I’ve been reading Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams and he introduced each story by writing a bit of background about it and how it came to be. He describes the process as needing to find a cup and handle, and then putting them together to create something that works.
A few years ago I was driving through my hometown and walking down the street was this old lady and a few feet in front of her was one of the roundest, fattest cats I’ve ever seen. It was unexpected and hilarious. I tucked the scene away, knowing it would come in handy at a later date. Earlier this year I received a text from a good friend with an concept for a story, a witch who steals laughter. Almost immediately, I knew I had both my cup and handle and that is how this story began.
This is the first witch story I’ve written this year and I think it will be one that receives more attention in the future and possibly added to my book (eee!!!).
Her stocking-covered flesh oozed between the thick straps of her orthotic sandals as she waddled up the sidewalk. Gnarled hands gripped tightly to a walker she stole from the man who lived down the street from her. She didn’t need it’s assistance but she knew it added to the charade. Last night she added sparkly cat stickers to the frame, they covered up the name Cooper and added just the right amount of color to the prop.
Her shadow fell hard against the pavement and sweat slid over the dents and grooves that made up her face. A few feet in front of her stark outline was the boulder-like shadow of her cat. Frank’s mass of fat and fur waddled over the cracked pavement in a comical performance. This was, of course, all part of her plan.
Single file, they made their way up the block like camels through a desert. Fragrant sour cabbage filled her nostrils. While it was one of her favorite dishes, the scent wasn’t as pleasant when seeping up from beneath the layers of her loose cotton dress and wool cardigan.
Cars slowed as they passed, laughing and pointing as the pair cautiously made their way over the broken path. She nodded and waved at each car, gaining strength from their smiling faces. She took only a little from these victims, such a small amount that they would never miss it nor feel it.
Rainbows danced off of the cartoon cat stickers under the late morning sun. Her grip on the walker loosened as her weathered body soaked in the giggles bouncing on the hot air around her. She felt her body grow stronger; younger. Over the years she experimented with a variety of tactics, but she always favored the ones that involved Frank. Once a mere tool used to her benefit, she had now grown quite fond of the cat. His plump frame welcomed the fuel she required, he made this process easy on her and for that, she was grateful.
There was once a time when she would steal from one soul at a time. Spells woven to squeeze every ounce of happy chatter from her victims and leave them a black withered shell to wander their remaining years lost in perpetual melancholy. And, while that would always be the method she favored, unwelcome attention followed closely beside it.
Her heart quickened as she approached her final destination. It was nearly noon and she knew she would only need a few minutes to restore the last five years of aging. The wheels of Mr. Cooper’s walker twisted sideways before straightening over the horizontal lines of the crosswalk. She lifted the light frame back up onto the curb and followed Frank through the opening in the chain-link fence. She spun the walker around, pushing the wheels up to the metal lattice and eased herself onto the hard plastic seat. Frank lazily looked back over his shoulder at the witch and flopped hard against the tarmac rubbing his whiskers against the warm ground. The school bell sounded and within seconds children spilled from the doors. She lifted her chin to the sun and sucked in all of their delighted squeals.