This is a story that is included in my new book Thanksgiving Hen On A Chicken Shed: Stories My Grandmother Told Me. The stories in the book, like this one, are written from my grandmother's perspective and even using the southern slang she used when she told her stories. I decided to share this one because I had the most fun writing it. It was one of my favorites of hers. Enjoy!
MY AUNT, THE WITCH
When we lived in Townley, Alabama, it weren’t too far from my momma’s old aunt Molly. Now, she was my momma’s aunt, which made her my great aunt and probably older than America itself. I was about fourteen at the time we moved to Townley and I knew Aunt Molly the last few years of her life. She lived in a pretty nice big two-story farmhouse where she lived alone out on the outskirts of town. She weren’t never married and had no kids of her own. Her farm had all kinds of livestock just like ours, and of course gardens too. Aunt Molly was well on in her years and had gotten down sick. Daddy would go over there sometimes and help out by tendin’ to the animals and doin’ chores and such. There were also a few neighbors who would go out there and help out too… that is, if they weren’t too scared.
You see, there was a belief around Townley that my Aunt Molly was a witch. It was actually said that she practiced the black arts. Of course, there weren’t never any solid proof that she was a witch, but people still talked. Can’t say as I blame them much for passing them rumors. Aunt Molly was meaner than a ten gallon drum of rattlesnakes. Sometimes, when my daddy would go out to her farm, some of us kids would ride out
with him. While he worked, we’d go play with the neighbor kids. Our favorite was playin’ baseball out in the fields near the road. For a sick woman, Aunt Molly sure had a set of lungs because no sooner than we’d start to play than she’d come poundin’ out that door and scream at us to knock off the noise. We’d be playin’ a pretty good ways from her house, and weren’t makin’ much noise at all, but still here she’d come ‘cause it still weren’t good enough for her.
“You kids cut that out before I come out there and wring your necks!”
She’d priss on back inside, and we’d get right on back to playin’ and wouldn’t give even a care for her. We knew she was just ornery. She didn’t like nobody being happy or joyful. As soon as she’d hear the next noise, right on back out she’d come and yell. Everybody would stop but for me. I kept right on yelling. She really didn’t like me to say the least because I was the one who wouldn’t show her no fear. I never caused her no harm neither but she didn’t like me anyhow.
“Mildred Lee,” she’d screech at me, “one of these days you’re going to bust hell wide open!”
“Well, if hell was to bust wide open,” I’d yell back at her, “then you will be the first one they take!”
Nobody had any explanation as to why Aunt Molly was so mean, other than they believed her to be a witch or demon-filled or some such like that. One time, when she weren’t lookin’, I went all around her house from top to bottom to see if I could find one of them big black pots they say witches use to mix their spells and magic potions in. Didn’t find nary a one in there. Maybe she had it hid in a secret room somewhere. It’s a surprise she didn’t have bats hangin’ all over the rafters or rats scurryin’ about the floor. She always did wear black dresses with black shawls. She had long black hair that she kept in a tight bun on her head. Only difference was there weren’t no black pointy hat up there too. She sure had plenty of wrinkles, but there weren’t none of them warts on her face like witches normally have.
If you want an idea of how mean Molly was, let me tell you about the Anderson girls. They were the prettiest things this side of the Mississippi. One was ten years old and the other was seven. The older one, Cindy, had a head full of the most beautiful wavy brown hair while the younger one, Cathy, had golden curls that just wrapped themselves around her head. They were both petite and had the bluest eyes I ever did see and were sweeter n’ spring nectar. During warmer weather, they would often be seen taken things like cookies or cakes that their momma helped them make, or sometimes even tulips from their flower bed, and go walkin’ around the neighborhood givin’ them out to the neighbors. One time they tried takin’ a bouquet of flowers down to Molly’s house just to try to show her some kindness. They stepped up onto her front porch and knocked on her door. She answered the door lookin’ down at them real gruff-like.
“Our mommy and us thought you’d like these,” little Cathy chimed as she handed up the flowers.
Molly snatched the flowers, shoved the blooms into her mouth, chewed them off the stems, spit out the blooms and tossed the bare stems down at the feet of those poor little angels. Then, she slammed the door shut in their faces. Weren’t no call for such rude, evil behavior especially toward sweet little girls like that. But, that seems to be how Molly got her kicks.
Many a neighbor of hers reported all kinds of odd run-ins with her. There was one neighbor comes to mind by the name of Kilmer who lived within a mile of her. Now, some time back right around the year nineteen-ten, he had a pretty good sized operational farm and some farmhands helpin’ him run it. There was a spring out there between his property and Aunt Molly’s. He and Molly always argued over who had rights to that spring. She was pretty sure that the spring ran along her property and he’d be wise to stay away from it. He thought otherwise. Old Man Kilmer weren’t afraid of her one bit at first. One day, he needed some water from that spring and asked his farmhands if they’d go fetch him some of it. Unlike their boss, these farmhands were scared witless of that old witch and leery about going anywhere near her or her property, but they decided to anyway so they wouldn’t get in no trouble with their boss. So, they took up their buckets and walked on out toward the spring.
Later on that day, those farmhands came runnin’ back to Old Man Kilmer with no water in their buckets and their eyes about to burst out of their sockets with fear. They told ol’ Kilmer that when they were walkin’ down that path toward the spring, and soon as they caught sight of the water, a crazy lady with long black hair and black fingernails like claws came jumpin’ out of the bushes at them. Her red eyes blazed like fire and she screeched like a banshee. They took off a runnin’ and did not stop till they got back to the Kilmer house.
Ol’ Kilmer thought Molly was up to her mean tricks on them boys, so he decided to go see for himself. He saddled up his horse and rode out to the spring. When he got to where it was, to his surprise, the spring had all dried up that quick. Not a drop of water could be seen. Only an empty dry spring bed. He could not believe what he was a seein’, but there it sure was all dried up! It had to be witchery! Old Man Kilmer decided to seek
his water elsewhere and he never had anything else to do with Molly again.
There were several other odd tricks played on the neighbors that were chalked up to Molly’s witchery. Probably the most famous was her final trick which was played on an old colored man by the name of Willy. Now, Willy was somewhere in his sixties and worked for Mr. Martin who owned the local grocery store in Townley. Mr. Martin was probably in his sixties or seventies at the time as well. He always wore a white shirt and brown suspenders and these glasses that always stayed slid to the end of his nose. Sometime around the year nineteen-forty, Molly was on her deathbed and the doctor weren’t givin’ her much longer to live. Ol’ Mr. Martin was a kind heart and decided to help her out by sendin’ her some groceries. He had this ol’ horse-drawn buggy that he’d sometimes use to deliver groceries to the elderly. He’d have Willy take that wagon and go around town doin’ his deliveries. Well, Willy weren’t too thrilled with the prospect of havin’ to go out to Aunt Molly’s farm because he’d heard all the rumors ever told about her bein’ a witch. But, he really liked Mr. Martin and did not want to let him down nary a bit. So, he decided to do the neighborly thing and deliver those groceries.
About midday, Willy arrived down the path to Molly’s house. That ol’ place looked dark and mighty spooky with not a soul around that he could see. He stopped the horse and wagon outside the back door. He knew Molly was inside that house on her sick bed, so he decided not to go knockin’ on the door and pester her. Instead, he decided to unload all of the groceries right there at the back door and leave them where hopefully her hired hands would see them and get them inside for her. While he was emptyin’ out that wagon, he got the heebies all up his spine like you get when you feel like you’re being watched. He looked all around but didn’t see anyone on the grounds at all. He glanced up at the house and thought he saw some curtains movin’ in one of the upstairs windows like somebody was a peekin’ out at him. That could have been his mind playin’ tricks but he weren’t too sure. So, just to make sure, he unloaded the rest of them groceries faster than lightnin’, hopped on the seat of that wagon and started those horses up to a full gallop so he could make a quick exit.
When Willy reached the main road and made himself some distance from Molly’s farm, he felt so much better and even started to whistlin’ himself a happy tune. After a ways on down the road, a soft cool breeze began to hit him. He kept right on a whistlin’ till he noticed somethin’ strange. The wind was a whistlin’ back the same tune at him. He looked all around him at the woods on each side of the road, but he couldn’t see anything except the cluster of pine trees. He glanced back at the road behind him, and that’s when he saw her.
Ol’ Molly was a comin’ down the road about thirty feet behind Willy’s wagon. She was glowin’ and all see-through like a haint! She did not walk and she did not run. She quite literally floated over the road after the wagon. Willy judged her feet had to be at least three feet above the ground as she floated along.
Ol’ Willy about swallowed his tongue at what he beheld. He turned back to the horse, grabbed the reigns and went to slingin’ them tryin’ to get that horse to speed it up. He kept glancin’ back at Molly. She just floated right along with a look of blank emotion on her face. Every time he sped up, so did she. Her pace kept matched with his wagon just perfect.
I don’t know if Willy got a sudden burst of boldness or what, but for some reason he yanked hard on those reigns and slowed the horse down. He looked back and saw Molly slow down right with him. He called out to her.
“What do you want with me, you old witch?”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she kept right on starin’ at him. Then her eyes burst into flames and she shrieked at him.
Willy started to slingin’ them reigns in his hands again and got the horse back up to full speed. At this point, they were gettin’ pretty close to town. As he kept glancin’ back, Molly kept gettin’ closer and closer to the back of that wagon, her eyes still in flames. Willy whimpered a prayer that he’d make it to civilization before she got him. He looked ahead at the road. There was a wooden covered bridge directly ahead. A creek ran under that bridge. Willy thought he remembered hearin’ about how witches can’t cross over water. Or was it ghosts? He kept the horse speedin’, and he prayed, as its hoofs thumped over that wooden bridge, that she’d disappear out from behind him. Ahead, the town appeared around the bend in the distance.
Willy looked back for Molly to she if she’d disappeared. She weren’t floatin’ down the road no more. No sir. This time, she was sittin’ in the cotton-pickin’ wagon right behind him. She grinned a row of pointed razor teeth at him. He could swear he was lookin’ right smack dab into the face of a snake! Willy let out a scream so piercin’ it could be heard by folks all over town. Those that heard it said it sounded like a woman a screechin’.
Willy went into a fit of panic, threw himself forward off the wagon seat into mid-air and then landed on the back of that horse. He held on tight to that horse’s mane, his arms and legs wrapped around its body and his face buried into its back. He squeezed his eyes closed and prayed “Oh Lawd! Oh Lawd! Please help me! Keep her away! Keep her away!” As they entered town, he kept shoutin’ this prayer as bystanders watched the horse and wagon stampede down the street. The hooves of that horse kicked up clouds of dust all over, it was goin’ so fast by then. People were pourin’ out of houses all up and down that street to watch what was goin’ on. Finally, the horse slowed and came to a stop all on its own in front of Mr. Martin’s grocery store where it must have recognized familiar territory.
Ol’ Mr. Martin was sitting outside on the front porch of the store in his rocker. He saw Willy clingin’ to the back of that horse just a screamin’. Others gathered around to behold this spectacle of a grown man wheepin’ like a baby. Mr. Martin called out to Willy.
“What on earth are you doin’ on that horse? What’s the matter with you, fella?”
Willy lifted his face and opened his eyes to Mr. Martin.
“That old witch is back there in the wagon! Get ’er out! Get ’er out!” And he cried the biggest tears they’d ever seen.
Mr. Martin glanced over at the wagon.
“What witch? Ain’t nobody there.”
Willy slowly turned his head back and saw that wagon sure enough was empty! When Mr. Martin asked around, all those folks that’d seen that horse and wagon come stampeding into town swore on their lives that the wagon was dead empty! The only person they saw was Willy clingin’ to that horse a screamin’.
Just to check on his story, the local sheriff decided to go on out to Aunt Molly’s house and see for himself what he would find. When he got there and knocked on the door, one of the farmhands let him in. A few of Molly’s family members were gathered inside in her living room. Molly was in her bedroom still in her bed, the covers pulled up over her head. She weren’t movin’ a muscle. She’d been dead ever since that mornin’!
Copyright Kevin Cain 2011