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Keri’s Tent of Tales

Welcome back to  my Tent of Tales! I know the last one I did a video reading. and that was the plan for this story too. But really….this story is a little too good and creepy to risk leaving anything out!

Inez Kelley sent me this. It’s a rumored true story through her family and by the things she’s seen in her lifetime, she believes it to be true. I got the shudders pretty well. Read at your own risk.

My Great Gramma was a witch, or so they say.
When my Great-Gramma and my Poppy were a rather middle-aged couple, with half-grown children, they lived as most of their mountain neighbors did; in a small house with no indoor plumbing, wood cookstove, etc. They went to church, entertained friends over corn boils and pancake breakfasts, etc. Poppy was a woodworker who also worked in the train yard. He never had clean hands but they were always gentle.

Gramma was a housewife, raising five kids in a four room house, a root cellar and a few acres. Her cotton dressed usually sported an apron, both washed to a colorless drab. Her hands weren’t soft either, used to washboards and gardening, baking and churning. They had a garden, a mule and not much else. Life was hard, simple and good.

Then my Poppy stopped going to church, stopped socializing, stopped anything. If he wasn’t in the train yard, he was in his woodshop, an old converted room in the back of the barn. But there weren’t any more cradles and rocking chairs coming out of the woodshop. The lathe grew dusty and the air filled with silence rather than the grind of a saw. Neighbors noticed.

The young preacher came around for a chat, a social norm in the day. He had blackberry jam on bread and passed some time with my Gramma while she worked in the kitchen, hand pump churning out water to start their supper. The Preacher started asking why he had not seen Poppy in church lately. No one played a fiddle with as much fire, he said and they missed his music at the socials. Gramma Shook her head and mumbled about old men and their ways.

Not a single minister alive could stand not nosing when he thought one of his flock was lost so he went to the woodshop, searching for Pappy. In the quiet room, dust motes floating in the late evening light, he found him sitting on a hay bale, staring into the woodstack.

Small talk got only monotone answers and vague excuses. The Preacher dug deeper, asking about moonshine, women and gambling. Poppy barked an empty laugh and looked deep in the Preacher’s eyes.

“You want answers? All I have is questions but walk with me Brother.”

Not a word was spoken as they walked up the steep hill to the old cemetery. Although it was still early, the moon had risen, casting a gray-ghostish light over the stones. The Preacher fought a shiver that had nothing to do with the autumn wind. Through the black iron gates and past grave after grave, they walked in total quiet. At a spot on the very top of the hill, Poppy stopped and turned.

From that point you could look down on every grave, the silent stones standing like soldiers. Beyond the gate, through the barren treelimbs you could see Poppy’s house with it’s late autumn smoke curling from the chimney.

With a tired and resigned sigh, Poppy told the Preacher that he was going to die soon and he
wanted the Preacher to make sure that he was buried
right here, in this very spot, so that he could always look down on his house and watch over his children.

Noticing for the first time the blue yellow healing bruises on Poppy’s neck and forearms, the Preacher inquired about his health. Too many men died younger than they should in the mountains, their lungs turned black with coal dust or brown with railroad grit. Some knew they would die before their time and the Preacher didn’t discount Poppy’s word

Poppy snorted. “Not my body that’s giving out, it’s my soul. That old witch I married will see me in my grave before the snow flies, mark my words, Brother.”
“Now, Onnie” said the Preacher calling Poppy by name, “It is a sin to call your wife a witch.”
“I am not talking a witch as in a nagging wife. That I had for near twenty years and I was glad for every one. The last two… that when she did it. That’s when she fell. I am telling you, she is witch, a bride of Satan. For a long while, I worried. Women get peculiar as they get older. My Daddy always said the sweet get sweeter, the mean get meaner but I never thought…”

He stopped to blow his nose, the faded blue handkerchief wadded and stuffed in his packet. “She don’t pray no more. Her mouth’s moving but no words come out. It’s all a show.”

His mouth thinned and his eyes grew hard, taking on the edge of flint.

“Caught her, I did. Saying them ugly words over my youngest girl while she was sleeping. Promising the likes I never heard tell of to…She done sold her soul, Brother. She’s hell-bound for sure but I’ll be goddamned if I let her take my children to hell with her.”

The Preacher sighed. He was a true man of God but he was also an educated man and didn’t believe in such terrible things as a soul truly being sold like cattle. Gramma was the most loyal of churchgoers, always helping her neighbor and doing good deeds.

Poppy turned, and the zealous fire in his gaze stole any words the Preacher might have been about to say.

“Doubt me? Figured you would. Who’d believe she’d do something like that? But I know it. I’ve seen it. She’ll see me dead for the first snow but from high on this hill, with Christ by my side, I will watch over my children and keep them from her demon clutches.”
He asked the Preacher to follow him home, but to hang back a pace, to listen and watch through the kitchen window. As Poppy walked the trodden trail back to the now eerily forlorn looking house, the Preacher’s curiosity was peaked. He followed the and wondered exactly what Poppy thought he would see.
The wooden screen door creaked open then shut with a sharp THWAP.

” Where is your broomstick, you old witch, I hear tell tonight is a full moon?”

Before the last sound died on the wind, the most vile cursing a man ever heard screeched from the kitchen. Being a former Navy Man, the Preacher had thought he’d heard it all but even he blushed at some the words.

Then came the sounds of a beating. Poppy was a stalky man of nearly six feet, with hammers for hands and a back like an ox.  Gramma was barely over a hundred pounds soaking wet and the preacher raced to intervene.  When he stepped onto the old wooden porch, through the shadow of the metal screen, the sight he beheld stole his breath.

Gramma stood over Poppy, beating him with a fury seldom seen in any barroom. She physically picked him up and threw him against the side wall. As she turned, the Preacher caught site of her face in the dying day’s sun. Or rather, of what her face had become.

Gone where the soft lines and skin he had seen only this morning in church. Instead he saw the face, the carved, blistered face of evil. From her forehead curved two dingy ivory horns much like a ram. Her eyes glowed as an animal at night.

Swallowing his fear, he yanked open the screen door, stepped in front of Poppy and raised his ever-present Bible.

“Satan, you have no power in this house. Begone from my sight. I rebuke you back to the deepest
depths of Hell, in the name of Jesus Christ, my beloved Savior.”

Gramma uttered a shrill scream, neither human nor animal and not of this earth. The wood floor
splintered with a loud crack and she sank to her ankles. Prayers spilled from his lips with barely conscious thought, the Good Book held high and his hand clutching the cross around his neck. The house shook, the windows slammed shut and rafters groaned.

Silence fell like snow, soft and peaceful, blowing into the room on a sweet breath. As her features changed back into the familiar housewife he knew, the Preacher reached for her, drew her from the hole and prayed with her. They cried, they prayed, the rejoiced in her liberation.

Several hours later, as the preacher was leaving the now calm house, the crickets and night birds sang to the full moon. He stopped to take a breath on the rickety porch when a scratchy voice came from behind. He whirled and stared opened mouthed into the face of evil still wearing her homespun dress and apron.

“Don’t get to comfortable on my porch, Brother.  For this house belongs to me.”

The door shut in his face as an evil cackle pierced the night air. He ran from the little wooden house.

Poppy died that same week, never seeing the first snowflake that touched the earth that winter. He was buried at the very top of the cemetery, his grave overlooking his home. Gramma never again set foot in the Preacher’s church.

Over fifty years later, when she died at a very old age of one-hundred and four, the long retired Preacher stood stooped with age and in ill-health at the pulpit and gave her a very simple eulogy.

“I know what you were and where you came from. Now you have returned there and you shall reap your reward.”

That house still has the hole in the floorboards to this day.

…..have a Happy Halloween!


One Response

  1. Damn… Inez great story. This is why I love you… you are an incredible story teller.

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