Oct 11: WITCH


The rains had been falling hard for a month when that old coot Reba, who herself was known as a drifter, came forward with the story that the farmer Andrace Chenowith had not been murdered by a homeless man living under the Bird Road Bridge.  It was a good bridge for hiding out under, she said, that was not to be argued.  In fact she had hidden there a time or two herself.  But she knew for a fact that there was no homeless man hiding out under the bridge at the time because she had had to hide underneath the bridge herself that night, waiting for the bleeding to stop even though there was a sett full of badgers that like to crawl out after midnight and steal her food.

It was in church on a Sunday morning, the kind of church where the ladies wore hats that you could put out a raven’s eye with or hide a left-eye shiner from Saturday night.  Old Reba stood up bareheaded, her hair straggling across her shoulders in great gray waves of doom.

Then she turned and pointed one long, crooked, twisted old finger at the organist, a plump widow named Hester Wright, who had never been known to do wrong by anyone, especially if they gave her twenty dollars first.

Hester Wright went pale and the pastor demanded that Reba explain herself.

“I was runnin’ past the graveyard when I saw a light at the Chenowith place.  Chenowith will give you milk if you beg.  I slipped through a crack in the door and what should I see but an axe rising and falling, rising and falling…and Chenowith’s brains splattered all over the place.”

And the pastor, who was a man of righteousness but not too much of it, said, “Hester Wright wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Old Reba cackled.  “But she would hurt a man threatening to blackmail you, Pastor Hewes.  That’s just what love can do.”

You coulda heard a feather flutter to the floor among that flabbergasted fold.

Finally the organist rose on shaking legs and said, “What’s your proof?”

“That old possum you threw an axe at, Hester Wright, and scared off from the body afore you could drag it out to the river…”

And then old Reba pushed back her gray hair, as wild as a hailstorm, and showed a bloody red notch in her ear.

“That possum was me!”

Well, Pastor Hewes ran off the next morning and was never heard from again, except for a postcard every Christmas.  And they hung both the women off the Bird Road Bridge, one for murder, and the other as a snitch.

I got stuck on this one.  Thanks to Jamie Ferguson, who provided the idea “Witches shouldn’t be snitches,” and to Tom Waits, who likes to sing about murders and red barns.