Category Archives: Short Story of the Week

Short Story of the Week – The Tale of the Geyer Witch

The Tale of the Geyer Witch

Katherine Blanner

Grey WitchFall is the most fanciful season, some say, since the leaves are falling in bliss, as if bewitched by the earth. To some degree, however, there is an aura of frightening whimsy. The air grows colder daily as the grains ripen, bearing their tended fruits. The overcast days bring fog and rain, followed by a sweet petrichor, replenishing the earth and the hearts of its people. Hearths are burning bright to ward off the frigidity, warmth emulating from every humble home along the unpaved road.

Upon the road lived people, each in a spacious house, of heart and hearth. These townsfolk lived simply of Geyer, raising their crop and their family in a Christian manner. Each attended weekly church in a small cobbled church, encased by a cemetery of their beloved.

Lying in this cemetery, in a grave whose headstone is mid fractured, is a woman. A humble bread maker, who lived and loved in the mid eighteen hundreds, had false indictments placed upon her innocence.

Upon the road of Geyer, recessed within the woods, lived a maiden of fair age, nearly twenty-three. She had not yet wed, and found company in her three pups, which she fed well and trained continuously to protect her delicacy.

Nightingale Caruthers, as she was dubbed, dedicated an acre of her land to the cultivation of wheat. When the crop was thick and bountiful, she gathered it by hand, accompanied by her dogs. Grinding it in a miniscule mill, she baked it into marvellous pastries and symphonious bread. She sold it in a shop, out of her home, her first floor dedicated to handmade crafts and bakery. Her upstairs was her home, where she resided, cared for herself and her pets.

As the year drew on, crows and pests of flight persistently consumed the yield of her field. Time and time again did she try to solve this problem, but to no avail was a solution procured. However, Nightingale noticed that when she ventured out to the field to shoo away the marauders, they fled from the mere sight of her. Her brain conjured up a novel idea, to create an artificial rendition of herself.

Later that night, she searched through her old clothing; she had much, casting them this way and that before locating a tattered dress from her formative years. She stuffed it with straw, sewed it shut like a pillow and fastened it to a tomato stake to give a vertical appearance. “Something is missing,” she muttered to herself, her only audience her three dogs, and they did not understand a word of articulation. Frantically circling her bedchamber, she came upon an unattractive broad brimmed conical hat. Her grandmother had brought it to the colonies from England, the gift of a wicked, bestowed to keep harm away. Nightingale placed the headgear atop the stick supporting her bloated dress.

Beneath the cerulean moon shadow, she could make out the grotesque image of a fiendish crow, pecking at her wheat. Out she went, stabbing her inhuman exemplification into the earth next to the bird, scaring him off. Trudging back to her house, she could not help but think of all the needed assistance she would need to keep her shop open, with such a high yielding of grain due to her brilliant invention. Tomorrow, she would post a notice regarding employment in her shop on the town’s church’s door, for it was Sunday in the morning.

Only one responded to her ad, a lively young girl by the name of Peregrine. Her eyes were sharp and intelligent, but her face was plagued by a beaklike nose. Nightingale undertook her as an apprentice, showing her the craftsmanship involved in the handiwork of baking bread. Peregrine learned swiftly, working frequently for compensation.

A week into the job, Peregrine was troubled immensely by the unwavering noir figure in the field. She approached her superior quizzically, “Who is that standing in the back?” Nightingale nodded to the window in which the figure was visible, proud of her work, “That is my crop protector. It’s inanimate. It scares away the crows.” “You should call it a scare-crow,” jested Pere. Nightingale did not respond, only raised one eyebrow in realization. Her scarecrow, she relished in the capricious peculiarity of the newfound noun, could benefit the other gardens and crops on Geyer.

With the harvest imminently nearing, Nightingale reasoned that she might create these in early celebration of the approaching ingathering. She created several out of her old dresses, barbing them in odd hats, tam o’ shanters, caps, bonnets, trilbies, and various other head gear. None were as terrific as her broad brimmed pointed hat, however. That evening, she placed one in each field, ones of soybeans, corn, wheat, barley, and even modest vegetable gardens yielding ocher pumpkins and chartreuse gourds. Upon sunrise these farmers shall be enthralled, thought Gale to herself. Satisfied, she ventured down the dusty road with her hands tight against her meatless frame. It was a frigid October, and the harvest moon was shrouded by sporadic clouds, making the air seem even icier.

The next morning, Nightingale awoke content; Tuesday mornings were commonly tranquil. Adjusting to the day, she began to make out some angered jibber jabber amongst her neighbours. Perhaps their squabbling over scarecrows, contending which one is better, she thought. Of course, her unworldly ignorance was incorrect. Her fellow inhabitants of Geyer were wholly appalled by these odd staked dolls, thinking them spawned from the underworld and placed in their yards as punishment for their sins.

“Witchcraft!” accused Peregrine. The apprentice singled out her innocent superior commander.

The folk rallied together. Gathered around the home of Nightingale, Peregrine politely knocked on the witch’s door. No unlocking of the deadbolt. In the silence, a farmer, pitchfork in one hand and scarecrow in another, ventured round the back in fury. Struck by the ominous figure cloaked in black with the conical hat occupying the field, he seized, falling prostrate in fright, resulting in pains in his left upper appendage. The majority of the mob ventured round, too, and found Gale nourishing her canines, the pets growing burlier by and by. The dogs attacked initially, grimacing, sharp fangs bare, to the townsfolk. Nightingale called off her protectors, thinking the confrontation a sociable one.

Two wiry men, sturdy from hurling bundles of straw, clutched her by the arms. Kicking and screaming, they dragged the witch into her minute shop, and questioned her. There was no established town jury, nor an available lawyer for miles, so her neighbours accused her.

“Peregrine,” one said, summoning the apprentice, “has made a claim that you are a witch. Do you deny?”

“A witch… while, that’s preposterous….” Gale replied.

“The girl says your dolls are voodoo. Have you been conjuring with the devil?”

“No,” she stated honestly.

“Transport her to the cell,” stated the man. If you were to deny witchcraft after a claim was made, death by hanging was the punishment. The gallows were to be hung for the first time.

All Hallows Eve, the witch perished.

She was not hung. Before her death, the apprentice, Peregrine, visited her. Silence ensued for a few moments, Gale uttering the initial words.

“Why?” She asked.

“I can’t say I know,” cried Pere through heaving sobs and mournful tears. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I simply thought your scarecrows were witchcraft.”

“For she who repents is forgiven. You have nothing to mourn for. I was ignorant and foolish to place those scarecrows in the fields to begin with. ‘Tis my fault, not yours.” With this, Nightingale drew a final breath, and exhaled raggedly, all air leaving her as her soul evacuated her body.

After the death of Gale, Peregrine convicted and admitted herself to witchcraft, withstanding the blame for the frightful scarecrows.

The road of Geyer is a pleasant road, paved, lined with ancient maples and birches and oaks whose leaves litter the ground in the autumn solstice. In recompense for the wrongful conviction of Nightingale Caruthers, the current residents of Geyer place scarecrows affront their homes for the Halloween festivities, some cheerfully decorated, whereas most take a dour and authentic approach.

Nevertheless, it is said that one can still find the three of the witch’s dogs in front of their immortal residence, protecting the house on all occasions.

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29 June – 5 July: “Children in the Cat Bed”

Children in the Cat Bed

The teacher called her class to attention, as the kindergarteners looked up in awe at her. “Good morning, children!” she called out to them.

“Good morning, Miss Williams” they called back.

“Today, children, we are going to talk about roommates. Those of you with brothers and sisters no doubt will have roommates at some point or another.” Some in the class nodded in agreement. “So tell me, who here has a roommate?”

“I do!” shouted one child, a little brown-haired girl.

“Alright, Mary. Who is your roommate?”

“My brother!”

“Your brother and you share a room?”

“Yep! And one other too!”

“O, and who is that?”

“Our cat!”

The teacher laughed for a minute. “So, Mary, you and your brother Jack share a room?”

“Yes, that’s right. We sleep with our cat,” Mary said in a matter-of-fact manner.

“And what is the cat’s name?” the teacher asked, sitting on the edge of her desk.

“Her name is Kitty,” replied Mary to the giggles of her classmates.

“What a good name for a cat,” the teacher said. “So, you, Jack, and Kitty all share a bed. I do hope it is a big bed,” Miss Williams said, quieting the class.

Mary shook her head, “No, it’s the cat’s bed.”

Miss Williams stopped for a minute, puzzled at what she had just heard. “You, you sleep in the cat’s bed?”

“Yes, we say it’s the cat’s bed because the cat was there first,” Mary explained.

“Ah, well that’s nice of you. But it is a regular sized person’s bed,” Miss Williams asked for clarification.

“No, it’s the cat’s bed. It is small, round, and a perfect fit for Kitty,” Mary declared.

Miss Williams became troubled by this, “So, you don’t have your own bed in the house?”

“Not a people-sized bed, we have a cat bed!” Mary shouted.

“There is no need to shout, Mary,” Miss Williams declared.

“Sorry, Miss Williams,” Mary said, her face drooping a bit.

“No matter. I just hope that you and Jack aren’t allergic to cats,” Miss Williams said, her confusion showing.

“O, we are, but we wash our hands and faces every morning when we wake up,” Mary said.

“I see,” Miss Williams replied, wanting to move the conversation on to something else, “Well, children that was fun. Now then, let’s get on with some of your math.”

The children let out a wail en masse as Miss Williams began to draw some numbers onto their chalkboard.

After school was finished for the day, Mary returned home to find her little brother Jack waiting with her parents and grandparents. They had a nice dinner together, at which Mary and Jack entertained the adults with their usual antics. However, when it was just past eight o’clock, with the children and cat fast asleep in their bed upstairs, a knock rang out on the door.

“Who could that be?” Mother asked, as the adults sat about the front room watching the news. The knock rang out again. “I’ll go and see,” she said, standing and going to the front door.

Mother opened the door, peering outside into the winter night. There in front of her stood a younger woman. “Hello, are you Mrs Ingelbot?”asked the young woman.

“Yes, I am. Who are you?” Mrs Ingelbot replied.

“I’m Miss Williams, from Mary’s school. May I come in a minute?”

“O, certainly, Miss Williams, do come inside! It is quite cold out there tonight,” Mrs Ingelbot exclaimed.

“Yes, it is rather,” Miss Williams said, shivering as she crossed the threshold.

Mrs Ingelbot led Miss Williams into the front room, “Allow me to introduce my husband, John Ingelbot, my father-in-law Marmaduke Ingelobt, and my mother-in-law Leopoldiniana Ingelbot.”

“A pleasure to meet you all,” Miss Williams said with a smile.

“How can we help you, Miss Williams,” John asked.

“Well, today we were talking about roommates in class, and Mary said that she and your son Jack sleep in a cat bed. I just wanted to make certain that she wasn’t just telling a story.”

“Heavens no! They’re roommates!” Marmaduke cried, laughing at the thought of the children’s living situation as just a story.

“So, they do sleep in a cat bed?” Miss Williams said.

“Yes, they prefer it,” Leopoldiniana replied, a grin on her face.

“I have to see for myself,” Miss Williams replied, still not accepting what she was hearing.

“Well, go right ahead, they’re just up the stairs,” Mrs Ingelbot said, pointing towards the stairway.

Miss Williams looked up into the dark blackness of the upper floor of that house. Some sort of fear crept into her mind, making her unwilling to go up those stairs to see just how her student slept. On the other hand, her curiosity made it unthinkable to do anything other than mount the steps, one at a time. The creaking caught her off guard, causing her to sweat. At the third step from the bottom a loud creak sounded from the wood under her heels.

“Careful now, you mustn’t wake the kiddies!” called Marmaduke.

Miss Williams took that advice to heart, and made her way up the steps. Upon reaching the top she crossed the carpeted floor, following the sound of little breaths, in and out, in and out, in and out on the far side of the room. As she walked further from the light of the ground floor that shone up the stairway, she felt a sharp pain in her head, as thwack! it smacked into a rafter that held the roof of the house up. Stopping for a minute, Miss Williams rubbed her forehead, bending down low to avoid any other rafters. Finally, she saw the cat bed, sitting on a cabinet under a window in the celling.

Miss Williams approached the bed, ever so careful not to wake the children, or the cat. She at long last made it to where she could properly see the bed and its occupants, only to do a double take. “Where are the children?!” she thought, fear stricken as she beheld before her a cat bed with three small kittens fast asleep within.

She ran silently back out of the upper floor, and back down the stairs. Looking into the front room, she beheld two lions standing where John, and Marmaduke had just been with a lioness on the sofa where Leopoldinina had once sat. Only Mrs Ingelbot appeared to her in human form. She laughed as Miss Williams fled from that house, vowing to never step foot on that street again.

15-21 June 2014 – “Les Roberts”

Les Roberts

There once was a team of rowers known as the Bears. Now these weren’t your average sort of rowers whose mascot was a bear, but actual big, furry, growling with fangs and big pointy teeth bears. Like the kind that steal your peanut butter on camping holidays. They trained long and hard on the waters of the Charles, until at last they found themselves ready to take on the big prize: their first entry into a proper rowing competition.

 The bears got their boat atop their van, strapping it down tightly for the road. Then with much anticipation, they let the van roar into life, sailing on its way down the road out of Boston towards the Hudson. The journey was long and fun, filled with excitement and lots of growling. At long last they arrived on the banks of the Hudson at Albany. Their excitement was unmeasurable, unsurmountable for any average meter of measuring surmountability.

They roared out of their van, grabbing their boat by its bottom, and running with it towards the river bank where the other teams were warming up for the race to come. However, at the sight of five bears running with a rowing boat hoisted above their heads running down the bank towards the gathering teams, the competition panicked and fled onto the water. The bears figured that this must have meant that the race had begun, and they picked up the pace, growling heartily at the competition to “Wait! Let us get on the line too!” However their cries seemed to make no real mark of calm upon the ears of the rowing teams.

At the water’s edge, they hurled the boat out in front of them, jumping into it in turn, until all five bears sat in their boat, the oars thrusting strongly into the water, back and forth, propelling their boat forward beyond that of all of the competition. But something seemed off, as they found men with guns standing on a bridge over the river. “Tranquilisers!” the bears shouted, ducking to dodge the darts that shot from above.

At the finish the bears found themselves cornered by a hundred armed men and women. The sorry team at last realised what was going on, that in fact all these people were terrified for their lives. The lead bear took his oar, using the handled end he drew in the sand of the bank, “Nous sommes les Roberts!”

And that is why there were some concerns in the Hudson Valley last week about an invasion from Northern Quebec. Whether the bears ever worried again is unknown, as they kept rowing onwards, south towards the sea.