teacher explained to her about the tradition of dressing up in a costume and going door to door for treats. That afternoon Amanda excitedly told her parents about the American tradition.
The next day Amanda dressed up in a Witch’s costume as she excitedly prepared for trick or treat. Her and her classmates dressed in various costumes went door to door, their little bags bulging with candy.
“We missed that house,” Amanda said as they stood across the street from that spooky house with the man-eating dog. The dog barked and growled as it placed its large paws on top of the wooden fence.
“I’m not going in there,” said a frightened little girl dressed as Casper the friendly ghost.
“Are you nuts,” said a little boy in a cowboy costume.
“Well if you guys don’t want to come with me I will go myself,” Amanda said to her five classmates who were staring at her in disbelief.
“Look,” Amanda whispered to the dog, “I don’t have any beef jerkies with me but if you don’t eat me I will give you two beef jerky’s tomorrow.” She petted the dog on the head and then slowly opened the front gate. Her five classmates at this point stood motionless as they watched Amanda make her way to the porch unharmed.
“How did she do that?” a little boy dressed as Dart Vader said out loud.
Amanda knocked on the front door, “What the hell did you do to Jaws?” a large black man yelled as he opened his front door.
“Trick or Treat,” came the nervous reply.
The large man looked down at little Amanda, “How the hell did you get in my yard? Didn’t you see the sign,” he said in an angry voice, “What did you do to my dog?”
“Your dog is just all bark,” she said as she petted the dog on the head.
“Are you the daughter of a witch doctor?” he asked, it was then that Amanda noticed his thick accent.
“You talk funny,” she said.
“So do you,” he said, “now what did you do to my dog? Did you put a spell on him, just to mess with me?”
“He just likes me that is all.”
“Jaws hates everyone,” he said angrily, “now take that spell off of him. “You are the daughter of a witch doctor,” he said once again, “where did you come from? who sent you?”
“I’m from Australia, my daddy works at the Mill, he’s not a doctor. Where are you from?” she asked as she walked through his front door with his dog following her lead.
“Now look here you can’t just walk into a person’s home uninvited.”
At this point Amanda’s classmates across the street took off running.
“Where are you from?” she asked him once again. She then noticed paintings sprawled throughout his living room and kitchen. There were blotches of fresh paint stains on the bare wooden floors.
“I am from the smallest country in Africa ‘Niboria.’”
“That is why you talk funny,” she said, “I like your paintings.”
“I paint from memory,” he said.
“I like to paint by numbers, my mommy buys them for me, but I have a hard time staying within the lines.”
She looked at one of the paintings up close, “why did you ask if I was the daughter of a witch doctor?”
“Witch doctors are also called Medicine men, that is what I did in Niboria.”
“You’re a witch doctor?”
“I prefer to be called a Medicine man.”
“I never met a witch doctor before.”
“I haven’t used my gift in ten years that is how long I have been living here.”
“I thought me and my family were the only ones here from a different country,” Amanda said.
“People here don’t like foreigners, especially black ones,” he said.
“Well in Australia I went to school with some Aborigines, they are black,” she said, “people are people no matter where they are from.”
“That is just a childish notion; people are not all the same and not all people are treated the same.”
“Are you scared to leave your home?”
“No, I just want to be left alone so I can paint.”
“Can I stop by again?” she asked as she pushed her blond hair back and adjusted her witch's mask.
“Well what is to stop you,” he said, “since you put a spell on Jaws, he is useless now.”
“It’s not a spell he just likes me.”
“Well you are a very special child then because he hates everybody.” he said.
“Well my daddy says a dog is only as mean as its master. And, you are not that mean.”
“What is your name?" he asked.
“Amanda,” came the reply.
“Narobi,” he said, “my name is Narobi.”
“Well Narobi, I will see you again.”
That night Amanda told her parents all about her new friend and that he is from Africa, the smallest country in Africa to be exact.
“He is a witch doctor,” she said, “but he prefers to be called a medicine man. He said his gifts haven’t been called upon in Millville though.”
“Well I think he is just playing with you, tall tales,” said her father.
“He is a great painter too.”
“Well then don’t bother him,” said her mother.
The next day as Amanda entered her classroom, “How did you do that!!!!!” a little girl yelled out to Amanda.
The students gathered around her, “how did you do that without getting chewed up, by that big dog,” a little boy asked.
“Something I learned in Australia by a clever witch doctor,” she said with a serious tone.
“Get out!!!!!” a little boy yelled, “a witch doctor.”
“But he prefers to be called a medicine man,” she said.
“You cast a spell on that dog, that is so cool,” said a little girl.
It wasn’t long that people in Millville began to talk about Amanda. They gossiped about her strange mystical powers because after all she was the only person in Millville that Nairobi’s dog didn’t bark at. The stories about her and the strange man in the corner house began to spread, but like most gossip the stories were untrue.
“My mother would like to meet you,” Amanda said to Narobi.
“Yes but I don’t want to meet her,” he said.
“Why don’t you like people?”
“I am an artist I need my solitude.”
“Yes but you painted me without solitude,” she said, “my mother really likes that painting and she wants to meet you.”
“I prefer to be alone.”
“What would it hurt to come over for dinner?”
“I haven’t left this place in ten years.”
“That is more then my entire lifespan; you really need to get out more often,” Amanda said.
“Our daughter told us so much about you,” Amanda’s mother said to Narobi at their Kitchen table.
“She is a very special little girl.”
“So what brings you to Millville?” Albert asked him.
“Ten years ago the bus I was on stopped here and I stayed.”
“Well when I got hired by the Mill we pretty much stayed here as well. It is not a bad town the people are pretty nosy though. The town here is so much different than where we lived. I am sure it is quite different from where you come from as well?”
“In my country there were six chieftains that ruled our country. Every so often out of greed they go to war for more control and greater profits from the three diamond mines that they rule over. The diamonds are called blood diamonds because of all the wars that were fought over them. My family was wiped out because of those diamond mines.”
“That is so sad,” said Amanda’s mother.
“My father was a great chief and three other chiefs went to war to take more control over the diamond mines. Like I said, my entire family was slaughtered and I was forced into hiding. I was later spared though because of my reputation of being a great healer. That is why I came to America to get away from that kind of life and that kind of greed. There are only five chiefs that control my home country now.”
“So if you went back you would be a Chief,” said Amanda’s father.
“I would rather paint.”
“What about being a Medicine man?” asked Amanda’s Mother.
“In my country people look at witch doctors or medicine men seriously. Here in America it is looked upon as superstition. Since living here I never used my gift of healing.”
“You should take it up again,” Amanda’s mother said to him.
“I studied at Oxford years ago so I understand the logic of modern day science. But I also understand the ancient ways of the spiritual healers. Today we need both, in order to find a balance within.”
“I agree with you, I also believe that there can be a holistic approach to bringing modern medicine and the ancient ways together,” said Amanda’s mother, “many Aborigines in Australia believe that as well.”
“The ancient medicine men and medicine women did not have the language or the scientific terms to explain how their medicine worked. They had no means to adequately explain to others what they were doing. So to modern science it would appear to be mumbo jumbo or voodoo superstition.”
“You need to take it up again. You were spared for that reason,” said Amanda’s mother.
“My father named me after Naro, a great ancient warrior who lived in my country, many, many years ago. Naro, the great spiritual warrior used spiritual tricks to trick his opponents,” he said to them. “He also waged war against the diseases of his time. He was a great spiritual healer.”
“You hear about those spiritual warriors in every culture, the Aborigines have many similar stories,” said Amanda’s father, “I used to enjoy listening to the Aborigines tell their cultural stories.”
“In our language when you put ‘bi’ at the end of a name it means ‘to be like’ so Narobi means ‘to be like Naro’ the great spiritual warrior. As a medicine man I was using spiritual tricks to trick the body into healing itself.”
“I understand,” said Amanda’s mother.
“You have a very special daughter and I would like to teach her the ways of the ancient healers.”
Each day he taught Amanda something new in a way a second grader could understand and with deep curiosity she absorbed everything. It wasn’t long that she became his apprentice and her reputation only grew in Millville. Some people feared her and others sought her out. She became the favorite topic for the town’s gossip.
Some of the elderly women in the town crossed the street when they saw Amanda. It was mostly out of fear of a spell being cast upon them.
“She’s a witch I tell you,” an elderly woman said to her daughter as they watched Amanda skipping down the street with a jump rope.
“She’s just a little kid,” said the woman’s daughter.
“That’s how all Witches’ start out, looking so innocent and sweet, but when they get older, and get their full power, it’s too late,” the elderly woman said.
“Mom what do you want me to do burn her at the stack, send her to Salem,” she said with humor in her voice.
As the years went by Amanda learned a great deal from Narobi and about the power of human beliefs. She also grew into a beautiful young women and she chose medicine as her profession.
* * * * *
“What are you doing?” Doctor Ruben asked Amanda the Hospital Intern.
“The oil will break her fever,” she said as she applied the oil on the little girl’s body.
“That is what antibiotics are for,” Doctor Ruben said in an angry voice.
“This oil will work faster,” she said.
“Her fever is breaking,” said the nurse a short time later.
“That’s impossible,” said Doctor Ruben.
“What was that you put on her?” Doctor Ruben asked Amanda.
“Something I whipped together,” she said.
Doctor Ruben walked away highly perturbed at Amanda’s cavalier attitude.
Two weeks later an elderly gentleman lay in a hospital bed. He was scheduled to have both his legs amputated from the knees down due to poor circulation from diabetes.
“I will do everything I can to save your legs,” Amanda said. She began to apply a thick, green colored, gooey substance, to his legs. The thick green slime had a terrible odor, “I know this stuff stinks really bad, but it will help increase the circulation to your legs,” she said to him.
“Good god what is that smell?” asked the nurse.
“That young female Doctor put it on my legs. She said it will help increase the circulation.”
“That stuff stinks,” said the nurse.
“It stinks and it is very, very hot,” the patient said to the nurse.
Early the next morning Doctor Ruben entered the patient’s room, “what is that all over the patient’s legs?”
“That young female Doctor put it on me last night,” the patient said to him.
“Well prep him for surgery,” Doctor Ruben said to the nurse.
“So the smelly, slimy cream didn’t work?” The patient asked in a disappointed voice.
“We did everything humanly possible to save your legs I am so sorry,” said Doctor Ruben.
When the nurse was cleaning the patient to prepare him for surgery, she noticed that his legs appeared to have normal circulation and they looked much healthier then the day before.
“But Doctor I am just asking that you look at his legs before he is wheeled in for surgery,” the nurse said to Doctor Ruben in a frustrated voice.
Doctor Ruben did look at the patient but he could not account for the drastic change he saw in the patient’s legs.
“Boy that smelly cream sure was potent,” the patient said to Doctor Ruben and the nurse, “the smell kept me up all night, are my legs getting better now, Doc?”
“Well we still need to keep your diabetes in check. We need to change your diet, and you need to start exercising more,” Doctor Ruben said to him.
“Look, I am going to see to it that you never practice medicine, you got that,” Doctor Ruben said to Amanda in his office.
“Why,” she asked in a shocked voice.
“I figured out what you are doing. You are using medication that hasn’t been approved by the FDA and that is a federal crime.”
“The medication I am using is natural, herbal medication. It doesn’t have to be approved by the FDA and it has been used for thousands of years.”
“You are not to use anything without it going through me first. You are an Intern under my supervision. You got that?”
“Yes,” she said. She understood that she only has one more year to go to complete her Internship.
Over the next year she tried her best to find the scientific terms to explain to Doctor Ruben how her natural herbs can work in conjunction with modern medicine. And though they still clashed and argued, over time Doctor Ruben became a believer.
“I believe ancient medicine was more intuitive to the ancient healers,” Amanda said to Doctor Ruben in his office, “as modern practitioners we are fine-tuning medicine, but we must never put aside the spiritual approach, the mind, body, and spirit, to holistic healing.”
“Perhaps modern medicine is becoming lopsided,” said Doctor Ruben, “perhaps we are approaching medicine strictly from the body rather then integrating or adding the mind and spirit to the equation. But we certainly have come a long way and we still have a long way to go. Over the years you, as a Doctor, will see extraordinary advancements in technology. In your lifetime medicine will zero in on the individual’s genetic signature. Doctors will know what illnesses a person is genetically predisposed to and restore their genes.”
“I see that coming as well,” Amanda said.
“Most illnesses are rooted in the person’s genes they are predisposed to those illnesses it is part of their genetic signature,” Doctor Ruben said once again. “We will be able to heal people by correcting those small genetic flaws to prevent most illnesses from ever showing up in that person’s life. That is where modern medicine is evolving too. Babies born today can and probably will with the rate of technological advancements have a lifespan of 130 years. Most of that will be accomplished with the restoration of the individual’s genetic signature by correcting small genetic flaws.”
“Technology will certainly increase our lifespan and perhaps increase the quality of life,” Amanda said, “but there is a deep hunger for spirituality among our patients. We cannot increase one’s affection, human interaction, and one’s spirituality in a pill. We need technology, but we also need ways to reach out to people holistically.”
“Well I don’t see that coming anytime soon,” said Doctor Ruben, “unless you bring about the change, yourself. Since I have been assigned to this hospital, I have seen, music therapy, humor therapy, massage therapy, and various pets coming into the hospital to help the patient’s overcome their illnesses and they all seem to work. So we do have a long way to go in becoming more holistic in treating our patient’s.”
“We do have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the power of the human mind and the soul of the person,” Amanda said, “I suppose it would take a spiritual warrior as my friend Narobi would say, to heal the entire person.”
“Well, how much did the ancient people rely on their belief that the ancient healers could heal them? It’s similar to the placebo effect to healing,” Doctor Ruben said, “In other words one’s belief can set their reality. You are relying on your belief in the power of the ancient medicine and the patient’s are relying on their belief that they will be healed. What we believe our reality is can become our reality. Isn’t that what the ancient healers were doing (?) reinforcing the ancient peoples belief in the healers power to heal.”
“Our beliefs are a powerful tool to healing,” Amanda said to him, “If people had no faith or beliefs that modern medicine can help them. We never would have become Doctors and the hospitals would be empty. The ancient people saw healers make people better just as today’s people saw modern medicine make people well. That is why we are Doctors but we need to go further then just treating the body. We need to approach the entire person. Modern medicine is far superior to ancient medicine in many ways. But the ancient spiritual approach to healing is far superior to modern medicine. We need to find ways to bring the two approaches together to bring about a holistic approach to healing. Sometimes illnesses can be a spiritual or mental outcry for help. We as Doctors must learn to recognize the base of the illness and treat the whole person in the process.”
* * * * *
‘Doctor, Amanda Yarnell’ said the Dean of Medicine into the microphone as he handed Amanda her degree. Amanda stepped down from the podium and waved to her parents and to Narobi as she held her Doctorate degree in her hand.
Amanda sat back in her chair that afternoon as Narobi painted her with his new puppy. She got him the puppy shortly after Jaws passed away from old age.
“Don’t make him mean,” she said.
“A dog is only as mean as its master,” he said, “you never told me how you won Jaws over and made him like you.”
“The only way to tame a beast is through its stomach,” she said, “all dogs like beef jerkies.”
“That is probably what Naro would have done being a spiritual trickster and the great spiritual warrior. That only goes to show that you will make a great spiritual healer of the mind, body, and soul.”
“Well I am an apprentice to a great master.”
“Well you tamed Jaws through his stomach,” he said, “how did you tame me?”
“The only way to tame a warrior is through their heart,” she said.
Amanda certainly went on to be a great Doctor and it did not take Narobi long to realize that his student had surpassed him in both knowledge and skill because she learned to integrate the old with the new.
Thomas F. O’Neill
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