Sunday, October 19, 2014


Is she seriously talking about witches?

Everyone knows they aren't real.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thank You for Your Magic

I fell in love with the first guy who told me.

While catering for a friend who was promoting shows at the King Cat in Dallas. Somewhere between putting out the good beer and frying more chicken and hush puppies, I had a chance to joke around with the road crew. Always with the come-ons and  promises of meet-and-greets, there was one that was funnier and way more respectful than the usual bunch of jackasses in Metallica shirts. Said 'please and thank you and yes ma'am. Just the kind of thing that gives me a ladyboner. He had a beard and was chubby. If I even had a type, Dr. John here was def not it. But I liked the twinkle in his eye and the way he looked right at me when we talked.

We flirted through the first two bands when he got pulled aside and mumbled that he'd be back. I figured I'd scored one of the important roadies, like maybe the guitar tech. I resumed feeding and mama-ing the wayward youth and their girlfriends and pot dealers and waited for him to return. I made plates for security while the band took the stage and I glanced over after a song or two when he didn't show up.

It was the guy with the beard. He was singing. And playing the piano. If you know anything about me at all, you know what a sucker I am for a piano. I can't even. Ever. *Melts into pool right on the spot*  And this guy, the funny one, with the twinkle and the sarcasm, was in a spotlight, as forlorn as you could get, gently stroking  those keys like his heart was laying on every single one and he was too scared to touch them.

He finished crying to whoever tore his heart out, smiled, pulled his Phillies Blunts cap down and knocked out the first bar of Purple Rain and I died. I mean died. All over the projection booth. How could he know how many times I'd seen it when I was 17? How did he know the cassette had worn out before the summer was even over and that it was the first CD I'd ever bought?

I was cleaning up after when he came back. I could see him in the corner talking to the bass player and his girlfriend. He waited until I had gotten the door down the stairs to the parking lot propped open and he followed me out and stood in the rain while I opened the trunk and took off my apron. I faced him, not challenging, exactly. Just expectant. Like I knew what was coming.

"Thank you for your magic", he said, turned, and walked back up the stairs while I went back to my little apartment and wondered what the fuck had just happened.
People think you need all kinds of stuff to cast spells. Pentagrams, incense, candles, a little Stevie Nicks. That's not true at all.
Magic is elemental. The electricity comes from you. Not a book full of silly Latin phrases all thrown together.
Sure. Having something to light on fire is very dramatic. It's always good to have a velvet pouch of river stones lying around the house and maybe an owl feather or two, just in case, but all you really need to bend the wind your way is a will of steel.
You also have to be a witch.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gone Fishin'

From the Sulpher Springs Telegraph Sunday July 20, 1924:


James E. Horne, city employee, latest drowning victim.

Stepping from shallow, into water ten feet deep as he seined for minnows in the levee "bar pits"along the Trinity River a mile and a half past Grauwyler Bridge, James Edward Horne, aged 38, a foreman in the city street and bridge department, drowned late Saturday as his wife and daughter looked on, helpless to aid. John Price, negro and city employee, who lives on the Horne place, tried unavailingly to save the drowning man's life.

Horne is the eleventh person to drown in this county this year. Price asserted that Mr. Horne was able to only swim a few strokes and that his heavy shoes and clothes hampered him in his effort to regain the shore and dragged him down to his death.

"We had been in the pit just a few moments, using the little seine when Mr. Ed went under all of a sudden, " Price declared. "He came up twice and got hold of the seine, crying for me to help him. I tried to pull him in, but his hands slipped off, he went under, and I couldn't find him anymore"

Couldn't Locate Him

The negro and Waylan Macon, 5317 Ash Lane, who was attracted to the scene by Mrs. Horne's frantic screams for help, dived for close to an hour in an effort to bring him to the surface. "I saw him near the top once, but he sank from sight when I went in after him and I couldn't find him again" Macon said, " I'm pretty sure he was already dead."

Horne and his wife and their little daughter Doris had gone to the bridge on a fishing trip Saturday afternoon. After reaching the bridge, he decided to seine for minnows before beginning to fish.

Saw Him Lose Grasp

Mrs. Horne, who stood screaming on the bank, waited until she saw her husband go under a second time before running for help. She raced through more than a mile of dense underbrush before reaching Old Maple Road where she was able to use the telephone of W.W. Stor to call for help.

Deputy sheriffs found her in the pits just a hundred yards of where her husband's body was finally located, crying broken-heartedly. She drove her automobile back to their home where she fainted and was put under the care of physicians.

Both the emergency ambulance and automobiles from the sheriffs office carrying Deputy Sheriffs Bob Jones, Earl Sypert and John Heffington answered the call. The use of grappling hooks by members of the sheriffs office failed to locate the dead man, and diving was resorted to.  "I found him face down in about nine feet of water," Adolphus Lee Whatley said.  "He, apparently, had been dead about an hour."  After the body was taken from the water it was placed in the emergency ambulance.  Later on it was transferred to the ambulance of the Smith Undertaking company, which also had responded to the call.  Mr. Horne is survived by his wife and two daughters, Nettie Lou, 14 years old and Doris Lee, 12 years old.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Agkistrodon piscivorus is a venomous snake, a species of pit viper, found in the southeastern United States. Adults are large and capable of delivering a painful and potentially fatal bite. When antagonized, they will stand their ground by coiling their bodies and displaying their fangs.

Ruby Ann Witcher. Mean as a rattlesnake. Twice as ugly.

Barely five feet tall, she was thick like a cypress stump and wore a helmet of frizzy brown hair that had looked exactly the same her entire life. There was one time in college when she had attempted relaxing it like some of the girls in her dorm were doing, but it just broke off at the ends, making it the precise texture of a tumbleweed. It took a year to grow back into it's regular, round shape and she had never tried anything new  again.

She mastered the elementary-school game of driving less popular girls out of the cafeteria by discussing whose parents were and weren't on food stamps and which sixth graders weighed the most when they did stats during the Presidential Fitness Test (she always volunteered to hold the clipboard for Mrs, Nash). At Meadowbrook High, she began freshman year as a terrorist who started each day with a little innocent gossip and backstabbing and by graduation, had ended up masterminding quite a few break-ups of budding romances between rivals and boys she and friends had crushes on. There was also the firing of several staff members who didn't share in her opinions regarding her intelligence, or ability to get things done. She hinted, once, to Mrs. Nash that there had been untoward remarks and a squeeze or two by the baseball coach that never happened. He was gone by fifth period.

By the time she'd married Jimmy Dan and had twins that were as unattractive and viperous as she was, she'd graduated to spreading insane rumors about the people in town. For instance, the nice Lozano family who owned the feed store were working for 'those Mexican drug people' or that Ada Peach (who had finally given up on Bobby Foster and married Earl Grady) was a slut who'd slept with all of Hopkins County and probably her own brother, too. It wasn't as if anyone believed her, but that didn't mean they'd question her authority on such matters, either. At least not in public. She was, for all her unpleasantness, the unofficial Queen of The Means and had been since the third grade.

She drove around town in whichever car she'd taken from her daddy's lot that month. It was one of the only perks she still received, since her allowance had pretty much dried up once she'd become Mrs. James Daniel Witcher. There were no more weekly shoe binges or blowouts at Hattie's. She had to buy her make-up at the drugstore instead of at Lord & Taylor, her clothes at Beall's, like everyone else. Carl White didn't approve of Jimmy Dan for a number of reasons, one of them being that he didn't like when grown men used their childhood nicknames. He didn't trust a fellow named Ricky or Johnny unless he was buying a sandwich or some bait.

That was too bad for Jimmy Dan, since the only reasons he'd allowed himself to be chained to that miserable toad was the promise of the kind of money that came from owning the only Ford dealership between Dallas and Texarkana.


When the nurses in the delivery ward of a hospital receive word that a patient is incoming with a stillborn, an entirely different set of procedures are put in place. The first thing you notice, if you've been previously admitted for a regular birth, is the lack of urgency. AT ALL. There are no monitors, no one scurries in to make you comfortable or begins an endless series of tests. There is simply silence. The door opens periodically. A nurse who just began her shift who hasn't been told, or a chaplain who offers solace and Last Rites for the child who never had any to begin with.

When you ask the doctor about the C-section that must be forthcoming (because who would expect a woman to deliver a dead baby, surely you must just cut it out and end the nightmare quickly) you are informed that that is a very dangerous thing to do and the best way is to just let the fetus expel itself. "Let the fetus expel itself" is not mentioned in the baby books or at BabiesRUs when you are shopping for onesies.

So you get a shot of pitocin and wait alone until the cramps come. Cramps so wrenching, you may as well be having the baby. Or dying. A gunshot doesn't feel worse than this pain.You get the shot and endure. Endure is a good word for this. Flip through the channels waiting for your husband to come back after he drops the three year-old off at Nana's. The three year-old is excited to have a baby brother or sister. You aren't sure which. You'd asked to not be told so everyone could be surprised. Life has so few real surprises anymore, you had thought. What an idiot.

He arrives right when the insides of your body have begun churning and clenching. The doctor comes in and asks if you want the epidural. Can it be administered to my heart and brain? No? Fine. Get it over with. Just get it all over with.
Instead of the birth certificate people showing up, the people from the funeral home come and volunteer to inter your child however you would like. For free, even, as long as you select the basic design, just like a checking account. You are not a plain with address-type so you pick one that looks like a beautiful Indian hand-grenade. A cremated baby takes very little space and you don't live near a family cemetery. It seems appropriate.

When it is time and the contractions aren't stopping, the doctor and nurse come in with a tray and a pink bucket. The kind they might toss a tumor into during surgery. Your baby. The one you carried and talked to and loved and had hopes and dreams for is going in a pink plastic tub like it is a piece of useless trash.

That is when you want to die and you close your eyes and talk to your 3 year-old in your brain and tell him Mommy is going to be home really soon and you're sorry he's not a big brother and you talk to God and tell him he's a fucking asshole and you hate him forever because of this and when the baby finally comes you can't even look, let alone hold it.
If either of those things happen, you will go a kind of crazy that there is no coming back from.

They take your girl away. Yes. It was a daughter. Your husband, for all his faults and inadequacies, had the balls to see her and kiss her and be with her and you don't. You failed. YOU FAILED.

You will not be able to look at or touch a baby for the next four years without having to excuse yourself to go shriek silently in an alone place or hyperventilate.

You know that there are women walking around everywhere who this has happened to and no one ever talks about it. You are not one of those women.


The phone rang at 4:45 am, jerking the sheriff out of his dream and into the tiny den off of the kitchen that he'd been sleeping in ever since Pam died. He couldn't bring himself to sell the house. It was full of the memories of everything good that had happened in the last 20 years. He also couldn't stand the idea of laying in the bed they had shared,or getting rid of it, so every night he climbed into the tiny twin that he had bought for the nurses and home workers, and twisted the ring on his left hand around and around until he fell asleep.

His first thought at the sound of the ring was to let it go. If it was an emergency, Dwayne or Myrna would start calling on the radio and if it was anyone else, well, it was his day off.


Whoever it was had better be bleeding.


Meadowbrook was a bit of a misnomer.
There was no meadow to speak of, just a few chicken and dairy farms covering about two square miles in the corner of Hopkins County. As far as anyone could remember, there had never been anything so much as resembling a brook, although Glover Rayburn swore there was a trout pond there once that got hit by lightening in '66. "Biggest fish-fry you ever set your eyes on", he'd tell anyone who asked.

The police department had two employees, including the sheriff. The dispatcher was the deputy's wife who came in at night to bring him dinner and keep him company while they watched Golden Girls reruns on TV Land. During the day, the calls were routed through Wood County since they usually had a grand total of four cars driving around at any given time.

When Wichita Foster opened the manila folder Garland had left on his desk and took a look at the girl they had brought in the night before, he was surprised to see a pair of clear blue eyes and the pretty face of a girl who looked to be the same age as his daughter.

The surprise wasn't that she was attractive. It was her expression. There was not a hint of sadness in her face. Not a mean pull at the corners of her mouth, no squint or glare. None of the usual hardness or anger he was used to finding on the faces of these young women who turn so violent.

He wasn't sure where he stood on genetics vs. environment but he was sure this girl had come from a good

He'd have been half right. Esper Parker was a drunk, but he was a friendly one who worked hard to feed those kids and keep a roof over their heads after their daddy drowned.

 They keep telling me they're going to find out how I did it.
"You left something, somewhere.It's just a matter of time" Sheriff Foster said when he unlocked the holding cell and let me leave with AJ

I don't think I meant to kill him but maybe I did
Maybe I was tired of being called a dumb cunt every time I forgot something at the grocery or didn't finish folding the laundry.
I hated cleaning up after him.
The way he left his clothes right next to the hamper.
The toenails I found flung all over the house.
He told me once that I should take pride in getting the skidmarks off his Fruit of the Loom's because 'That's what a good wife does, Marsh'.

I guess I'm not that good.


"The RV is a success, Myrna, because it allows women to pee every 20 minutes without ever having to find a rest stop"

Dwayne and Myrna were having Cokes and talking about whether to sink their retirement into a time share down in Port Aransas where Dwayne could net shrimp while Myrna learned to watercolor sea fowl. And they could take nice long walks on the beach and grill the delicious shrimp that Dwayne had caught just hours earlier.

This was what Myrna's picture of happily ever after looked like.  The other 50 weeks of the year could be spent visiting her sister over in Tyler and growing those roses that Dwayne swore were costing him at least half the retirement they were discussing.

Dwayne had a different movie playing in his theater. One that had quite a bit of golf in places that ended in 'a' and catching fish in rivers that didn't have rattlesnakes swimming in them. He had just pulled up a picture of the new Coachmen Concord and was about to start showing her the kitchen and bathroom features as  methods of persuasion when there was a buzzing at the intercom.

It was early. Too early, even for Jimmy Foster, who sometimes dropped off the paper and came inside for a few minutes to hear who was breaking the law and how in Hopkins County.
There was no one there when he opened the back door, but an envelope fell and he bent down to pick it up.

It wasn't sealed or addressed. He pulled out contents and when he unfolded the note inside there was a picture of a farmhouse. The back of the picture was marked 'Winnsboro' and on the paper were just two words

'Horne Witches'.

Well, now.
That could mean a couple things.
Could be someone was a bit too Christian to use the B-word. Could mean they were hag-like in temperament and stature.


It could mean "one that is credited with usually malignant supernatural powers; especially: a woman practicing usually black witchcraft often with the aid of a devil or familiar"*

Dwayne was familiar with the first two kinds seeing as Myrna's mother was a pageant winner in both, but the third? That was crap. No such thing. There were some people in town who claimed that the woods out at the edge of the county were spooked and that there were meetings out there where people wore hoods and robes that weren't white like normal, but black and red. Meetings that were more like rituals. Sacrifices, baby goats, baby pigs, baby babies, who knew what. 

The people who spread these stories tended to be folk like the Twisselmans and George Rose's jar of nuts. Crazy meth-heads who lived out past Horseshoe Road, in trailers with 10 cars in the front on blocks and lawn mower parts everywhere.

If they said there were babies being killed out in the woods it was probably because they were getting mixed up with one of those awful movies Myrna liked to watch on Netflix. He couldn't stand them, all those bright red and pink bits of fake flesh and intestine smashed all over the screen while girls ran around in panties acting surprised. 

All them people watched that kind of filth. Every time he had to answer a call out there one of them would have a TV on with something godawful on the screen, or they'd have a bunch of posters haphazardly taped  up. Naked women with chainsaws coming out of their lady parts, or clowns, razor-teeth bared, blood smeared all over their grinning, demonic faces. Dwayne couldn't imagine what kind of dreams the kids who lived in these houses must have.

That's who believed in witches, He thought. Looney-tunes on drugs. Not regular people and certainly not the deputy sheriff of the Meadowood Police Department.




Mount Pleasant

When a rat-fucking son-of-a-bitch like Ed Horne turns up dead there's two things for certain. 
Ain't nobody gonna be real surprised. 
Ain't nobody gonna be real sorry, neither.


The cottonmouth had built it's nest under the porch next to the pump house. Alta Maye could smell it in the cool of the morning when she went out to hang laundry. Better tell Ed to get the cedar oil and take care of it before she got too comfortable and hatched her eggs. Once the snake had something to protect, the smell of the oil wouldn't be strong enough to keep her away and the last thing Alta needed was a den of babies starting to slither out into her back yard where the girls could get at them. Nettie Lou was too little to know better than to touch and Doris Lee wasn't smart enough.

She picked up the first set of sheets and started stringing them, clasping each yard with a wooden pin that had a small piece of muslin wrapped around the pinch to keep her linen from getting rust marks. Some women used the fancy ones. French, her mama called said. No metal, only a smoothly-carved piece of wood that looked like a person, with it's round head and straight body. They never rusted or fell apart.

Alta had begged Ed for a few down at Foxworthy's and he'd finally given in after the salesgirl who took them out of the notions cabinet winked at him and told him that she liked his tie. Good ol' boy Ed came out then, smiling, and nodding as if buying his wife nice things was as natural act for him as putting on his wingtips. The last present he'd given her was in March when he'd raped her after a night out with Walter Stor and she'd gotten pregnant with Nettie Lou. Should she tell the salesgirl about that night? she wondered, just to see how fast the twinkle would leave those green eyes of his, and they'd all see the real Ed Horne? The one who kicked her in the stomach when she told him she was pregnant after that night and promptly went to spend the rest of the evening with Cleta Ruth and her girls down at the whorehouse she ran in Mt. Zion. That guy was a real treat.

Taking the bag from the girl without a word, Alta left the store, following her husband like a mongrel trailing a butcher home for scraps. He always walked just a little too fast for her to keep up. If she didn't try, she had no way of knowing if he'd wait for her by the post office or drive off in the Ford and make her walk the four  miles back out the farm road to the house, hay-balers and onion trucks flying by close enough to lift her dress and shake her insides. She'd had to do it a few times in the past year as his mood had worsened and the only pleasure he seemed to get from life came at the expense of her dignity.

Back at the farm, Ed settled into his chair to listen to the news and Alta went out back to see how well her hard-won treasure worked. She found that every time she tried to slide the pin down over the nightgown she was using to try them,the pin would hold for a just a second, and then the gown would slip right out onto the wet lawn.

It figured.


"Hey Earl! We got us a floater!"

The sun was coming up over the east end of the lake and Earl Grady was cleaning styrofoam coolers on the back dock at the Happy Hooker Bait and Tackle.

He'd just rinsed out the one for crawdads while he considered his date last night with Ada Peach. He wasn't thinking about the actual date. That had gone just fine. Better than fine, really. She'd worn that sundress with the cherries on it, and let him take her all the way out to Wilson's to hear that fella from Knoxville play the guitar.

He brought her back to her mama's at a respectable 11:30 and she'd just about jumped out of the car while it was still running without giving him so much as a peck on the cheek. Earl went home and locked himself inside the bathroom with the Spring co-ed edition of Playboy. Hugh Hefner never had to go home and wax his own Jackson, Earl thought, while he'd flipped through the pages looking for that redheaded Buckeye with the freckles.

Ruby Witcher kept telling him that Ada still had a thing for Bobby Foster and until that thing was just an ick and a bad hair day, he could forget about dating Ms. Peach. That was her way of saying 'forget about that blond piece of trash, Earl, and think about me, instead' but for all his ability to fix a motor, he was dumber than a box of rocks when it came to women.

Ruby's efforts were further wasted as he remembered the way the curve of Ada's neck had looked as he stood behind her watching the band set-up.. He could almost smell the cherries coming off that tiny bit of real estate just behind her ear that stayed hidden all the time by her long, blond curls. She'd put it up after the third song, when the crowd started to sway with the music, and Wilson's fresh batch of moonshine had begun to loosen the ties of the nice Baptist boys who lined up to dance with Cleta's girls. 
 Earl finished with the cooler and went over to the edge of the dock where Gale was busy jabbing a landing net at something in the water.

His brother was right. It was a body.

This wasn't the first time the Happy Hooker had played the River Styx for a good citizen of Jefferson County. There was two summers ago when Glen Parker fell into the canal trying to get his wallet back. The current sucked him right under and pushed him into the beaver dam behind the H.E.B. He rolled around for a few days before he floated past the bait shop and got stuck in one of the traps Gale had set to catch snapping turtles.

The biggest one ever found in the swamp weighed 102 pounds. It was brought in just past Wilson's behind the old Conoco depot. Gale was sure he'd seen some bite marks on the cypress knobs down there that were too big to be nutria. That meant one of those old grannys was still lurking down under those logs waiting to be turned into a freezer full of soup meat. When Gale saw the trap sunk so far down into the mud, he'd gotten real hopeful, but it was just old Glen flapping around. It was hard to not be disappointed.

Then there was last April. Gale was wiping down the deck of the Huckins and Earl was over in Texarkana looking at some fancy lures. The salesman who came up twice a month promised that they looked so real that the other flies would try to land on them to mate and Earl had decided to see for himself. The salesman had been out of most of his samples, "that's yer proof right there, Mr. Grady" so Earl had made the trip even though it meant leaving Gale in charge. This was worrisome because he was likely to go home for lunch, put on The Guiding Light while he ate his sandwich, and not come back, leaving the tanks to boil in the afternoon sun. 



 After Ed's funeral, there were a few callers to the farm, offering to turn the field and cut and cord the wood for winter. Alta was amused. She appreciated the extra sets of hands but she had no interest in the rest of their parts.

It had taken her 16 years to be rid of that man and his mess and she had no intention of being subject to someone's ill temper or dirty coveralls again. Still, Esper kept coming around.

His wife Millie had gotten sick just before Christmas and was dead from lung cancer by Easter. When he came to see if he could change the chain on the plough, she had felt sorry for him and invited him in for coffee and some biscuits.

Five years of baked good and home repairs later, they admitted that there was more than just neighborly reciprocation happening and he asked her to marry him one Sunday morning after church. Ed hadn't even asked. Just took her down to the courthouse, put the paper in front of her and told her he'd buy her a used Ford and a new washer if she'd sign it.

When she thought back to that day, she realized she should have flipped the two. She'd have had an excuse to not do the laundry and a car that could have driven her as far away from that damned farmhouse as she could go.

Maybe to California to see Marie, who was writing home to tell about the high life she was living with that mobster she kept calling a businessman.Why would a grown man with a perfectly good name like Benjamin want to be called Bugsy?