Broomstick ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(This is a re-post on my website.)
She was old and stayed shut up inside her castle high on a lonely mountaintop. There was one night in the year, though, that she had to go out into the world, and that night was Halloween. She wouldn’t be much of a witch if she didn’t fly on Halloween.
As the sun sank behind the mountains in the west, she woke up her old black cat, Lucifer, who was sleeping in front of the fire, and told him to get up and have a snack and wash his face in preparation for leaving.
“I’m not going with you this time,” he said.
“Why not?” she asked.
“I’ve seen enough of the world. I’ve flown with you on countless Halloweens. I just want to be left in peace.”
“Well, suit yourself,” she said. “You’ll be missing a good time.”
“I’ll guard the castle while you’re gone,” he said, going back to sleep.
As she flew off on her broomstick, she realized she hadn’t flown since the previous Halloween. She really needed to get out more. She was a little wobbly at first, as if she might fall off, but soon she hit her stride and did a couple of loop-the-loops and reverse maneuvers to prove to herself that she still could.
After she had flown a good distance away from her castle, she felt an urgent need to do something bad, to cause some mischief and mayhem, as witches do on Halloween. Seeing a church in a village, she threw a ball of fire that caused the steeple to burst into flame. Then, outside the village, she caused some railroad tracks to buckle so that the next train to come along would derail. She turned a cow standing in a field into stone and two small children into white mice. Feeling less than fulfilled, she redirected a creek so that it would flood some farmland. These things were nothing, though, compared to what she did next: Hovering over the roof of a maternity hospital, she cast a spell that would cause the next baby to be born to have two heads. Now there was a fiendish accomplishment!
As good a time as she was having, she felt that something was missing. In the old days of her witchery, she always had somebody with her; if not a victim, then a fellow witch. Doing bad things just wasn’t as much fun if there wasn’t somebody along to tell her how terrible she was. She needed to hunt up the old gang to see what they were up to.
She flew on until she came to the environs of her youth, the place where she got her start as a witch. The forests, mountains, and rivers all looked the same. The village was much the same but had grown shabbier and poorer. The witches’ nightclub, Eye of Newt, was still there, thank goodness! She went inside, carrying her broomstick in her hand.
A hunchback dwarf greeted her at the door. She recognized him at once.
“Raphael, is that you?” she said.
The dwarf squinted up at her in the dim light. “Have we met?” he asked.
“It’s Mignonette, the witch. Don’t you remember me?”
“Oh, yes! Mignonette! Of course, I remember you, but I thought you were dead.”
“My eyes are not what they used to be.”
“Any of the old crowd here?”
“I think you’ll find a few of them at the table in the corner.”
As she made her way through the crowd to the last table against the wall, nobody turned to look at her. There was a time when she could command an entire room with her presence.
Two witches and a ghoul were sitting at the table. She recognized the two witches from the long-ago, but she didn’t know the ghoul.
“And who might you be?” one the witches, the one known as Hildegard, asked.
“Why, it’s Mignonette,” she said. “Your old friend.”
“I don’t remember anybody by the name of Mignonette,” Hildegard said stubbornly.
“Why, of course you remember her!” the other witch said. (Her name was Carlotta.) “There was the time that Mignonette was the toast of the town.”
“Oh, yes, I remember now,” Hildegard said. “She tried to kill me once.”
“Only once?” the ghoul asked, standing to hold the chair out for Mignonette as she sat down.
He was Erich, a holdover from the Third Reich. (People always wanted to hear the stories about his association with Herr Hitler.) He wore a top hat and pince nez. With his long, emaciated body, skin the color of ivory and black circles around his eyes, he was every inch the ghoul.
“I’m so happy to make your acquaintance, mademoiselle,” he said in his smooth continental accent, taking Mignonette’s hand in his own and kissing it.
“Likewise, I’m sure,” Mignonette said.
He motioned for the waiter and ordered a round of witches’ brew.
“So, I’m wondering where all our old friends are this evening,” Mignonette said. “Ethelbert, Lulu, Patsy, Lucille, Laverne and the others.”
“Oh, haven’t you heard?” Carlotta asked.
“Lucille and Patsy are dead. Ethelbert got married and went back to the Old Country. Lulu’s in a hospital for the criminally insane and, last I heard, Laverne was in jail for something or other.”
“So, it’s just the two of you left in our little coven?” Mignonette asked.
“I’m afraid so.”
“There are lots of new young witches coming along,” Carlotta said, ever the optimist. “I’m thinking we can recruit some of them to join us in our crusade of evil.”
At the mention of young witches, they all turned to look at the crowd that was hemming them in against the wall. The young witches were nothing like the older generation, which included Mignonette, Carlotta and Hildegard. They were sleek and didn’t go in for scary ugliness as the older generation had done. They had done away with the long black dresses, pointed hats, green skin, facial hair, and warts. Some of them didn’t even look like witches. They seemed to be more interested in flaunting their assets than in casting spells and riding around on broomsticks.
“I’m afraid things have changed,” Hildegard said.
“The old ways are still the best,” Mignonette said. “We can still have fun doing what we always did.”
“My motto exactly!” Erich said.
“It’s the one night in the year that witches should be having a good time.”
“Yes, yes, that’s so true,” Hildegard said.
“You’re not going to sit here all evening and drink witches’ brew, are you?”
“Well,” Carlotta said, “Hildegard and I were thinking about kidnapping a couple of teenagers from lovers’ lane and scaring the hell out of them. Make them think we’re going to kill them and then let them go at the last minute.”
“We’ve done all that,” Mignonette said. “Time and again. Maybe it’s time of think of other things to do.”
“May I make a suggestion?” Erich asked. “Forget your teenagers. Some friends of mine, fellow ghouls, are getting up a party in the Cemetery of the Holy Ghost for around midnight. It’ll be a lot of fun. Skeletons dancing around a fire and that sort of thing. I’d be happy for the three of you lady witches to accompany me. And you won’t have to fly on your broomsticks. I have my car outside.”
“Can you imagine three witches and a ghoul in a car on Halloween night?” Carlotta said. “What do we do if a policeman stops us?”
“You either turn him into a toad or we tell him we’re on our way to a costume ball,” Erich said.
“It really isn’t any of his business,” Hildegard said.
“You three run along,” Mignonette said. “I don’t think I’ll come along.”
“Why not?” Carlotta asked.
“I think my time as a witch has passed. Do you know that I haven’t even left my castle since last Halloween night? My black cat, Lucifer, didn’t feel like coming with me tonight. It just isn’t the same without him.”
“Oh, I haven’t had a black cat for years,” Hildegard said.
“I have another suggestion,” Erich said. “The two of you run along and I’ll stay here with Mignonette. I’ll even lend you my car. You know how to drive, I trust?”
“Well, I like that!” Hildegard said. “She’s still doing it, after all these years! Stealing away all the men!”
“I’m not stealing away anybody,” Mignonette said.
“It’s parked just down the street,” Erich said. “You can’t miss it. It’s a 1932 Cadillac V16 Fleetwood sedan. The keys are in the ignition.”
“Let’s go,” Carlotta said. “I haven’t been to a cemetery party in years. We’ll have the pick of the men there.”
After Hildegard and Carlotta were gone, Erich ordered more drinks and moved his chair over as close to Mignonette as he could get. He put his arm around her waist and whispered in her ear.
“My place is very cozy,” he said. “I have embalming fluid.”
“Why me?” she asked. “I’m just as old and ugly as they are.”
“No, you’re not,” he said. “You’re different.”
“Wouldn’t you like to see my collection of Nazi memorabilia?”
“If I go with you, will you tell me all about Herr Hitler?”
“Would you be surprised if I told you I have his body in a trunk in my bedroom?”
“We’re going to try to bring him back to life.”
“Come along with me and you can meet them.”
She blushed and pulled the brim of her hat down farther so her eyes were hidden. He stood up and took her by the hand.
She hadn’t had a passenger behind her on her broomstick for many years, especially a man. As he leaned forward and put him arms around her waist, she felt a quickening in her blood that she thought was long dead. He was a gentleman, she could see, and a Nazi gentleman at that. It was turning out to be a very fine evening after all.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp