Beanbag Love

manwhofellinlovewithbeanbagJames Leroy Macklebee, now well into his seventies and feeling it, lived alone in a small downstairs apartment at the end of Yuletide Drive in a suburban city called Artemision, about a dozen miles northeast of Los Angeles. He was a widower, his dear wife Mildred having expired some years before, and although they’d had children — four of them, in fact — all lived far away, one in northern California, two out of state, and the fourth somewhere in Central or South America, perhaps in Costa Rica or Bolivia, he was no longer sure which, or if she was in fact in either of them, since this one, a daughter, rarely if ever communicated with either him or her siblings. She was the family vagabond. The remaining three confined their contact with him to periodic phone calls on his birthday and holidays. It wasn’t that they didn’t love him; just that life had tied them down in its own unique way.

After the untimely death of his beloved Milly — ironically the consequence of a turkey wishbone lodged in her throat several Thanksgiving Day celebrations before — Macklebee shown little inclination to remarry.

“Good lord, what for?” he would retort with a dismissive smirk when queried. “All the poor woman would get in return is a wizened old fart she sooner or later would have to nurse, hapless soul, or, more justifiably, rid herself of in the dead of night by means of a large pillow. Ha-hah!”

He would then pause, before extrapolating further, “Then it would occur to one or more of my kids, none of whom I’ve seen in years, to suspect foul play, and my ill-starred widow would conceivably be accused, arrested, tried, and convicted of premeditated murder and spend the rest of her miserable days in the slammer. And all because the poor woman took pity on me. No! I won’t put anybody through that.”

Macklebee, notwithstanding, did miss sharing a bed. He relished not only his wife, but also the warmth of her at his side. And since her death he often found it difficult to fall asleep at night. Reading ’til unconscious or a cup of warm milk just didn’t cut it.

And then one particularly chilly late autumn evening, crawling in between cold sheets with the dim hope that his own body heat would suffice, but didn’t, Macklebee, shivering, teeth chattering, decided it was probably high time to purchase an electric blanket. He simply didn’t have enough body fat anymore to keep him warm.

Until stores opened in the morning, however, he decided to employ instead as an emergency measure a couple of microwavable beanbags to warm his bed. These had belonged to his wife who had suffered periodically from sinus headaches and neck pain, and which she swore alleviated her. Macklebee climbed out of bed and rooted about in his wife’s dresser until he found both. One was what she had made herself from a seven-inch square coffee beanbag from Costa Rica — a present, no doubt, from the vagabond daughter — which she had emptied, then refilled with lentils and sewn back together. Macklebee remembered with a smile how she held it, heated, to her forehead, sighing with relief. The other was a store-bought 20-inch-long cloth tubular microwave heat pack with a rope handle on each end. No telling what its contents were, but they felt like plastic pellets. He wrapped the heat pack around the coffee bean bag and set them on high in the microwave oven for about three minutes. Then he trotted back to bed, stuffed them under the covers and crawled in behind them, switched off his bedside lamp, and cuddled them in positions that most warmed and comfitted his superannuated body from the cold.

Yowww! Too hot!” he skreighed three seconds later.

Macklebee scooted out of his bed making “yah-yah-ya-ya-ya-yah!” noises on the way and waited, shivering in the dark, allowing his makeshift heaters to cool down until they ceased to scorch him alive. Back in bed at last, he snuggled down anew.

“Ahhhh!” he sighed.

And fell in love.

Not immediately, of course. He had certain hurdles to overcome first, namely:

  • human to human love: (with the death of his wife and no successor or surrogate on the horizon, this was at present a moot point)
  • human to pet love: (only if not funky, freaky, frisky or ferocious)
  • human to fuzzy companion love: (only if platonic and non-allergenic)
  • human to doll love: (only if not kinky or kachina, i.e., sharp points)
  • human to bed love: (prayerfully if bed comfortable)
  • human to bed warmer love: (if the temperature cuddly)

Once these considered, accepted and surpassed, Macklebee succumbed to the Delilah enchantments of the coarse-textured beanbag and the sinewy, yet seductive microwave heat pack, and welcomed — nay, yearned — for nightfall as he’d never done before.

His passion for the warm inclusion of the beanbag at his left side, his right side, on his stomach, under his feet, against his cheeks, and then the gentle caresses of the cannular heat pack over his chest like the loving espousal embrace of his late wife, all these knew no bounds, leaving the old man in grateful rapture.

The police, together with the fire department and a nomadic ambulance, broke down his front door some days later and found James Leroy Macklebee dead in bed, a merciless Costa Rican coffee beanbag resting securely upon his face, and a cold-blooded tubular microwave heat pack wrapped around his neck.

No foul play was suspected. Yet it still made a good human interest story on the evening news and a brief but welcome respite from the mid-term elections.

Steve Pulley

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Breakfast With Shakespeare

Breakfast With Shakespeare
Parsnips Poindexter,
Food Editor of
“The Dogpatch Cuisinier Internationale”

breakfastwithshakespeareIt pains me greatly to say this, Dear Readers, but yesterday morning’s breakfast with Shakespeare turned out to be a bland bardish bust beyond belief, if I may extend the alliteration to its immoderate conclusion. First of all, the poet never said anything that I hadn’t already heard before…many times over! Highlights of our conversation went something like this:

“Mr. Shakespeare,” I gushed, “it’s truly an honor to have you over for breakfast.”

“That, madam, is a foregone conclusion,” he sniffed, buttering his toast.

Taken somewhat aback by his persnickety reply, I nonetheless offered him a plate of eggs Benedict. “I hope you enjoy it.”

“A dish fit for the gods,” he more amenably assured me with Ye Olde English exuberance, digging in without further ado.

Somewhat more mollified, “Coffee or tea, sir?” I offered.

He pondered an arched brow and pouting lips. “What the dickens? Coffee? Forsooth, I know not this curious beverage thou callest coffee. ‘Tis a brave new world with which you wish to snare me, milady? Ha-hah! But nay, nay, pray let it be tea, a beverage I do know a thing or two about.”

I poured, rolling my eyes mentally, wondering if the man was ever going to offer something more illuminating in the realm of food which I might share with you, my faithful readers. Instead, he continued with what I perceived a total non sequitur as I passed him a scone.

“True is it that we have seen better days and have with holy bell been knolled to church, and sat at good men’s feasts and wiped our eyes of drops that sacred pity hath engendered.”

He placed then a thoughtful finger to his lips, just touching the bottom of his nose, and with his opposing hand stroked his beard.

“I beg your pardon?” I said, blinking.

He smiled benignly at my ignorance, sipped the tea, then cried out, “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!”


“Devil incarnate! The tea hath burnt my hallowed tongue!” he roared, jumping to his feet.

“Oh! I’m so sorry!”

“Cold comfort, wretched creature!” he wailed. “Thou hast set my teeth on edge.”

Whereupon he slapped his Elizabethan toque ‘pon prodigious pate and stormed from my house swearing vile thespian epithets.

Alas, dear Readers, I am ashamed to report my failure to wrest from the Bard arcanum concerning his culinary indulgence for capons and Lenten pie, not to mention the significance in “Twelfth Night” when Andrew Aguecheek observes “Methinks sometimes I have no more wit than a Christian or an ordinary man has; but I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit”. Instead I heard but all-too-familiar Shakespearean platitudes and ill-humored affronts.

Next week: The French omelette: Egg’s leap to glory.

Bon Appétit!

Steve Pulley

Note: Not all, but most of Shakespeare’s dialog above are quotes from his plays. Food editor Parsnips Poindexter of the prestigious “The Dogpatch Cuisinier Internationale” has appeared in previous stories, notably “He Forced Me to Eat Haggis!”, “The Art of Dreaming”, and “Marshmallow Strewpots to Give Stewpots a Roasting?” The final line “The French omelette: Egg’s leap to glory” is a remembered quote of long ago (which may or may not be absolutely verbatim) from the late, great James Beard.

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Dead Men Pare no Nails

deadmenparenonailsDrastica Lamore, wearied of past hebetudinous Halloweens, decided this year in her new diggings to do something radically different for a change, something glamorous, clamorous, amorous, cancerous, slanderous, rancorous, cantankerous (or otherwiserous) about it. Her real name was not Drastica Lamore, of course, rather her Halloween name. The rest of the year hers was Mrs. Millicent Dumont, a rather mousy, unassuming straw-blond grass widow. That is to say, she was purportedly married, but her husband Ronnie Dumont never seemed to be at home to corroborate the fact. Since her move to the old McMillan place, no one in Millicent’s new circle of friends and acquaintances had yet to meet the man.

“Ronnie?” she’d say when asked, “Oh, gosh, he’s on a business trip again. I know! Where? Oh, let me see… I think he said he’d be in Katmandu all this month. That’s in Nepal, you know. Where Mount Everest and all those Himalayas are located? Goodness, no, he’s not climbing any of them! Ha-ha. Poor darling, he gets dizzy just going up an escalator. No, right now he’s working on some import/export deal…you know, mainly to do with carpets, clothing, hemp, leather goods, jute goods and grain? That sort of thing.”

In truth, Millicent had come up with “Katmandu” out of thin air, the title of an old song she’d always liked sung by Cat Stevens back in the ’60s (though she personally related more to his “My Lady D’Arbanville”: “this rose will never die”). This obliged her then to look up on Wikipedia where Katmandu was. Her alleged husband’s alternative business trips also took him to exotic-sounding cities like Marrakesh, Kabul, Calcutta, Istanbul, Djakarta, Seoul, Valparaíso, Cochabamba, and the like. Over time she’d become passably knowledgeable about a dozen or so countries to cover her elusive husband’s whereabouts. Over time she came to wish from her modest geographical sorties on the Internet that she could visit some of these places herself.

Millicent’s new circle of friends and acquaintances never challenged her story of the perpetually traveling spouse, at least not to her face. After all, didn’t the photographs of her purported husband gracing her living room seem to bear out his existence? That said, it did not stop them from speculating as to whether he in fact did live and breathe, whether Millicent really had a husband, once had a husband, never had a husband, or he was a figment of her overripe imagination. Whatever the scenario conjured up by friends and acquaintances and rendered by Millicent, the fact remained that Ronnie Dumont was not a physical presence in the neighborhood.

All this, naturally, had nothing to do with Millicent’s plans to make her Halloween this year something exceptional. And, naturally, trick-or-treat kids from the neighborhood would not be included in this portion of the festivities she’d contrived.

That evening, once her guests had arrived, and after she’d doled out the sweets and goodies to the kiddies, having properly frightened and delighted them with her grotesque Drastica Lamore witch costume, which included a small lighted pumpkin propped on one shoulder and a stuffed raven with glowing eyeballs on the other, she closed and locked the front door, switched off the porch light, and slowly turned to her invitees.

“Well, my lovelies,” she cackled, “now it’s our turn to party.”

Her guests applauded with enthusiasm. Most were similarly festooned in wierd masquerade, each stunningly out-of-the-ordinary glamorous, clamorous, amorous, cancerous, slanderous, rancorous, cantankerous (and a couple even otherwiserous), as petitioned by Drastica Lamore. They gamely acceded, somewhat surprised, however, that Millicent, whom most regarded as sedate and well-disposed, though hardly audacious, would ever host a Halloween party with this degree of exuberance. In any case, all costumes were garish, some scary, others alluring, a few hilarious, or even peculiarly outlandish, such as that of one oddball guest who showed up trick-or-treating as an alleged famous writer, leaving most, if not all, mystified scratching their heads. “Who the hell’s Steve Pulley?”

In the end, the Halloween party, with food, drink, song, reminiscing, story telling, dancing, games, much laughter and the like, turned out a total success and a wonderful cementing of friendships. At the stroke of midnight, and to end the party, Drastica Lamore turned down the living room lights and played Marilyn Manson’s creepy “This Is Halloween” on her stereo. When it was over, there were a few seconds of skittery laughter, then applause, and she turned back on the lights.

“Wonderful!” they cried. “Millie, this was absolutely stupendous! Best Halloween party ever!” and so on.

Millicent, delighted, smiled and expressed her warm thanks to all.

“Friends, before we finish and you return to your homes and families, I want to share one last thing with you, something that I suspect you’ve speculated about for some time now. Please, sit down…just for a few more minutes.”

Their curiosity piqued, they returned to their seats, all ears. Millicent swallowed nervously, then cleared her throat.

“As you by now know,” she began, “my husband Ronnie, in all the time I’ve lived here, has not made a single appearance.”

Heads bobbed all around.

“I gave out numerous excuses for his absence, usually surrounding numerous business trips to foreign countries.”

Everyone nodded at one another and at Millicent.

“Ahem, well the truth of the matter is, I’m afraid to say, Ronnie has been here all along. He hasn’t gone anywhere. Not to Singapore, not to Timbuktu, not to Kalamazoo.”

Brows arched, eyes bulged.

“I killed him. Murdered, actually. Was no accident. Uh-uh.”


“He’s buried in the basement, by the way. Underneath a bag of cement.”

“What! What-What!”

“Well, to be more precise, concrete.”

“Millicent!! You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, I am. I’ve already contacted the police.”

“In truth?”

“Scout’s honor — although to be honest, I’ve never been a Scout. Anyhow, because it’s Halloween, they thought it was a joke. I didn’t insist, but I said I’d call back tomorrow when they were ready to take me more seriously. I wasn’t planning to make a run for it, so they could take their time. They said fine.”

“Millicent…y-you’re putting us on, right?”

“Well, we could all go down to the basement and dig out the body, if you like, but I wouldn’t put you through that. It’s late, after all. And besides, concrete is a bitch to breach, you know. It’d take hours.”

“But Millicent, why? Why?”

“To be blunt, I found out that he’d been having a torrid affair.”


“He denied it at first, of course, but I knew it was true by his nails.”

“His nails? What on earth do you mean?”

“I realized instantly when he came home late, and then I saw his fingernails in the morning. They’d been neatly trimmed. They hadn’t been when he’d left earlier. And even if he had trimmed them himself, I would have known the difference. You see, he can’t snip nails worth a damn!”


“Those nails were impeccably trimmed, filed, buffed and polished to perfection. Only a professional who’d worked at a nails salon could do such a nice job. I confronted him with that irrefutable evidence. He finally admitted it was so. He confessed he’d been cheating on me all along with a cuticle hussy who worked at Gail’s Nails over on Keratin Street. And so I killed him.”

“Good lord, Millicent, it could have been a misunderstanding.”

“It wasn’t,” she said with finality. “Dead men pare no nails.”

After all had at last departed in total shock, Millicent turned off the lights again and retired to the back of the house, exhausted but very, very happy — even ecstatic — that all had turned out far better than she’d ever anticipated.

When Ronnie was due to return home Thursday from his extended sabbatical at Masoala National Park in Madagascar where he’d been working on some biodiversity studies, she would introduce him to everybody. Hopefully, they would take her Halloween prank in good grace and not sic the police on her before.

Steve Pulley

Posted in Stories | 2 Comments

A No-Frills Love Poem

Okay, I know you hate sappy lines
with all those blossomy frills
so hashed about that they’ve lost all their thrills,
to the point that you’d jump from the white cliffs of Dover
if I were so much as to get down on one knee
and roll over.

So how do I say, without waxing purple,
that you mean more to me than…
oh, wait!, nothing rhymes with purple,
unless, maybe, the sketchy curple,*
which wins no one any points
in love or walking with a hirple.†

Anyhow, you know, my cherished dove,
that far more than foxglove
it’s you whom I love.

Steve Pulley
started 4/22/2002; finished 10/24/2018
(some take longer than others…)

* Curple is defined as “The rump, the posterior”.
† Hirple is defined as “walking with a limp”.

Posted in Poems | 3 Comments

A Chamomile Crush

chamomilecrush.jpgIt’s no secret that I love chamomile tea. Well, to be sure, I like several kinds of teas, both herbal and black. I also enjoy some tea blends, my favorite being (ahem) one that I concocted myself: a loose-leaf Ceylon black tea with a pinch of “Montana Gold” (a spicy mixture of bush tea, cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, and oils of cinnamon and orange). But a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed relaxes me and, when suffering from insomnia, capable of putting me out within minutes. It’s true I’m not at all crazy for green teas, and among the black teas that I really can’t tolerate, Lapsang Souchong — which to some imparts a distinctive flavor of smoky pine, but to me imparts a distinctive flavor of warmed-over tar off a recently repaved street — tops the list. For the most part, however, I favor chamomile as a great bedtime tea.*

That said, and to be perfectly honest (in the interests of full disclosure, mind you), I slop up, morning, day and night, far more coffee (Costa Rican Terrazu being my favorite) than any tea.

In any case, one evening not long ago, after breaking open a new box of chamomile tea (Brobdingnagian Tea Delight) and letting a sachet steep in boiling hot water for a few minutes, to kill time until it was ready I began perusing all its package printed matter. When I flipped the box over, I noticed in small letters the words “Packed with pride by Regina B”.

“Packed with pride by Regina B,” I softly repeated aloud. And yet again, “Packed with pride by Regina B.”

For some bizarre reason I could in no way fathom, I found it inexplicably the sweetest thing I’d read on the back of a product box…ever. It raised the hair on the nape of my neck, gave me goose bumps, and made my heart flutter. I found tears trickling down my cheeks.

“My God,” I breathed, sniveling like an infatuated adolescent, “I think I’m in love with this woman.”

Okay…. Viewing this soberly, I ask you, who on earth becomes smitten by someone totally unknown simply on the basis of five words and an initial? Who is this magical witch named Regina B who has stolen my heart, sight unseen? And all because she’d packed a teabag box with pride? It’s insane, right? Of course it is!

And yet…and yet I truly believed I had!

I asked myself, should I have my head examined? Moi? Allow some shrink explain away with psychological mumbo-jumbo my miraculous crush on a perfect stranger who takes pride in packing a tea box? Never! One thing was certain: I had to speak with Regina B. That’s all there was to it, and the sooner the better.

Alas, it was far too late at night to call the Brobdingnagian Tea Delight Company, and not even a cup of their relaxing chamomile infusion could put me to sleep. Also, the question remained whether or not I would even be allowed to speak with Regina B when the company opened for business the next day. I’d sound like a straitjacket case, and I guess I couldn’t blame anybody for thinking so.

Next day, a Thursday, after I’d worked up enough foolhardy backbone to make the call, with trembling finger on the touch-tone and sweat upon the brow, I discovered to my utter chagrin that when I finally contacted the Bobdingnagian Tea Delight Company in the mid-afternoon, a recorded message informed me that it was closed for the day and to kindly call back tomorrow during business hours. That’s when it occurred to me to find out where the heck this outfit was actually located. For some incomprehensible reason, I had assumed that it was somewhere in California, where I live. After all, isn’t that where all chamomile tea companies are naturally located in this country?

I took another look at the label on the tea box. In effect, it was nowhere near California at all, but in the city of Milbridge, Maine, about as far east as you can possibly get and still call it part of the United States and not New Brunswick, Canada. Ergo, in a time zone three hours later than here. Egad, I had to wait yet another day! No, another three days! It was now 3:13 PM, Friday, in California, and the recorded message had also informed me that the Brobdingnagian Tea Delight Company did not operate on Saturday and Sunday.

Life can sometimes be so cruel, can it not?

Sweet Regina B! Be patient, my love!

Steve Pulley

* While chamomile tea does purport to have some interesting benefits, it should also be noted that for some people with certain kinds of allergies or health issues, it’s probably a good idea to check to see whether or not you should be slopping it up. You might wish to refer first to this Livestrong article for further information.

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Anonymous Phone Call

anonymousphonecallLizzy Pangborne, about to fix lunch, heard the phone ring. She did not have a smart phone in her hip pocket to answer on the spot. She was old school. All she had was an antique land line, which meant that she had to set down her fixings and traipse over to the phone to screen her auto-messenger reply machine before picking up.

“Hi,” said her recorded message. “You have reached the Pangborne residence at 555-7734. Please leave a message at the sound of the tone.”

There was a pause, a tiny bit of static, the sound of someone clearing the throat, and finally a voice.

“Good afternoon, uh… Ms. Pangborne, I presume? This is an anonymous phone call. I don’t plan to leave you a return number to call me back if you don’t respond now, so if you are listening, please pick up. Otherwise, I expect you will lose sleep tonight wondering why the devil the anonymous phone-caller called in the first place. Right now you are probably mulling over whether you should answer or not. You’re asking yourself, what does this lunatic want? Is he just another telemarketer trying to sell me something I more than probably don’t need? Is he going to attempt to con me out of my life savings? Is he just a prank caller, some lonely soul seeking a bit of sympathy? Or is he a dangerous psychopath preparing to stalk, trap, and in all likelihood ultimately murder me and then burn down the house? None of the above, I assure you.

“I can tell you this: I have never met or seen you before. This, therefore, is basically a random call. If you do not answer, then I will randomly dial someone else’s number. Why am I doing this, you might ask yourself? Let me very briefly explain before your answering machine runs out of recording space or you hang up first.

“Actually, as your friendly Anonymous Caller, I’m checking to see if you are okay, since you haven’t made any phone calls in the last twenty-four hours, and I want to make sure you’re okay. Sound creepy? Perhaps, but trust me, it’s a sincere inquiry.

“So, if you are okay, please pick up now and say ‘I’m okay’; or ‘I’m not here right now, but I’m still okay’, which doesn’t really make any sense at all, does it, and thus may be ignored as an option; or ‘I’m not okay. Please send someone over to rescue me ASAP’.

“If you do not respond, I will assume one of the following: You are not at home, so, obviously, you won’t be picking up; you are at home, okay, but not picking up; you are at home, not okay, but choose not to pick up; you are at home, not okay, but unable to pick up.

“Please pick up. This friendly anonymous phone call will terminate in ten seconds…unless, of course, you hang up before I do.”

Steve Pulley

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Fairy Tale

fairytaleOnce upon a time, but not so long ago, when Maria Sophia Salzwater was seven years old, she finally stopped believing in fairy tales. She had at last, after a prolonged period of uncertainty, troubling doubt and suspicion, come to the conviction that her grandfather was a certifiably impenitent congenital liar and therefore not to be believed about anything he said, in particular when the subject centered on fairies, goblins, ogres, demons, and their legion ilk.

“Mom,” announced Maria Sophia in a stage whisper to her harried, prematurely gray-haired, widowed mother in the kitchen, whilst meantime her grandfather snored blissfully away on a sofa in the den and out of earshot, “Gramps is not to be trusted.”

Mom, a widow whose name was Blanche Salzwater, and who was busy preparing dinner, glanced down at her daughter, managed a weary smile, and whispered back, “Oh, he’s not?”

Maria Sophia shook her head with conviction. “Nope. Not a single bit.”

Blanche passed the girl a bowl. “Here, help me peel these carrots while you spill the beans.”

“Beans?” Maria Sophia frowned, but reached for the peeler and a carrot and got to work.

“So, what’s up, darling? Why do you think your grandfather isn’t to be trusted?”

“He’s been fibbing to me for years.”

“Just the skin, dear, not the whole carrot. How so?”

Maria Sophia corrected her paring angle. “Those fairy stories of his. They’re all lies.”

“Oh? And what makes you think so?”

“Lots of things. Kids at school. And my new teacher, Miss Grimhilde? Mom, she said just the other day that fairy tales are no more than European folklore stories and today mostly apply to kids’ literature. And Gramps is always changing the end of the same story, so maybe it’s so.”

Maria Sophia’s mother nodded. “I see.” Then she raised her eyebrows. “But, wait. Did you say Miss Grimhilde? Your new teacher? What happened to Mr. Jager?”

“He’s on medical leave. He was injured in a hunting accident on Sunday.”

“That’s awful! Will he be okay?”

“We don’t know yet, but Miss Grimhilde said she’ll probably be our teacher for the rest of the school year, so I guess his injury was bad.”

“Goodness, how awful for the poor man! But, tell me more about this Miss Grimhilde. What’s she like?”

Maria Sophia, giving a shudder, scrunched her nose. “Well, for starters, she may be a witch. At least she looks like a witch. Yeah, definitely a witch.”

“I thought you just said you didn’t believe in fairy tales any longer.”

“I don’t. But this is the real deal. That’s the difference.”

Her mother cracked a grin. “I see. And what do witches look like?”

“Definitely like Miss Grimhilde, Mom. Long, thin nose. Pointed chin. One with a hairy mole on it even. Um, evil-looking eye…”

“Just one eye?”

“Just one. The other has a patch over it.” This was an embellished fib, of course.

“My goodness! She sounds more like a pirate to me.”

Maria Sophia nodded, tight-lipped.

“What else?”

“She cackles.”


“Yes, just like the Wicked Witch of the West in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. In fact, Mom, she even looks a little like the Wicked Witch of the West.”


“Uh-huh. ‘Course she doesn’t have a broom — not that I’ve seen, at least — or wear the same black clothes. That’d be too obvious.”

“She doesn’t?”

“Nope. Mauve outfit, very sexy. But she doesn’t fool me a minute, Mom.”

Her mother tried to stifle a laugh, but failed.

“Darling, you do have a rich imagination.”

“It’s all true, Mom,” insisted the girl. “She’s evil through and through. I think she even may have caused Mr. Jager’s accident.”

Mrs. Salzwater frowned. “Dear, you mustn’t say things like that without proof.”

“Other kids in class think so too.”

“But just because they think so doesn’t mean it’s true.”

“We’re gathering evidence, Mom.”

“Evidence?” Mrs. Salzwater raised her eyebrows. “Where on earth did you hear about gathering evidence?”

“On ‘Law and Order’, Mom.”

“Listen, Maria Sophia…”

“And if we find out she did something bad to Mr. Jager, we’re putting that witch down.”

Mrs. Salzwater gaped at her daughter. “Darling…”

Maria Sophia lowered her voice.

“And then, Mom, we’re gonna deal with Grandpa.”

Steve Pulley

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