BETTY

October 31, 2018

Betty longed to lead the cackle. She practiced in secret every day. Would Halloween ever arrive? The wait seemed endless. Betty’s mother urged her to practice patience. The suggestion merely deepened Betty’s frown and fed her tendency to mutter.

“Is it yet?” asked Betty every day until her mother at last could say,”Oh finally, praise to all broomsticks, YES!”

“Who will lead the cackle?” Betty dared to ask.

“It was unanimous,” said her mother.

“Who?” said Betty.

“YOU!” shrieked her mother.

Betty nearly fainted, but didn’t. Instead, she leapt to her broom and tore from the cottage.

At the entrance to night, the gold and pink blooms beckoned under the fat moon. Betty soared, cackling madly. The others followed in droves, nodding approval.

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THE WOOD WHERE THE WITCHES WAIT

October 16, 2018

the wood where the witches wait

waits for wandering fools

to stumble into the grasping reach

of witches, demons, and ghouls

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THE TREE WITCH

October 8, 2018

“Beneath the leafy garb of scarlet and green you will discover the bent and crusted limbs of the tree witch. Place the pot of honey close to the tree’s twisted trunk. Turn about thrice with your eyes closed and walk away without looking back. Then the possibilities are two. Your wish will be granted, or you shall be destroyed.”

Doris looked at her rags and decided that the risk was worth it. She thanked the hermit and followed her instructions faithfully. In three days time, she found the tree witch. She took a deep breath, placed the pot of honey near the tree’s twisted trunk, closed her eyes and turned about three times. She tried to walk away, but could not. Instead, as a new scarlet leaf, she fluttered in the breeze.

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THE TWILIGHT BLOOMS

September 3, 2018

“Only eight casks today, Mad Marge,” said the burly sweep, and he dragged the last cask into the hovel.

Mad Marge shot a quick glance of hatred at the sweep, then turned to her task. Her daily task. Her endless task. Her mind numbing boring task. She opened the first cask, plucked out a diamond and began to polish it with the Cloth of Gold. For she was the Polisher of the Royal Jewels. Each morning some eight or ten or fifteen casks of jewels were hauled to her hovel, where she spent all the day long and halfway into the night polishing them.

After the sweep went off, Mad Marge muttered, “Relief, relief. How May I find relief?”

“It is quite simple,” said a scratchy but pleasant voice.

“Who’s there?” said Mad Marge, looking up. “Oh, only you. Go away. Leave me alone.”

The friendly witch, for it was the friendly witch, stood in the hovel’s doorway. Her name was Balka. Famed for friendliness because she always asked what sort of frog her victims would like to be transformed into, otherwise she sat in the woods combing snarls from her ever snarled hair.

“If you pluck a cluster of twilight blossoms, you will be delivered from your present situation into one more restful,” said Balka.

“Let me guess. Find the twilight blossoms, eat them, and I will be transformed into my favorite sort of frog. Right?” said Mad Marge.

“True. Give it some thought,” said Balka, and so saying, she disappeared.

Mad Marge gave it some thought, several snorts, and a few violent polishes on a ruby. Then she froze and thought Why not? Anything is better than this.

She threw the Cloth of Gold against the wall, left the hovel and headed straight for the wood. She marched to Balka’s hut, where she found the witch combing snarls out of her snarled hair.

“Well, where is it then, this twilight blossom cluster? Tell me,” she demanded.

Balka pointed with her comb at a bush. “Under there, but you have to wait for twilight.”

Mad Marge crawled under the bush and stared impatiently at a cluster of tight buds. At twilight, they bloomed. Mad Marge tore them from the earth and ate them. She was a luminous blue tree frog on the limb of a tree beside a stream. She was very happy.

 

 

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ALPECIA

August 11, 2018

The white rose, Alpecia, longed to make a fortune by her wits. Sadly, she had none. So when she rashly tore herself from the wedding bouquet, rushed to the railroad tracks, and flung herself on board an outgoing passenger train, she had no idea what to do next. Confused, she remained immobile when she was picked up, inserted in a carafe, and placed on view in the dining car. There she remained until she didn’t, her single accomplishment in life being a successful flight from a wedding bouquet.

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THE HOCK SISTERS

July 16, 2018

Holly, Mary, and Celeste Hock faced another glorious day. Mary and Celeste were content to bathe in sunlight and dream of one day operating construction equipment. Holly, however, constantly jabbered. Half the time she paid no attention to herself. The rest of the time she thrilled to the music of her voice and ignored the content of her blather.

“Oh, bee! Welcome, welcome, and take all the pollen you can carry. Or more than the greatest love the world has known. I wish I had a telephone. I’d send all my lovin’ to you. We come from a very fine stalk. Not one better will you see on your walk. Or flight. Do you have individual rooms in the hive? Or is it bunkmates galore? Whee! I like today. It’s almost as good as tomorrow. Oh, good-bye. Fly away. Fly away home. On the range. Roaming buffalo are a sight, I can guess. I want chocolate pie. Isn’t that a kick? The Romans used to …”

Holly droned on. Mary and Celeste remained content, for both of them were deaf.

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THE GREEN IMP’S TREASURE

June 9, 2018

The green imp, hidden away in a cave behind the crash of waterfall plunging over the highest cliff on Jagged Mountain, sat gazing at his treasure, a magic pool of broken blue green jade. The imp’s bushy eyebrows, snow white, quivered with pleasure. Otherwise, for the time being, he posed motionless.

Down the mountain through impenetrable forests and across rich farmlands, dawn found the castle and all but one of its inhabitants sleeping soundly. In the castle’s kitchen, the scullery maid sang to herself as she hurried about readying all items needed for the cook to prepare and serve to the cruel king his breakfast of meat slabs and cheese between two torn hunks of bread. The scullery maid had no name, but secretly she called herself Anne Marie.

The green imp nodded his head in company with a thought. Yes, it shall be so. Anne Marie shall rule. The imp reached a green hand out over the pool of broken blue green jade. The pool rippled a sigh.

Down the mountain through impenetrable forests and across rich farmlands, the cook descended to the dungeon and shoved a platter of rind scrapings through the bars at the cruel king. In the Great Hall above, Queen Anne Marie hosted the villagers and proclaimed universal happiness for all save one, the cruel king.

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MILLIE

May 23, 2018

“I’m bored,” said Millie.

“Why don’t you take the elephant for a walk, or feed the cobras, or practice your potions, or cast spells? You like to cast spells. Go into the garden and cast spells,” suggested Millie’s mother, Brunna, hunched over the cauldron, busily stirring.

“What garden? We don’t even have a garden,” said Millie.

“Exactly,” said Brunna, winking and showing her tooth with a crooked smile.

“Oh,” said Millie, and she went outside to peer at the mud, the rocks, and the bent dead trees strangled with vines.

Three hours, eight spells, and fourteen potions later, a lovely garden surrounded the witchly hut home. Millie drooped back inside, casting her wand aside with a shrug and a sigh.

“I’m still bored,” she said. “Nothing ever happens.”

Brunna, without looking, tossed spangles from her cloak pocket at Millie. Millie was a rickety stick creature with soft yellow feelers.

“This is more like it!” thought Millie, and she wobbled stiffly and happily all around the garden.

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THE TREE OF FIVE OWLS

May 7, 2018

Calinda took great pride in her status, for she was the finest seamstress in the land. Summoned to work on the Royal finery for all celebrations, grand to intimate, she moved with slow dignity with a half smile playing at her lips while Queens, princesses, ladies-in-waiting chattered hopes for fabulous gowns into her ears. So, for years and years, she sewed the swiftest, the straightest, the most artfully hidden wonders of cloth joining glory. When she grew old, her fingers became gnarled and no longer  nimble. She was unable to perform her duties. Sadly, the grateful Royalty banished her to a loft above the stable, saving themselves from having to inadvertently catch sight of the twisted fingers on the shaking hands.

“Why do you weep?” asked a rat when it noticed the sobbing mound of Calinda in the loft.

“I can no longer sew. I am useless,” said Calinda, reaching out to show her misshapen hands to the rat.

“Ah, rheumatism. Bad luck,” said the rat. “The Tree of 5 Owls can help you. Of course, you would have to find it first.”

Calinda had never heard of the Tree of 5 Owls. She struggled to her knees and listened.

“It’s in the middle of a labyrinth in Thick Wood. Anyone who finds it gets one wish,” continued the rat.

“Where is Thick Wood?” asked Calinda.

“Across the sea in Harpland. I just arrived yesterday on a ship from there. It will sail back after it loads. I could get you on board. I know some important rats.”

No sooner said than done, the rat led Calinda to the harbor and distracted the watch so that Calinda could sneak on board. Two important rats stowed her away. The ship sailed back to Harpland, and the important rats deftly delivered Calinda safely to the wharf.

Kind townspeople gave Calinda scraps of moldy bread and set her on the path to Thick Wood. Three nights she took her rest in ditches. Three days she walked until she came face to face with the densest tangle of forest she had ever seen.

“I will close my eyes and struggle through in any old way I can,” vowed Calinda.

Crawling, burrowing, climbing over, squeezing through, Calinda struggled in search of the Tree of 5 Owls. She carried in her mouth her favorite thimble, pottery made, glazed white and painted with a single pink rose. She counted to five hundred in her head and paused. She did this time and time again. How many times she counted to 500 she couldn’t tell, but after several hours leaked away, there came a last time. She knew it was the last time. She opened her eyes.

“Who?” “Who?” “Who?” “Who?” “Who?” said the five owls from the five hollows in the tree.

“I am Calinda, the finest seamstress in the land. I wish my hands were as they were,” said Calinda.

Her hands tingled. She fell into a sleep. She awoke.

“Calinda! The gowns! Calinda! There’s work to be done!” shouted the Queen.

Calinda, dazed, stared at her beautiful hands and her long talented straight strong fingers. Her rose thimble sat on the coverlet.

“A dream?” she mumbled, looking around her gorgeous palace chamber.

 

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THE VANISHING

May 1, 2018

As villages go, the village was small and sleepy. The villagers never ran. Indeed, they strolled from place to place, pausing often to converse with neighbors or to observe the bounty of nature. Benches in the fabulous rose garden were seldom unoccupied. As the village’s pride and joy, the rose garden thrived under the care of the Fenwick clan to way back in history for longer than even the village librarian could remember.

“Oh, long have they been in charge. Longer than long,” she said whenever queried by passing strangers as to the Fenwickian origin of the rose garden attendants.

One glorious morning in May, Beppo Piedmont, thatched roof maintenance engineer’s apprentice, while on his way to gather thatch, encountered Mavis Fenwick on the garden’s outskirts. She sat in the path, sobbing.

“Whatever is the trouble, Mavis?” inquired Beppo.

“Oh, it’s over. It’s over, over, over,” moaned Mavis, wringing her hands in twisty despair.

“What’s over?” said Beppo.

“It’s the last day,” wailed Mavis, and she turned her face to the sky.

And before Beppo, curiosity piqued, could pursue the matter further, the village, its occupants, and the rose garden vanished.

Mavis knew whereof she spoke.

 

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