By Gordon Brown
They announced it on the TV that they had found another body. It had its eyes scooped out and its tongue cut off. The fingers on its hands were gone and nails had been pushed through the feet. Just like all the others.
That’s what the sixth graders said.
They said that the lady who lives alone at the far end of town is a witch.
They used to ask me about her.
Does she have thirteen cats?
Does she eat chicken heads?
Does she ever come out? You live closest to her, don’t you?
I said I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
I didn’t even know if anyone was in there. The grass on the lawn was all tall and weedy. Yellow newspapers piled up by the mailbox and they were all full of long, black earwigs. No one ever went in but sometimes on the way home from school I could see the garage door open just a little. Sometimes at night, there’d be a sliver of pale light leaking out through the curtains.
They said she could call up a demon. Ten feet tall and with wings like a bat and the face of a pig. If it was ever late at night and your dog started barking and scratching at the door, it was because it was outside. Or if your cat ran in and out of the room, it was because she could smell it, and it was creeping closer.
They said it lived in a locket she always wore around her neck, and she’d rub it three times and say its secret name and it would come out of the crack in the weeping willow behind the playground. The sixth graders would dare us to stick our hands in it.
You chicken? You a baby?
Hey look at the baby!
You know she drinks baby blood, right?
She’s gonna climb up the side of your house like a spider.
She’s gonna crack open your window and get you.
She’s gonna turn you into one of her dolls for the collection she has.
She’s gonna fatten you up and eat you like Thanksgiving turkey. Mmmmmm!
I stuck my hand into the hole. I was waiting to feel something lick at my fingers. I knew something was going to bite me. I thought about long black earwigs. Fat yellow spiders. Things with a thousand legs that live under rocks and in the bottoms of caves. Things which lay their eggs under your skin.
I was up to my elbow when the sixth graders screamed.
I yanked my hand out so fast that a sharp chunk of bark scraped the skin right off my knuckles. I was holding my hand and shaking and angry and crying. They were all bent over and laughing at me, stomping their feet and whooping.
You crying cry-baby?
She likes cry-baby blood the most!
She’s gonna get you, cry-baby! If you tell, she’s gonna get you!
By the time the bell rang, my hand had stopped bleeding. But Mrs. Osgood still said I