Sunday, October 26, 2014


She put her heart in a box every Tuesday and took it to the market.
It was a small box, because it was a small heart.
It sat on a bookcase in the corner of her living room for many years, and by the time it began it's weekly trip outside, it was not much larger than a tangerine.

She had tried keeping it in the freezer because she had read that this would keep the heart fresh and when she was ready to use it, it would be good as new, but the heart got a bad case of freezer-burn. She had to cut away a great deal of it and afterward decided that she should be careful with the piece she had left.

That was when she got the box.

It was a wooden rectangle, lined with turquoise silk. She liked how pretty the red looked against the bright blue cloth.

The heart now lived in the closet on a shelf, under a pile of band t-shirts that belonged to people who had borrowed it to write songs about. These people would always forget to return it and the heart would have to be retrieved from tables covered with dirty ashtrays or the bunks of tour buses where it had been tossed back and forth, like a football, between shows.

Her doctor had suggested bringing her heart out every week, as an exercise, and though this made her very nervous, she agreed to try. This doctor was very expensive and required the taking of three buses to get to his office, so she did not want to have made such effort for nothing. She chose Tuesdays and said she would let him know if she needed another appointment.

The first time she took the heart to the market she did not know where to put the box. The other people had fancy tables to display their hearts but she had only brought an apple in her backpack. She set her heart on a patch of ground that looked mostly clean, leaned against the railing of the staircase that led down to the Seafood Grotto, and waited.

Her heart was very quickly picked up by a boy with curly brown hair who liked the shape of the box. He took it home and tried to play video games with the it and get the heart make snacks for him but that is not what hearts are for.

When it didn't do what he wanted he threw it against the wall and shouted "this heart is stupid. I hate it. It doesn't do ANYTHING" He crammed it into a plastic grocery bag and brought it back to her. She took it to her room and put it back in the closet and waited a few more weeks until the bruises had healed and decided it was ready to be taken out again.

The next time she tried it, she made potential owners fill out a questionnaire. Which television shows they watched. The kind of charcuterie they got at the little deli around the corner from the market. One man had very good answers, ones that made her laugh so she agreed to let him take her heart back over the bridge to the big city he lived in. He really liked the heart, but he had only wanted one to look at every few days and perhaps remember what it was like to have one in the house. The heart got lonely and decided it would rather sit under a pile of shirts that were worn-in and comfortable than be pulled out to polish every so often, just enough to sparkle, and then be shoved back into a cabinet.

She had just about given up on her doctor's advice when she heard about a man who had a shop in the basement of the market. For a small price he would cast her heart in glass so it would stay the same forever. No more ache or pain. Always red and young and beautifully detached.

She took the box and her Virgin de Guadalupe piggy bank to the shop and asked the lady outside smoking a cigar if she was in the right place.

"Wanna have it just belong to you, right?" the woman said, "We get gals like you in here ALL the time. Usually they're much fatter than you or have a bunch of tattoos or Botox by now. Congratulations. That'll be sixty-five dollars. Cash or Discover card only."

She felt like this was a very good price to make sure the heart was fossilized and no further harm could come to it so she handed the lady three twenty-dollar bills and one five and opened the tinted glass door.

She was surprised to find herself in a room with a large square furnace burning in the center of it. She had thought it would be like dropping off something to get framed or gift-wrapped and she was not sure what to expect.

There was a large man with a beard and Mickey Mouse ears standing at the door of the fire. He looked like a bear dressed like a clown dressed like Santa and she liked him immediately.

"Hey, Ladybug" he growled at her, but in a nice way. "You lost? You don't look like you have a problem with your parts"

She didn't know how to answer. He was right. There were no problems with her parts. She just wanted to protect them.

She held out the box and said 'I wanted my heart to grow, but it didn't, so now I want you to save the part that is left'.

He took it from her and looked inside.

"That is a very nicely formed heart" he said to her. "Even the part that is missing is well-healed and seems to be working just fine"

"But every time I give it to someone they hurt it and it makes me sad. I just want you to put it in a glass and it won't feel that way anymore"

The man had seen girls like this before. And it made him glad that he had chosen a profession that really truly helped people.

"Leave it with me. It should be ready by 5"

She handed him the box and went to eat pizza and look in the windows of the antique stores that lined the bottom floor of the market.

A few hours later she had had three slices of sausage and mushroom, a piece of rum cake, a root beer, and purchased a brass bottle opener shaped like a monkey. She returned to the shop and knocked, since the shades were now pulled over the windows and the woman with the cigar was gone.

After several attempts, she started to worry that maybe leaving her heart in the basement with a strange bearded man was a bad idea when the door flew open and Mickey-Santa yanked her inside.

"Wait until you see it, " he howled with glee, "I've never done anything like this one!!!"
And he hadn't.

When a heart is immersed in molten silica, it incinerates. Most of his previous clients had been fine with having their organs resembling mesquite coals as long as it meant that they were never subjected to the pain that comes with having a fleshy, beating heart exposed to the world for it to kick until bloody.

This heart was different. When he cast it, it exploded into a crimson rainbow. The muddy brown of decay and the Crayola red of birth and intention and it swirled into purple and blue and then red again and it was beautiful.

It almost made him sad to give it back to her, but when he saw her face light up he knew that he had achieved what all artists hope for, and that is pure emotion.

She was very pleased with her new heart.

It was heavy and a thousand times more fragile than it had been before and yet it seemed so impenetrable and she knew she had made the right choice.

When she got home she almost put it back on the shelf in the closet but decide to put it on the windowsill instead.

Now that it couldn't be hurt anymore, it was time to let the light in.

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.