Friday, February 14, 2014

The Swamp Witch and the Deacon (#FridayFlash)

We’ve met Hattie before, in Past the Witching Hour. The two of us have some plans for more, but at our own pace.



“Knitting’s good for the soul, Mr. Sniff. And it keeps my fingers nimble.” Hattie held her project in one hand, and used the other to scratch her cat behind the ears. “Now go take that nasty old mole off and eat it, or whatever you plan to do with it. Good kitty.”

Hattie resumed rocking on her porch, the creaking of the porch boards a counterpoint to the click of her needles. Add some boom, she thought, and it would sound like what the kids play in their cars. Out here in the swamp, though, only sirens carried to her door.

Mr. Sniff hopped back on the porch, then hissed and jumped onto the rail. He crouched, watching.

Hattie followed her cat’s gaze, and saw that flash of color. “You be good, kitty. That’s my friend.” She prodded the cat with a toe, and Mr. Sniff jumped down and glared before slinking away. The parrot glided under the porch, and alit on the perch that Hattie had made for him. “What news, Rainbow?”

“Visitor,” Rainbow croaked. The parrot had come to the swamp about a year ago, probably an escapee from some birdcage in Nawlins or up north, and had struck up a friendship with Hattie. He warned her of people on her path, and she gave him shelter on cold nights. Mr. Sniff thought he would make a fine feathered feast, but Rainbow knew to be wary of the cat. The bird was smart enough to carry on a limited conversation, too.

“Thank you, Rainbow,” said Hattie. She took a bag of nuts from a pocket, and shook at few into her hand. “Snack?”

“Snack. Thank-oo.” Rainbow flitted down to the arm of Hattie’s rocker, and picked the nuts from her hand, before flying away.

“Here, kitty,” said Hattie, laying down her knitting. “Let’s look like we know all and see all.” She chuckled. Nobody walked through this part of the swamp unless they wanted something from the Swamp Witch.

So when Scott Devereaux reached the clearing, where Hattie’s house perched on one of the few firm spots in the swamp, he saw the witch standing on the porch with arms crossed. Her black cat sat on the rail next to her, glaring at him. How did she hear me? he thought, then shrugged.

“What’cha needin’?” Hattie snapped.

“What makes you think I would want what you have to offer?” he said, a little more boldly than he felt.

“Nobody comes out here ‘less they need my help,” she said. “C’mon up and sit, Mr. Devereaux. Whatever it is, it stays ‘tween us. I ain’t stupid enough to go blabbin’ ‘bout people’s bidness.” Though I sure was tempted to turn in your daddy, back when you were in diapers, when he wanted some help for that thirteen year old girl he knocked up. But being strict about keeping people’s secrets was part of being a Swamp Witch.

“You know who I am, then.”

“Course I do. Your daddy’s the preacher at that big ol’ Protestant church. You’re the deacon, and he’s settin’ you up to take over when he retires next year.” She took her rocker, and waved a hand at the other one. “Pull that chair around. Tell me what’cha need, and I’ll tell ya if I can help.”

Instead, he stood, looking down at her. “What I need is for you to get gone. You’ve been a blight on this community long enough, and respectable folk have had enough. You do the Devil’s work out here, letting people escape the consequences of their sins—”

Hattie snorted. “You think you’re the first self-righteous fool who come out here to run me off? You might be surprised at the ‘respectable folk’ around here who I let escape the consequences of their sins, little boy. Me and your daddy went to school together, he knowed me all his life, and he’s been preachin’ ‘round here longer than you been born. He never seed fit to do nothin’ but live and let live, least by me. I know he taught ya to mind your own business, too.”

“Don’t you dare talk about my daddy,” he hissed.

“Okay by me.” Hattie sounded not at all intimidated. “I know he didn’t send you out here anyway, and he ain’t part of this. Maybe we should talk about you instead. Or, you wanna pay for your own sins, nobody’s makin’ you come to me.” She gave him a significant look.

“I am not interested in hearing your lies and innuendo.”

“Well, you don’t want my help, and I ain’t goin’ nowhere. So I guess we got nothin’ more to talk about.” Hattie picked up her knitting, ignoring how the younger Devereaux glared at her and tried not to fidget as the evening light dimmed.

“This ain’t over, witch.” Devereaux finally spun around and stomped down the porch steps.

“I know what’cha need, boy,” she called, and Devereaux spun around. “Yep. You think I don’t know what people need before they come a-callin’? I figgered you wouldn’t wanna talk about it, so I left it along the path.” She nodded at Devereaux’s wide-eyed stare. “So count off fifty paces after you pass that first tree, you’ll come to a little break on your left. Go through it, and count twenty more paces. It’s there.”

Devereaux nodded once, then turned and walked away without another word. “He didn’t offer to pay, I notice,” she muttered. “Theft is a sin, and sin has consequences, eh kitty?”

Mr. Sniff looked down the path, and arched his back at two faint splashes.

“Oh, dear,” said Hattie. “Dern fool got off the path, and the Swamp Critter got ‘im.” She returned to her knitting. “Time to find a new girl to take over, kitty. I’m gettin’ too old for this.”

10 comments:

  1. loved the vernacular tongue you employ here Larry, really swept me up in her accent

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  2. The self-righteous are always the ones who fall the hardest.

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  3. agree with Marc, the tongue works well at pulling in the reader. Rainbow: cool name for a bird.

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  4. Guess he got his comeuppance. Definitely not a woman to tangle with.

    I smiled at this line Larry. “Well, you don’t want my help, and I ain’t goin’ nowhere. So I guess we got nothin’ more to talk about.” :-)

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  5. Oh he should have paid her! LOL Loved the witches accent ^_^ This is a bewitching tale!

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  6. A wise man once said "Always pay the witch her price, or else get eaten, stunned or worse." I don't think Devereaux knew that, or believed that. An old swamp lady is not to be taken lightly! Will there be more, Larry?

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  7. Always love that logic: "You're doing the devil's work!"

    "What? I clean up your lot's mistakes."

    "Right -- the devil's work!"

    Devereaux got what was coming.

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  8. Thanks, Marc. I've had good luck with dialect so far, although a lot of people say they don't like it in general.

    Tony, so true!

    David, he's a colorful parrot, so that's what Hattie named her. Thanks much!

    Steve, Hattie keeps her ear to the (soft) ground and her nose to the wind, no doubt.

    Thanks, Helen! If he'd offered to pay, I wonder if she'd have warned him to take a few less paces…

    Cindy, there will be. I've thought about a longer story, where she ends up somewhere else and gets tangled up in something. But I think the next one will be her getting a student.

    Katherine, indeed he did. Dev never did find out about what his father did, and perhaps that was for the best…

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  9. Ah, he should have just been nice, he might have avoided the critter!

    Only one niggle - "alit" should be "alighted".

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  10. Give every man his desserts, and who shall 'scape whipping, eh? I think the preacher's son probably got what was coming to him! Poor guy!

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