The Lemon Witch

imageThere once was an old woman who lived at the edge of a boggy swamp outside of a little town called Meansville. The towns people said she was a terrible witch because she had a lemon orchard and was born on a Friday the 13th. Anyone with the sense of a crinkle fry knew that Friday the 13th was the unluckiest day of the year.

No one had ever known her to actually do anything wicked, but rumors spread everytime anything slightly not good happened in Meansville. “It must have been that Lemon Witch,” someone would whisper.

A hunter once wandered too near her house on the bog, and he accidentally shot her window instead of the turkey he was aiming at. The Lemon Witch tore out of her house, screaming that he’d tried to kill her. He swore she had cast a dark spell on him in revenge. Sure enough, a few years later all his hair turned grey. Everyone knew it was the Lemon Witch’s curse.

One day, a group of kids snuck close to the witch’s house to break the her curse. It was Friday the 13th, and if they could sneak close and scream Happy Birthday before running away, then, rumor had it, the curse would be broken. No one knew what the curse was or what it did. It was just generally accepted that there was one.

This group of kids snuck as close to the witches house as they dared. They were terrified and jumpy. They huddled together at the edge of the black water, each one pressing back to avoid being first.

“Ready?” The bravest of them whispered quietly. Each child nodded silently and swallowed. “On the count of three…” and he started counting down silently with his fingers. When he had reached three, everyone took a deep breath but only one voice rang across the bog. The rest of the group had chickened out. The lone yeller, a small girl named Tabby, looked scared and proud both at once.

“What? Who’s there?” Came a shrill voice from the house. Every child screamed and bolted back to town, tripping each other in the process. Poor Tabby got knocked clean in the nasty bog water and was soaked. As she tried to scramble back out she grabbed a slippery root that turned out to be a snake instead. One of the boys had turned back when he heard the splash just in time to see Tabby swing the snake into the air in surprise.

“Snake!” He yelled. “The witch sent her snakes after Tabby!” He ran past the others, leaping over logs and underbrush like a squirrel with his tail on fire, and made it back to town first. Sobbing, he told the people of Meansville what he’d seen.

“She’ll come after us all” Cried out the hunter with the grey hair. “Lock your doors and stuff up the cracks – now she’s sending snakes after our children…” He ran for his house and the townspeople scattered to hide. “It’s Friday the 13th,” They hissed as they hid. “She’ll make us all into her birthday dinner…”

Meanwhile, back in the swamp, Tabby was sure she was going to die. She had angered the witch who had sent a snake to poison her. She managed to crawl out of the water onto a rotting log and she stayed there, too frightened to move.

“You’re a messy sight,” said a voice from behind her. The old witch had made her way through the bog to see what the ruckus was. “Eeeeeek!” Answered Tabby. The witch chuckled. “I’d let you clean up in my house but you might leave mud in the tub and I’m too old to bend over and scrub it out.” Tabby stayed mute. She was certain she was going to die now. “I’m sorry,” she cried. “Please don’t eat me…”

“Eat you? Good Lord…” The old woman saw how terrified the girl was and frowned. “Stay still,” She commanded, and she knelt down next to Tabby and started brushing her off. First she helped Tabby off the log, pulling her to a more comfortable spot. The witch took off her own sweater off and covered the child with it.

“How about this idea,” the old woman proposed. “I promise not to eat you if you promise to be friends.” The witch smiled warmly, and Tabby felt slightly less scared. “I do hope you have a happy birthday,” Tabby said. The witch looked surprised.

“Who said it was my birthday?” She asked the girl. “E-everyone…” Tabby stuttered. The witch laughed. “Don’t believe everything you hear.” The witch and the girl had a chat out in the smelly bog until Tabby realized she was just a lonely old woman and no witch at all.

“Why do you live alone at the edge of this bog if you aren’t a witch?” Tabby finally asked. The old woman explained that she could grown the best lemons in the world in that acidic, rich soil, and she loved lemonade.

They went to the house on the edge of the bog so Tabby could get cleaned up and drink fresh lemonade on the porch. Tabby agreed that it was the best lemonade she had ever tasted and they parted as friends.

Once Tabby convinced the town folk that the old woman was friendly there were always visitors in the bog. First they came out of curiosity and then they returned for the lemonade.

Every Friday the 13th after that the old woman would throw a party at her house on the edge of the bog because anyone with the sense of a crinkle fry knew that the best way to spend a Friday the 13th was among friends.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award. Her latest novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. Currently, she publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit SpaceandTimeMagazine.com or AngelaYSmith.com.
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