by super sleuth
Life and death hangs in the balance, and the only witness is the witch's broom.
THE WITCH'S BROOM
The old dilapidated farmhouse silhouetted against the golden rays of the setting sun, stood alone and abandoned. The rickety old structure, once alive with the sounds and laughter of many generations, now remained as quiet as a tomb. The only sounds came from the howling wind and the occasional small creatures that scurried across the floor in search of food and warmth.
Years of neglect had taken its toll on the once beautiful structure. A leaky roof and rotting floor boards made any entry into the sad old house extremely dangerous. Half hung slatted, black shutters bang against the crumbling facade, as the forceful winds blow through the broken glass windows. The house seems to moan in pain as darkness engulfs the land. The creaking doors swing and shake as if unseen hands are trying to force entry into the abandoned building. A feeling of despair lingers in the air above the lifeless dwelling. The wrap around porch is littered with several broken cast off rockers, and a small, rotting three legged wicker table. An old ragged Log Cabin Quilt, lay dry rotting like a pile of discarded rags near the unhinged front door.
Crumpled leaves litter the floor boards. The many years of dust, dirt and neglect converged to form a barrier against the outside world. The peeling paint and shredded wall paper, hang loosely and flap in the breeze as if beckoning to an unseen intruder. The tears of the house are evident in its water stained walls and ceilings.
As you enter the front door, you are greeted by a large, dusty, stone fireplace that takes up a good portion of the back wall, and the shabby remains of the front parlor. The minimal amount of furniture that remained, is either broken or badly water damaged. The dusty sheets that covered each piece of furniture for protection, had either blown off onto the floor, or dry rotted from exposure to the elements. The faded rose, floral print couch has a large dark stain on the center cushion.
To the left side of the room, is a flight of stairs leading to the upstairs bedrooms. The three bedrooms are all small and sparsely furnished. The pink flowered curtains are all tattered and faded. Several curtains hang half in and half out of the windows, flapping randomly as gentle gusts of wind toss them in the chilly evening air. Some of the curtain rods dangle precariously, its heavily weighted drapes almost seem destined to succumb to the forces of gravity. The smallest of the three rooms contain a handmade, old wooden crib, and a cane back bentwood rocker.
Back downstairs, to the right of the front parlor, is a pocket door that leads to the kitchen. The kitchen is a large room, and was the heart and soul of the house. Here the family gathered together for meals, discussed chores and figured up the finances.
A large, heavy, rustic oak table is the centerpiece of the room. Underneath the years of dirt and grime on the once proud table, reveal the identities of its previous owner. Carved into the table, is a heart with the initials J. J. and D. J. and under the initials is the name Michael. Worm holes mingle with numerous nicks and cuts made from John's knife as he gouged into the table while struggling with his tortured heart. John and Dora Jenkens lived and died in this old house, and it is said, that their ghosts still haunt the old homestead.
A black, cast iron wood stove stands in the center of one wall. The once proud stove, now rusted, has an old abandoned straw nest hanging out of its broken vent pipe. Spiderwebs seem to be everywhere, and mouse turds littered the floor and tabletop. An old icebox stands alone in a corner of the kitchen. Leaning up against the icebox is a small straw broom with half its straw bristles missing, apparently taken away by the mice and birds to build their own little love nests.
Dora bought the old broom from another old farm that was being sold at auction. The auctioned farm was said to have been the home of three sisters. It was believed that the sisters practiced the dark arts. The neighbors called them witches. The only time the sisters were ever seen was when they went to town to buy supplies, and then only one sister ever went to town at a time. The gossipy neighbors said two sisters always stayed home so no one could break into their home and steal their precious magical potions.
One day the sisters just up and disappeared. The house and land were sold at auction so the bank could recoup its losses from the defaulted loan. Dora didn't believe in witches or any of the other ridiculous stories, so she bought the much needed broom at a very reasonable price. The broom seemed just like any other normal broom. It was strong and had a full compliment of straw bristles.
"Well broom, let's see what you can do. This is a big house and it will take a good strong broom to keep it clean. This is a chore I hate doing. I wish you could clean by yourself," laughed Dora as she swept the kitchen floor. It swept up the dust and dirt better than any other broom she ever had, and considered herself lucky to have made such a good purchase.
As the months went by, Dora discovered that her floors never seemed to get dirty anymore. She seemed to be sweeping less and less often. She attributed this to the wonderful new broom. It didn't seem to leave any dirt behind whenever she swept. What she didn't know, was that when she went to sleep the broom would clean the whole house from top to bottom. It would sweep all the floors and knock all the cobwebs off the walls. The broom seemed to do whatever its owner wanted it to do, all they had to do was ask. It was a happy time for the broom. The three sisters had never let it clean, most of the time it sat idle in a closet.
Dora soon found herself with more and more time on her hands, so she sewed a beautiful red, green, blue and white floral Log Cabin Quilt for their bed. When her neighbors saw the beautiful quilt, those that could afford it commissioned her to make them a quilt. They would supply the fabric and Dora would cut and piece the quilt together. Each quilt took her several months to complete. The extra income helped them get through the hard times.
Things seemed to be looking up for the young couple. John's crops of corn and soybean were almost ready to harvest. The sweet corn harvest in the spring yielded enough to get them through the summer and winter months, with enough money to set up a nursery for the new baby's arrival. In the fall, the winter crops provided a little nest egg to put in the bank for future emergencies. Dora set up a pumpkin stand, and John made a sign for it and set it out in front of the house.
"Hello, Mrs. Conrad. How are you today?" Dora asked the new neighbors that, moved in down the road.
"We just stopped by to purchase several pumpkins. Do you know that you have the biggest and most perfect pumpkins we've ever seen?"
"I don't know if they're perfect but we have been very lucky this year. All our crops were healthy and disease free. The corn was as sweet as can be. The weather was perfect for growing and our yield was more then we expected, and we had an abundance of pumpkins and gourds."
"Not everyone fared as well as you did, Dora. The Wilson's, two miles down the road lost half their winter crop to a small tornado two weeks ago. Mr. and Mrs. Munos, across the road from them, lost part of their crop to a flood, only last week. Count your blessings, especially with the young one coming.
"We heard about that, I sent a basket of fruit over, and John went to see what he could do to help. It was a good thing the tornado missed the house and barn. It's better to lose some crops than to lose your home, or even worse, your life."
"Yes, that's true. How much do I owe you for the pumpkins and the gourds Dora? These will make great pumpkin pies, for the holidays.
"That will be twelve dollars please, and thank you for stopping by, I enjoyed chatting with you, it can get so lonely at times with John out in the field all day."
"I know what you mean, Charlie is gone all day working at the bank, so I cook and clean all day with no one to talk to. Good-day Dora."
"Good-day to you too." Dora smiled and waved as she watched Mrs. Conrad walk to her car."
Time seemed to pass by quickly for the young couple. Michael was born in January during a heavy snow storm. Four foot drifts were piled along the front of the house and access to the barn was almost impossible. The country roads had not been plowed, and no cars were getting through. All the power and the phone lines were down. The only heat and light to be had came from the fireplace downstairs and the and the cast iron stove in the kitchen. Two oil lamps on the end table cast flickering light on the walls. They stayed in the front parlor to keep warm by the fire where John had to take charge and deliver his first born son.
Dora screamed in pain as her contractions got stronger and closer together. Beads of sweat built up on her face. It's a good thing they went to classes at the hospital, but the classes didn't teach them what to do in case of a birth in a snow storm with no doctor or midwife in attendance.
As each contraction hit with a vengeance Dora pushed hard, and John would wipe her face with a damp towel and talk to her soothingly between each agonizing bout of pain.
"Rest honey, save your strength. The baby is almost here. I can see the head, just a few more pushes and we'll have our son."
Dora's smile was replaced by a painful grimace as the next cramp tore at her abdomen.
"Push honey, push hard."
"You push," Dora screamed back at him, "Lets switch places."
"Not me," he laughed, " I can't stand pain."
Dora's strength was ebbing. He could see that she could barely keep her eyes open. All she wanted to do was sleep, and Dora nearly passed out from exhaustion. John began to panic as he watched her abdomen tighten in the firelight, but Dora did not push. Her face was pale and still.
"Help me Dora, I can't do this without you," he screamed as he slapped her on the cheeks. "Please wake up, we need you to fight. Stay with me honey, it's almost over, one more push should do it."
Dora slowly opened her eyes, gritted her teeth and pushed.
"That's it honey, just a little more, and then I can grab his shoulders and help you the rest of the way. You're doing great. Got him, my God Dora, he's beautiful."
John washed away all the blood, cut the umbilical chord and tied it off with a small rubber band. He then wrapped their new baby in towels and handed him to his exhausted wife.
"Why isn't he crying?" she asked, "All babies are supposed to cry. Make him cry John. He's not crying, he's not breathing. We have to get him to a hospital, or he won't make it."
"The roads are blocked, there is twelve inches of snow on the ground. I don't think the old Ford pick-up will make it. We'll get stuck out there, the snow isn't letting up"
"We have to try Dora screamed," as the tears streamed down her face. "He's turning blue, Oh God! He's not breathing, John help me, help me please!"
But there was nothing they could do. Michael died in Dora's arms just two hours into his life. The storm continued to raged on outside, just as an unearthly wail pierced the air on the inside.
Dora's life seemed to hang on by a thread. The birth was difficult, and exhausting, and she continued to bleed long after giving birth. Her will to live died that stormy night, and by the time the storm had passed and the sun came out, Dora too had joined her son. John was left alone to mourn them both.
With the arrival of the morning sun came the plows, and the repair crews mending the damage caused by the snow storm. By mid afternoon the phone lines were working and so John called for an ambulance.
When the paramedics arrived they found Dora and her baby dressed and ready to go. They were wrapped in the quilt Dora had made for the bed where they first created little Michael.
As they placed the mother and son on the gurney, the paramedics removed the quilt and handed it to John. After closing the doors, the ambulance sped away.
John just stood there looking down the driveway at the receding vehicle. As the tears rolled down his cheeks he wiped them away with the corner of the quilt.
"Good-by my loves, I'll be with you soon." Dropping the quilt to the floor of the porch, he turned and walked slowly into the house. He called his lawyer and told him to make sure that the mortgage and taxes were paid every month, and asked if he would make all the necessary funeral arrangements. He wanted them to be buried in the family cemetery behind the hill in back of the house. Generations of Jenkens were buried there, it was only fitting that it be their final resting place too.
He then called Mr. Conrad at the bank and explained the situation. "There are insurance policies in my safety deposit box. I want you to give them to my attorney, he'll know what to do with them. His name is among all of my papers. I have already called him. He is waiting for you to call him back and set up a meeting. Good-by Charlie."
"Good-by John. Is there anything my wife and I can do for you."
"No, I don't think so." And hung up the phone.
John sat down at the kitchen table and took out his pocket knife. Into the table top he carved the name Michael under the initials J.J. and D.J., he then carved a heart around all three names. He gently kissed his finger tips and lovingly traced his fingers along the carved lines.
With tears streaming down his face, he placed the point of the knife on his left wrist, pressed deeply and pulled the knife toward him, Piercing his skin and slitting the artery lengthwise. As he watched his blood gush out with each weakening beat of his heart, a smile formed on his lips.
"Wait for me my darlings, I'll be with you both soon." Closing his eyes, he laid his head down on the table covering the heart, as his life slowly ebbed away his hand slipped and dangle by his side. What remained of his life, pooled there on the kitchen floor.
Leaning against the ice box, the witch's broom looked on in sadness. The only witness to the tragedy, could tell no one. With no master now to tell it what to do, it remained idle, and waited.