|The Miser's Wife
by Lisa McCourt Hollar
Penny, Penny, the miser wife,
Killed her children ‘neath the knife.
She cooked them in a pot of stew
And served them with a vat of brew.
When her husband consumed his meal,
Then the truth she did reveal.
Her husband cried and gnashed his teeth,
His father’s heart seized by grief.
Silent, silent, shushed his wife,
Killing her husband ‘neath her knife.
She cut his tongue to stop his cries,
Their marriage ending with his demise.
They hung her ‘neath the hangman’s tree,
Though her evil soul still roams free.
Hunting the child that survived that night,
Hiding from her, silent wit fright.
Hide, hide, from the miser wife,
Lest you die beneath her knife,
Don’t let her hear your cries of woe,
Or she’ll take your little toe.
Tia held her hand over her mouth, holding in the scream that she felt building inside. Blinking back tears, she pushed her back up against the wall as the old woman walked past her hiding space. The woman stopped and Tia held her breath, certain the witch could hear her heart hammering in her chest. The hag glanced around, a confused look on her face. Suddenly she grinned, revealing her rotten teeth. Cackling, the raspy laugh sending shivers down Tia’s spine, the hag peered towards the bed. Tia nearly pissed, the woman knew she was there!
The heavy boots the witch wore sounded loud as she walked across the floor. The closer the witch came to the bed, the more frightened the girl became. Searching out her brother, who lay on the floor across the room, she stared into his eyes. He was dead, killed by the Miser’s Wife, but she still found strength in his empty gaze. He had died protecting her. When they’d heard the witch coming, Jonathan had shoved her under the bed and told her not to make a sound. Then he had gone for the knife the woman had on the table.
They shouldn’t have been in the house. Why had they taken up the dare? That Lizzie Gold was so mean. “I bet you are too chicken to go into the Miser’s house. You know his wife is a witch and killed their children for food.”
“That’s just a mean rumor,” Tia had said. Her father had told her that the people in town were superstitious and wanted someone to blame for the disappearance of the children. “My daddy says it’s a bear or cougar.”
“You’re just chicken,” Billy, Lizzie’s brother, mocked.
“We’ll do it,” Tia said.
“I’m sorry Jonathan,” she thought towards her brother. “I shouldn’t have let Lizzie get to me. It’s all my fault.”
The witch stopped by the bed, her boots just inches from Tia’s face. Scrunching her eyes shut, the girl waited, expecting to be drug out from beneath the bed. Instead, she heard the scraping sound of a drawer being open.
“Now I gotcha,” the old woman cackled.
Tia opened her eyes, relief flooding her as the woman’s boots moved away from the bed. Maybe she was getting ready to leave again. Once she was gone, Tia planned to bolt from the place and run as fast as she could back home. She would tell their father what had happened and the town would come for the witch. She wondered what had happened to Lizzie and her brother. Had they seen the witch coming and run back to town for help? Maybe her father was on the way. She could only hope.
The woman opened the door, but instead of hearing her boots leave the cabin, Tia heard something being dragged in. She watched the woman’s boots shuffle backwards as she pulled whatever it was across the floor. Then Lizzie’s face came into view, followed by Billy’s. A strangled cry escaped Tia’s mouth when she saw her two friends, a trail of blood followed them across the room.
The woman stood up and looked towards the bed. Tia clamped her hand tighter, praying she hadn’t heard her. Turning back towards the children she’d murdered, the witch bent down and picked Billy up. Tossing him onto the table, she bent over his body and began to hum.
Tia couldn’t see what she was doing. Inching closer to the edge of the bed, she risked sticking her head out just enough so she could see. The witch’s back was to her. She was taking the knife and working it under Billy’s skin. She had seen her father do this before with the bear he had killed last winter. She was skinning him!
Horrified, Tia pushed herself back against the wall, trying to muffle the tears that were falling. She watched Billy’s skin fall to the ground, similar to a snake shedding his own covering. Then the witch picked up Jonathan and did the same with him and then finally Lizzie.
When she was done, the woman picked the skin up and moved across the room. Tia heard the door scrape open and the woman’s heavy steps on the porch outside. Waiting a few moments to make sure she was gone, Tia scooted out from under the bed. Tia peered out the window. The way towards the woods and back to town was clear. Relieved, she threw the door open and sprinted towards home.
They men from the town came. The witch didn’t even fight them as they took her from her home. She was cooking a stew. When Tia’s father put in the ladle and lifted some out for inspection, a bony finger was found sticking out of the concoction.
“Back here,” someone yelled. Dropping the spoon, Thomas went out the door and around back. The woman had a clothes line up, spread between two trees. Hanging from the line were the strips of skin, held into place by clothespins. The clothespins themselves were made from bones.
Word Count: 989