Wednesday, January 17, 2018

We, The Newly Dead

Can Marjolaine be trusted?

Noah Has Misgivings

Our little group was in a spooky situation. We thought we would see a witch. The eerie trail through the dense brush seemed to be leading us to one.

Her ramshackle cabin half hidden by overgrowth was a place no normal person would live. Its back door, jammed against the tangled thicket, was where dark ghosts and demons were probably given access.

But here she was, as pleasant as a Sunday school teacher. I worried that she was luring us to a dismal fate.

“Would you kids like some biscuits and milk? I have some dewberry jelly that sets ‘em off real good.”

I figured that’s how she planned to poison us and was tending to run for it, but Jessie said, “Yes, thank you. I’ll help you set it out.”

We were committed to hexed snacks.

Jessie followed the witch right into her swampy dwelling. I braced for a scream, a sure sign that Jessie was no longer living.

That dang Warren made me jump by coming up and whispering, “Did you see a milk cow?”

“What?”

“A milk cow. She asked if we wanted milk, but this is too far from town to have fresh milk.”

The heebie-jeebies had me grabbed. Nobody had seen a cow. “We shouldn’t be here,” I whispered to Eli and Warren.

The witch appeared in the door and waved at us. “Do you boys want to come on in?”

We didn’t move.

“Ok then,” she said, bright and friendly, stepping out. “We can snack on the porch.”

Jessie followed her, carrying a plate of biscuits with a bowl of jelly on it.

Eli had backed up to stand behind Warren. He was more skittish than I was.
“How could you go in there?” he asked Jessie.

The witch laughed. “Don’t you know that a woman always wants to see another woman’s house?”

Every time she talked I was less afraid of her. It was only when I tried to make sense of a woman living out here did it get all jumbled for me.
I remembered what I wanted to ask, “You said you had milk?”

“I’ll fetch it right now,” she said, picking up a pitcher.

She walked to the creek and picked up a rope tied around the trunk of a tree. I thought she might have a pet monster tied up, but she hauled a crock jug out of the water and emptied milk into the pitcher.

She served the milk in clean glasses. Eli forgot he was scared while he helped himself to dewberry jelly.

It all looked normal enough. I threw in with the others and took a swig. “The milk’s nice and cool.”

“There’s a deep spot in the creek. It’s always cool there,” she said. She ate a biscuit with jelly and sipped milk herself. She made it look dignified like my mom does when she tries to teach me and dad table manners.

She dabbed her lips with a kerchief tucked under her wrist cuff and smiled. “My name’s Marjolaine. I’m happy for your company. Let’s make acquaintances.”

“I’m Jessie.”

“I’m Warren.”

“I’m Elijah. They call me Eli.”

“I’m Noah,” I said, hoping she didn’t need the information for our tombstones.

Do the kids need saving? Can Noah do it? Leave a comment.

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To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Into The Swamp

Does a witch live here?

What Did We Do?


The creek was changing. No longer a happy jumping stream, tossing mist that split light into rainbow colors, it lay tired and wide like a mongrel on a summer day.



Our path narrowed as cattails pressed closer and taller, dimming the daylight. The cool green grass here grew waist high with blades of sharp edges.



Trees called Weeping Willows gave up trying to get their branches into the sun and slumped in defeat. Even the ground in this place surrendered its firm character and gave our steps a springy bounce.

We were on the witch’s path.

We talked in whispers. No one wanted to be the focus of attention. I was sure that something was watching from the brush, ready to leap on us at any moment.

We looked in every direction, side-to-side and rearward, the path closing behind at every bend. I thought we had gone far enough for today. We should go back and check with Old Roy to make sure we were on the right trail.

Warren poked me and pointed into the unknown. "Noah, you should be at the front," he said, embarrassing me.

I was the leader of our group, but there went Jessie Beauchamp. She took the head of the column like she couldn't wait to get there. She had slowed down a little but kept right on walking. Probably because she was a girl she felt a kinship with the witch and wasn’t as scared as I was. Of course, I didn’t want her to know that, so we pushed deeper into what was becoming a swamp.

We went around a turn and stopped. We had arrived.

Next to a small fork of the creek was a cabin with its back jammed into the brush. Rust threatened the tin roof and a chair that was already rusted or painted orange waited on the small porch. The privy, only a few steps away, leaned in the soggy ground. A couple of fan-like plants I’d never seen before grew in the yard.

“Do you think someone lives here?” whispered Warren.

A female voice behind us shattered the stillness like a shout. “I do.”

We jumped at the sound.

The town gossip, Mrs. Lambert, was always going on about watching her figure, but this woman was doing it right. She was maybe a little older than my mom, in worn clothes, but clean. Framed by a white and blue bonnet, her pleasant face smiled at us.

She was nice-looking, not at all like a crone.

Eli was thinking the same thing. “You don’t look like an old hag.”

Jessie mumbled something I didn't quite catch.

Eli didn’t understand her either. “What?”

Jessie appealed to the witch herself. “I said that witches can look like anything they want. Can’t they?”

The woman smiled, studying us with our shoes and cuffs wet and dirty from the creek-side path. Or in Jessie’s case, the bottom of her dress.

“How nice to have company,” she said, “but I was expecting one more. A little girl." She leaned forward and pinched Eli's cheek. "Did she get lost on the way?”

What kind of predicament are the kids in?  Will they get out of it, or in deeper? Leave a comment. 

To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Go See The Witch

Cora drags up. No witches for her.

We Pester Old Roy For More Details.


Warren’s lips hung open, black from the licorice.

I was waiting for Old Roy to tell us more about Ragtail, but he clammed up with his hat over his face like he was going to resume his nap.

“What happened to the women?” Cora asked. “Did they leave?”

Old Roy grumbled through his hat, “The story gets told that the wimmin faded their separate ways and no more was heard of ‘em.”

“Did Eb build the cabin for Esther May?” Jessie asked.

“And get goats for Anna?” I added.

“Yeah, he did all that,” Old Roy said. “And before you ask anything else, them three, with the goats and Yalla, lived in the valley for several years then disappeared.”

“What happened?” This time it was Eli who couldn’t keep quiet.

“There’s them that believe Ragtail found the gold. That he hit his El Dorado. To sidestep thieves and claim jumpers he moved his outfit to parts unknown.”

I didn’t like the idea that people who had become real in my mind could disappear. I wanted a happy ending.

Cora changed the subject. She put her small hand on Old Roy’s and said, “Mister Old Roy, will you tell us another story tomorrow?”

He sat up and studied Cora’s earnest smile, then took in the rest of us. “Do you kids want an adventure as well as hearing about one?”

We all hollered at once.

“Yes!”

“Sure.”

“You bet!”

“All right, then, here’s what you do. Go git Marjolaine to tell you a story.”

“Who’s that?” I thought I knew everybody in town, but the strange name fell off my ear like a bloated tick. 

Old Roy reclined with his hat shading his eyes. “She lives down by the creek.”

“We’re at the creek all the time,” I said. “No one lives there.”

“Go longer downstream. Where the bulrushes grow.”

Warren took a step back and squeaked, “You don’t mean the witch woman. Ain’t a person goes near her.”

Elijah and I agreed with him.

“She don’t even come to town until after dark,” Eli said.

“And then only if there’s no moon,” Warren added.

Old Roy shooed us away with a backhanded wave. “Go talk to her.”

#  #  #

When we met the next day, our little gang was different. We’d lived through a grown-up tale and wanted more.
We tried all the usual haunts, Eli even peeked into the saloon, but we couldn’t find Old Roy anywhere.

He’d told us where to get the next story, but the truth was we were scared of the witch woman. Kids were supposed to have disappeared, and she was suspected of cooking them like pigs on a spit. Parents invoked her image to get their children to quit playing and come in at night.

This was so serious that not one of us made fun of little Cora for being openly afraid.

“Do you think she’s a witch?” That was Eli, rubbing his palms together.

“She may already know that we’re coming,” Jessie said.

I stared at her. “Are we going, then?” But it was a group question.

“I ain’t.” Cora was out.

But that was okay because she was the youngest and quickest to booger up.

Will the kids see the witch? If they do, will they survive? Leave a comment.

To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.