• • •
An unholy glob of brownish mucus leaves the witchy woman’s mouth spotlessly, crashes dangerously close to Harrison’s right loafer. He takes a step back, as does Libby. The witchy woman uses the opportunity to go on the offensive. She steps towards them twice and her odor pushes them back another two steps. Now the witchy woman is smiling – she has them right where she wants them.
“You kiddies ain’t from around here, are you?” she creaks, her voice sounding like a leaky faucet.
Libby’s eyes light up. “No, we’re not! How did you know??”
The witchy woman’s eyes move up and down each of their bodies individually. Harrison and Libby take the chance to do the same to the witchy woman, and we shall join them in their mutual judgment of one another. The witchy woman is draped in a black cowl which seems to extend up from her black wool sweater. Her legs are covered by a skirt, an ancient skirt, thick, one made of stained burlap or something else just as wicked. The bottom hem of the awful skirt thing is torn, frayed, tattered, soaked with mud, stained an uncomfortable earthy brown.
The outsiders, however, are dressed all fancy-like for their drive through this rural village beyond the outskirts of Bur City. Harrison’s wearing penny loafers, his classic browns, beneath caramel slacks and a riveting red blazer with what else but a black buttondown with white buttons. Libby is wearing a thin white sundress and only a thin white sundress and she doesn’t care who knows because her OnlyFans followers paid her very well to pull this little stunt and when it’s all done and over with she can buy herself a parka factory if she fucking pleases.
“Just a hunch,” crones the witchy woman. “What you think you have the wiles to buy and possess is The Nineteen’ninety-five Longaberger Pottery Gingerbread Country Cottage set. Not a cookie mold, as you so beliriantly put it.”
“Um…” injects Harrison, an English major. “Beliriantly isn’t a word, Ma’am.”
“Irregardless, the Longaberger mold is a rare collectible, it’s individually numbered and only a limited number of ‘em exist. I’m going to need… I’m going to need seventy-four dollars for it.”
“Seventy-four dollars?!?!!??!” booms Libby, her eyes burning hotter than the oven she’s determined to use in the baking of a gingerbread country cottage with this witchy bitch’s Goddamn fucking cookie mold. “How are we supposed to get dinner and drinks on the way back to Bur City if we pay you seventy-four dollars for the cookie mold?! That’s way too much!”
The witchy woman folds her arms and smiles a toothless smile. “And yet the price holds firm. You two citiots have a nice day now.”
A Very Large Tip
“…and if you liked that, you’ll love this: she called us citiots, yet another non-word. The audacity of her… preposterous! ”
“You got that right,” says a voice somewhere in the bar.
Harrison looks out the corner of his eye, sees the bartender. He’s washing a glass at the other end of the counter. Harrison was talking pretty loud into his phone, couldn’t have been very hard for him to eavesdrop. The ladies sitting in the booth next to the door probably heard his conversation, too. Libby probably heard it, and she’s in the bathroom putting down enough toilet paper to sit on the toilet and not need to shower off in the sink afterwards.
“Listen Dally, I’m going to get back to my drink. Next time we’re in Wuester we’ll give you a call, we’ll all get together like the old times. Yep. All right, enjoy your night.” click “You go into Wuester much, ‘tender?”
“I do,” as the burly man moves closer, glass and rag in hand. “I live out there, know most of the folks. Sounds like you went by old Meredith’s place.”
“She sure presented like a Meredith. She wa–”
“Who’s Meredith?” says Libby, back from the bathroom.
“The fine old lady you folks attempted to barter with today.” The bartender puts his glass down. “Wuester’s a small town, not a whole lot to do. Some folks like to mess with the outsiders. You two just have to prove you’re not a nuisance.”
He walks out from behind the counter and disappears into a door on the far end of the room, then comes back a moment later with a jar in his hand. He places the jar on the bar between Harrison’s Malibu sunset and Libby’s cosmo.
“You go back and give this to Meredith, tell ‘er Grit says he wants the gingerbread mold. She’ll give it to you.”
“Just like that?” asks Harrison skeptically.
“Just like that,” confirms Grit, and that, hypothetical reader, is how you earn yourself a very large tip from the citiots who leave the confines of their concrete jungles. “But you two want to be careful cruisin’ around in Wuester. There are folks living in the deeper parts of town you don’t want to share an airspace with, and they just love to invite random innocent folks to their twisted properties with garage sales. Y’never know what kinds of shit you might catch buyin’ in deep Wuester, take it from me. I come across a lot of those folks in my line of work.”
“As a… bartender?”
Without blinking, without faltering, without skipping one beat, the bartender answers, “Yes. As a bartender.” He picks up his glass, “You folks enjoy that gingerbread mold,” and walks.
As they’re dismounting from the stools, Libby and Harrison notice the four ladies in the booth staring at them. They make no attempt to hide. If anything, the stares only get more intense when the citiots are looking their way.
“Shall we?” Libby asks.
We shall, Harrison answers without speaking.
They can see her staring at them before Harrison has a chance to put the coupe in park. She maintains her eye contact as they walk up. Both of the citiots keep their eyes peeled to the ground.
“You’re back,” challenges Meredith, her feet planted firmly.
“We are…” squeaks Libby.
“We have this,” says Harrison, revealing the jar from behind his back. “And a message. Grit wants the gingerbread mold.”
Meredith’s glare sharpens, blade pressed to grindstone. One of her eyes closes. The other scans ‘em both individually, Libby first, Harrison second. Nobody says a fucking word.
Then, “Grit… is a good ‘man, citiots.” She turns, takes up the Longaberger kit, and hands it off. “You two make sure you get that to him.”
A moment of uneasy silence. The citiots are petrified.
“He warn you about Mahty, citiots?”
Libby isn’t sure why they aren’t in the car yet. They’re just standing here, they don’t need to entertain this wicked witchy woman anymore. They have the gingerbread mold, they can just go!
Harrison says, “He said there were some shifty characters deep in the town, yeah.”
Meredith closes her two eyes and nods slowly. “Y’all go get that Longaberger to Grit now, then skedaddle back to your city. Maybe don’t come out to Wuester during sale season, yeah?”
“Maybe we won’t come back ever again…” Libby mumbles, though she meant to keep it to herself.
“No… maybe you won’t,” Meredith agrees with a triumphant smile on her face. “Maybe you won’t… now gimme that fuckin’ moonshine and git!”
This has been the ninth story from Highdeas: The Lost Stories from the Seven Earths, a flash fiction anthology hidden in the back of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~