Our 2015 winner : Little Copey — a place your soul will stay

The following story was judged the winner in this year’s Halloween story contest. Also below are shorter pieces that scored high on the cute scale.

By Phil Baker

A high-elevation misty morning covers a tattered wooden church, the gateway to tiny Copey. “Welcome to little Copey, a place your soul will stay!” is the pueblo’s signature phrase written on the Crow’s Cave backdoor.

The Crow’s Cave is an old adobe bar oozing charm and story. Its crumbling frame supports many leaks lending a wet season ambiance to the nighttime cheer. Various curiosities adorn its walls. Jukeboxes from the 50s, Peruvian alpaca rugs, ghoulish Guatemalan dolls and peculiar antique farm tools accessorize its rustic charm. The old hardwood bar supports many an Imperial beer and Centenario rum along with a plethora of exaggerations and bold lies.

Out back is the kitchen, the witch’s corner, El Rincon de la Bruja, where a captivating medicine woman called La Bruja concocts potions, brews and ointments for what ails you.

Along with venomous toads and animal tongues, medicinal plants hang from the ceiling, some tropical dry forest cactus and cloud forest mushrooms as well. A fragrant marijuana plant entwined with night-blooming jasmine graces the gate leading to a long rectangular courtyard, hacienda style, featuring a three-tired fountain with a fluorescent green toad standing guard.

Inside the courtyard, various tropical birds in ornamental iron cages cackle with cage doors open, yet they remain content in  captivity. A fresco of an old woman kneeling below a riena de la noche plant, its long trumpet flowers opulent and elegant, dominates the garden wall.

The one-entrance walled courtyard covered in clinging vines attracts humming birds and butterflies while a small hibachi-like clay barbeque hosts a bed of coals where plantain banana peels stuffed with delicacies are kept warm under moon-lit nights. Many an apprentice languishes here intoxicated with the smell of jasmine and witch’s soup hand fed by La Bruja.

The distant streets of Copey on the side of the Cerro de la Muerte, where brave men lost their lives camping along 9,000 foot peaks, seems an improbable place for so many to festively enjoy the Crow’s Cave.

Indeed, to get here you could drive up the San José side of the Cerro de La Muerte to the church, then take the poorly maintained gravel road by the trout farms and apple orchards past the tiny hotels and restaurants catering to the Costa Rica adventurer wishing to arrive at the Cave’s front door.

The Crow’s Cave also has a back entrance. The backdoor accepts horseback visitors only. You have to prove yourself worthy of mentorship. Costa Rica’s tourist authority claims, “Costa Rica, no artificial ingredients.” And La Bruja obeyed. However, most visiting this tiny island-like country claim “Costa Rica, always an adventure.” Maybe more of an adventure than bargained for.

Arriving through the backdoor requires the apprentice to acquire a horse on the beaches of Isla Damas and make the long journey up the mountainside to Copey. The horses know the way to the backdoor. Unlike most riders, they also find their way back.

The locals knew most coming in through the front door. No one knew who came in through the back. But they heard they  came for the flying ointment.

La Bruja welcomes her apprentice around midnight, affectionately calls them Tati, and quickly quarters their horse, then hand bathes them with floral tea.  After she cloaks them in thin black robes, their naked body now clean, she cleanses their soul by feeding her Tati from a plantain banana stuffed with psychotropic mushrooms.

Her Tati now relaxes in the courtyard hammock with the caged macaws, toucans and parrots, and La Bruja explains how to listen to the birds talk. Once an apprentice knows the secret of talk, she can learn the secret of flying. If an apprentice cannot learn the talk, she remains silent like the many bird of paradise flowers rooted throughout the courtyard, La Bruja explains.

As the apprentice lies looking at the stars, she hears the birds pleading with her to learn to fly so as not to be a wingless bird of paradise. “Gaze at the moon,” they say, and the apprentice sees many objects orbiting like atoms circling a nucleus surround by a rainbow aura.

“You understand the birds!” La Bruja says with a smile. “Do you want to fly, Tati?”  “Yes,” the apprentice replies with mind open and body well under the influence of La Bruja.

La Bruja reaches for a jar half-filled with a certain green unguent of thorn apple, hemlock, nightshade and mandrake and greases the stick of a cypress bristled homemade broom.  “Hold the broom stick tight, Tati.” She says with a sly smile.  As her Tati grips the broom with her thighs, La Bruja commands her to ride it fast and furiously.

The flying ointment penetrates her mucus membranes, her teeth lock, and a dizzied tiss takes her. An odd sense of well-being connects her to a crazy sensation of growing lighter, then expanding and breaking loose from her own form.

Seized by fear while at the same time experiencing an intoxicating sense of flight, she gallops through the tropical courtyard as if soaring in the clouds. La Bruja watches her fearlessly crash through the bird of paradise, trot endless circles around the fountain, jump on and off stone benches with broom stick tight between her thighs, robe open like a cape flowing in the wind.

After soaring in the clouds, witnessing herds of animals, floating leaves and a billowing steam of molten metal, the apprentice wakes up caged, another tropical bird adorning the courtyard. Cage door open and free to fly again, the brightly colored apprentice perches content to see who will be the new Tati.

The Crow’s Cave happy with laughter, beer and rum, shines brightly like a lighthouse beckoning the back way to Copey, while La Bruja, now in the form of a crow, soars toward Isla Damas chanting “Welcome to little Copey, a place your soul will stay!


Some reader memories

Have some Halloween chocolate!

My mother’s bridge club was always on a Monday nite at our house.  This particular Monday was Halloween.  So my brother and I, ages 9 and 11 (I was the older),  decided to play a trick on the ladies.

Mom always had a bowl of chocolates on each table.   Well , I decided to carve soap into shapes and dip them in chocolates and mix them with the real ones on the table.

My brother, Stan and I waited at the top of the stairs to hear the reactions!!

There were several, and we were in hysterics.  Mom heard us laughing and was furious. She had us come down and pick out all the soap chocolates.   We never really got punished, but everyone had a good laugh!

We thought that was a great trick or treat!!!

— Lorraine Blizzard

The masquerade was a real scream

When we were residents of Costa Rica several years ago, we returned to Texas for a visit in the middle of October. We then decided to visit family in Illinois. At the time, my sister was working as a bartender and was a not aware of our visit, so it was a big surprise.

We stopped at K-mart and I purchased a Scream mask. This was when they first came out before the “Scream” movie. We

arrived at the bar parking lot with my husband and sister- and brother-in-law. They decided to remain in the car while I went inside and sat at the bar first so not to give away the surprise.

Of course, my Sister was amused with the mask along with my black sweatshirt and gloves and just couldn’t figure out who it was. After about 20 minutes of working the mask, my husband

'La Bruja,' based on the painting by George Owen Wynne Apperley.

‘La Bruja,’ based on the painting by George Owen Wynne Apperley.

and in-laws came inside and sat at a table.

I thought for sure she would put two and two together and figure it out, but she didn’t. After a little while, I had to go over to the table and sit and she still didn’t know. A few minutes later, I pulled the Scream mask off and she went crazy over my visit.

I really got a lot of fun times with this mask, and it won first place at a Halloween dance the next year, and, of course, my sister wanted me to send one to her to use. My dear sister passed away last March, and I always remember this story in October every year.

— Jan Pahde

He won’t try that costume again

Back in 1989 my past wife, our son and I lived in Sabana Sur.  It was our first Halloween in Costa Rica.  Back then very few Tico families came out to trick or treat.  Halloween was more of a U.S. traditional holiday.

We had brought down in our container from California some Halloween outfits and stuff.  I decided to dress up as the wolf man to add to the scary part of Halloween.  I had these rubber wolf-like hands that looked pretty real.

When the kids would come up they would yell “Hah-lo-ween.” They didn’t say trick or treat.  I then would let my wolf hand slowly open the door so they could see it.  Then I would open the door and the kids would see my wolf man outfit along with a loud growl.  It really scared the kids, but they seemed to like it.  Some came back twice.   I think it was more to see the wolf man then getting the candy.

One little girl around 3 or 4 came up with two siblings and her mother.  They all yelled “Halloween.”  As I opened the door, the little girl got scared when she saw the hand.

When I opened the door completely and growled, she was so frightened she peed in her Tinker Bell outfit.  I felt so bad that I took off my makeup and showed her I was just a Gringo with a beard.

I don’t think that helped much, so I gave her a few extra pieces of candy. With that, I got a nice big smile from her.  I decided I wouldn’t dress up again as a wolf man in the future.  The next year I was a pirate, and nobody peed in their pants.

—Henry Kantrowitz



This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.