FICTION: The Witches of Water Valley

They call it Knit Club, I think because of the length of their needles. They convene porch-wise on Tuesday nights, the day of the week most frequently Halloween. Is it true they have a cauldron filled with vodka sodas? Please. Or that in photos their feet don’t touch the ground? Hard to say. They aren’t that different from you and I. They have tattoos and problems, some even have attorneys (might one of them be an attorney?). Their numbers change with the moon. They trade books on romantic poetry and apocalyptic feminism. They paint each other’s nails and curse their enemies, which are few. In the winter, they bundle up making it impossible to tell one from the other. In the summer, their gatherings go deep into the hot orange night.

What are these witches of Water Valley up to? It’s hard to say…

They play no music except when they want their children to dance. The children of Knit Club—feral overachievers lurking in chess clubs and science fairs, on the honor roll and in the principal’s office. The women abide male children but prefer the girls, perching camellias in their hair and smearing lightning bugs on their cheeks. Even those without children are good mothers.

All of this is what I can gather from the bushes or out in the driveway. I have not been invited to their dark extracurriculars. Some Tuesdays there must be a banquet; there are dishes left to be done in the morning. Other nights, they feed only on cigarettes and pink wine. Their dogs ignore men, but their cats are many and friendly. And who is their leader, their reverend mother, their queen? All seem capable. That one there once told me, be gone, dummy, be gone. That one there actually knits.

Yes, they smoke, can you imagine? In this day and age with their advanced degrees and earning potentials? Their long hair and aforementioned painted nails? Other anachronisms: their steel cups and gypsy kerchiefs and what, from a distance, could only be a leather bound Julian of Norwich (or is it Anne Frank? Michelle Obama?) They light their cigarettes from an aromatherapy candle, placed at the center of their circle, and leave ash in the thorny roses surrounding the porch. This is not a good place to eavesdrop.

And what would I want to hear? Something flattering, I suppose, some proof that the world revolved around me. I wouldn’t be the first skulking man to have this wish. But I can change. I can learn. The porch is their stage in this groundling town. Even the police are scared to pull them over when they leave, even though their blinker is out, their registration expired, their breath rancid with semillon.

Still, I’ve seen these witches on Saturdays, at some child’s birthday party. First, they bake then they sing in their primary color dresses. When the storm comes and the kids won’t get out of the bounce house and the forty mile per hour winds threaten to launch it and the sky is so black it’s green, these witches all just close their eyes and the inflatable thing settles to the ground. The rain doesn’t start until all the children are back on the porch.

It’s worth noting that I live with one of these witches. One Tuesday night she brought a cat home from Knit Club, which was not a black cat, but which was a brown and white and gray cat. In the mornings, it leaves us dead birds, and squirrels, and, once, a rainbow trout. Despite the town’s name, there are no cold water streams here. Only explanation: magic.

Sean Ennis is the author of CHASE US: Stories (Little A) and his flash fiction has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Grist, F(r)iciton, Hobart and Quarter After Eight. He lives in Mississippi.

Image: Weaving to the Moon, Marina Pallares, 2014

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